updated 12-27-2002

updated 1-4-2003


by Dee Finney

Joe and I have long known that the entertainment industry in movies, as well as dreams, art works, and music are inspired from the spirit world and can reveal truths to us that we would miss if left to us to read a book or listen to a preacher.

The following three movies left us feeling rather stunned when we saw them in close proximity to each other within a few weeks time. They tell a story of a truth that left me weak in the knees when I thought about it. It rather seems that these are more clues letting us know that 'the end is near' for mankind.  

All in all, science is a good thing and can do wondrous things, but it makes us wonder if it inevitable that though there is a good side to science, the possibility that the 'dark forces' can use a good thing, turning it to the dark side which gives Lucifer/Satan the power to take us all down again.

Following the movie reviews, we have presented the news regarding the cloning issue and what is being done scientifically.

See what you think:

Movie Reviews from Hollywood Jesus Movie Reviews  and  Apollo Movie Reviews

Comments are edited to prevent identification of the writers.


Directed by Roman Polanski
Writing credits John Brownjohn and Roman Polanski
Arturo Pérez-Reverte (novel The Club Dumas).

Johnny Depp as Dean Corso
Frank Langella as Boris Balkan
Lena Olin as Liana Telfer
Emmanuelle Seigner as The Girl
Barbara Jefford as Baroness Kessler
Jack Taylor as Victor Fargas
José López Rodero as Pablo and Pedro Ceniza
James Russo as Bernie

Produced by Mark Allan (co-producer), Antonio Cardenal (co-producer), Michel Cheyko (executive), Wolfgang Glattes (executive), Adam Kempton (associate), Iñaki Núñez (co-producer), Roman Polanski, Alain Vannier (co-producer), Suzanne Wiesenfeld

Original music by Wojciech Kilar
Cinematography by Darius Khondji
Film Editing by Hervé de Luze

Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) is highly skilled at his work, a position which requires dexterity, cultural expertise, nerves of steel...and few scruples. Known for locating rare books for wealthy collectors, Corso is hired by eminent book-lover and scholar of demonology, Boris Balkan (Frak Langella). Corso's mission: to find the last two volumes of the legendary manual of satanic invocation "The Nine Gates of the Shadow Kingdom," compare them with Balkan's first volume, supposedly the only one of its kind, and ascertain the authenticity of the series. Corso accepts the challenge. From New York to Toledo, Paris to Cintra, he immerses himself in a labyrinth full of pitfalls and temptations, disturbing encounters, violence and mysterious deaths. Protected by an angelic creature (Emanuelle Seigner) and guided by a force more powerful than himself, the hunter solves one by one the mysteries of the dreaded Book and discovers the real purpose of his mission...

Balkan has recently acquired a long-coveted, seventeenth-century satanic text called "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of the Shadows" from a fellow collector, Andrew Telfer, who committed suicide the very next day.

Galatians 1:8 Let God's curse fall on anyone, including myself, who preaches any other message than the one we told you about. Even if an angel comes from heaven and preaches any other message, let him be forever cursed.

PUBLISHED IN 1666 (AntiChrist's number)
The book is illustrated with nine engravings that, when properly interpreted and combined with the original text, are said to summon the Devil and open the entrance to the Underworld. Published in 1666, it was adapted by its Venetian author, Aristide Torchia, from a legendary book written by Satan himself, a transgression for which the Holy Inquisition burned Torchia at the stake.

Rev. 13:18 Wisdom is needed to understand this. Let the one who has understanding solve the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.

Three copies of The Nine Gates survived -all the same except for the engravings. Balkan pretends that something is wrong with his edition; he falsely asserts that only one of the three editions is authentic. He offers Corso a hefty fee to seek out the two remaining volumes in Portugal and France and compare them against his. Corso who believes in cash, not the devil, accepts the job.

The satanic trinity. Rev. 20:10 Then the Devil, who betrayed them, was thrown into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Corso's first stop is Toledo, Spain, where the Telfer edition was purchased from the bookbinders/dealers the Ceniza brothers (José López Rodero). The two chatty brothers are a fountain of information about The Nine Gates and the paths it has traveled over three centuries. They tell the skeptical Corso that Aristide Torchia collaborated on the book with Satan himself, and also reveal that Liana Telfer badgered her indifferent husband into buying it for her. And, though Telfer's beautiful French-born widow Liana initially expresses only mild surprise regarding her husband's sale of The Nine Gates, she soon has a change of heart and becomes ferociously determined to regain the book.

