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Therapeutic Cloning: A Scientific Breakthrough or a Step Too Far?

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Therapeutic Cloning: A Scientific Breakthrough or a Step Too Far? In order to discuss the advantages and disadvantages as well as some of the ethical issues that are raised regarding therapeutic cloning, we must first define this term, in order to understand it properly. Therapeutic cloning: "A procedure in which cells, typically skin cells, are taken from a patient and inserted into a fertilized egg whose nucleus has been removed. The cell that is so created is permitted to divide repeatedly to form a blastocyst. Scientists then extract stem cells from it, and use those cells to grow tissue that are a perfect genetic match for the patient." (1) What this means is that patients who have suffered serious injuries or diseases in which a significant amount of tissue has been damaged or lost, can have these replaced by new tissue that is grown from their own cells and therefore has the exact same DNA as the patient. Because the tissue, which is formed artificially, has the same genetic makeup, the patient will not need to take any medication such as anti-rejection drugs. ...read more.


Once the embryos have been harvested for stem cells, they are destroyed, as they no longer serve any purpose for developing new tissue. The fact that they are destroyed has given rise to many ethical issues because some people consider them to be human although they are not allowed to develop beyond the embryonic stage. Some conservative Christians believe that human personhood begins at conception and therefore, therapeutic cloning requires the sacrifice or a "murder" of a person. On the other hand, "some believe that an embryo is simply a collection of cells containing DNA, not much different from skin cells that each person sheds by the millions daily. It is not a human being, not a person. It is composed of a few cells with no internal organs, arms, legs, sensory organs, brain, self-awareness, awareness of its environment, memory, thoughts, etc. It may eventually become a person, but only if allowed to mature in a woman's uterus. They believe that human personhood comes later in gestation, perhaps when the fetus "looks like" a human, or when its brain develops to the point where it becomes conscious of itself, or at birth." ...read more.


(5) But recent research shows that therapeutic cloning can be carried out using cells other than the controversial embryonic stem cells. Stem cells derived from the umbilical cord can be used because they have the essential qualities of embryonic stem cells so their clinical potential matches that of the EBC's. This newly discovered group of cells which is referred to as "cord blood derived embryonic-like stem cells" or CBE's are more versatile than the EBC's and could be made into new tissue. Scientists have already coaxed the CBE's into becoming liver cells. Obviously what distinguishes the CBE's from the embryonic stem cells (EBC's), is that they are ethically acceptable to many more, groups of people and religious beliefs, as it does not involve destroying embryo's which is, (what was also mentioned earlier), considered, by some, the same as murdering a human being. With increasing numbers of 'banks' or clinics (currently eight in the UK) in which blood from the umbilical cord is saved the potential of therapeutic cloning using CBE's is becoming ever more realistic. (4) 1) http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=18428 2) http://www.religioustolerance.org/clo_ther1.htm 3) www.bbc.co.uk - online debate 4) http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7864 - journal 5) http://abc.net.au/science/slab/stemcells/default.htm 6) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8122-2421812.html - Online news paper article ...read more.

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