Rev. 17:3 So the angel took me in spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, written all over with blasphemies against God.

Insisting on the book's authenticity, the brothers point out a significant detail in one of its nine engravings: it is signed "LCF," which they claim stands for "Lucifer." Outside the store, Corso has an encounter with some metal scaffolding that corresponds quite eerily to the message of that same engraving.

Isaiah 14:12 (KJV) How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

Corso stashes The Nine Gates with his friend Bernie (James Russo), a rare book dealer. The book is safe at Bernie's shop, but Bernie himself is not: when Corso goes to retrieve the volume, he discovers his friend hanging upside down in a pose identical to an engraved illustration in The Nine Gates. The stunned Corso calls Balkan to quit, but the collector exponentially ups the financial ante. At the same time, Corso's curiosity is aroused when he hears flight announcements emanating from his client's undisclosed location. It seems Balkan is on his way to Europe, as well.

1 Cor. 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

With The Nine Gates in his possession, Corso soon finds himself at the center of strange and violent goings-on. Not only is his apartment ransacked, it appears that he is being shadowed by the striking, mysterious blond Girl he first noticed at a lecture on witches given by Balkan -the sublimnial connection here is that she is an agent of Satan, disgised as an angel of light. Though Corso remains leery of the Girl, he accepts her as a kind of guardian angel.

2 Cor. 11:14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light.

The Girl is playfully evasive but seems to know a great deal about The Nine Gates and the people pursuing it. It is the Girl who tells Corso to go to Fargas' estate, where he finds Victor Fargas lying dead in a pond, and his copy of The Nine Gates smoldering in the fireplace, robbed of its engravings. Balkan, who had phoned Corso instructing him to get him Fargas's edition by any means necessary, is far more upset about the missing engravings than their owner's death.

1 Peter 5:8 Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.

Paris is the home of the wheelchair-bound Baroness Kessler, owner of the third and final copy of The Nine Gates. The Baroness, an acknowledged authority on the devil, recounts some of the book's history, noting that a secret society called the Order of the Silver Serpent was formed to perpetuate the teachings of The Nine Gates. Kessler herself quit the society in disgust as decadent millionaires like Liana Telfer took over the leadership. The Baroness harbors no fondness for Boris Balkan, either; learning of Corso's business affiliation with Balkan, she kicks him out of her office before he can study her edition.

Balkan continues to monitor his employee by phone. He orders Corso to revisit Baroness Kessler, darkly invoking an "at all costs" philosophy. Corso manages to wangle his way back into the Baroness's office, unwittingly sealing her macabre fate. When Kessler's wheelchair crashes into a raging fire, Corso discovers too late that the engravings from her book have also been stolen.

Rev. 12:9 This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.

By now, Corso is as obsessed as his client with The Nine Gates, which has been snatched from its hiding place by Liana Telfer and her bodyguard. With the Girl's help, Corso pursues Liana to her family's enormous chateau in the French countryside, where the annual meeting of the Society of the Silver Serpent is about to commence. But Boris Balkan is also on Liana's trail; like Corso, he is hell-bent on getting his hands on those nine original engravings signed by Lucifer. Bursting in on the black-robed assembly of jaded thrill-seekers, Balkan denounces Liana and her ridiculous coven, proclaiming that only he is fit to receive Satan's favors. With the Girl physically restraining him, Corso can only look on helplessly as Balkan strangles Liana to death and strides out of the chateau with The Nine Gates and its invaluable engravings.

2 Tim. 2:26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

Corso, however, is not about to let his chance at immortality slip away. Driving, hitching rides and walking, he makes his way to Balkan's ancient stone castle, where the publisher is preparing to deliver his soul to the devil. The two men battle for control of The Nine Gates, but neither one knows that the set of engravings contains one forgery, rendering any attempt to pass through the ninth gate doomed. Ultimately it is the Girl, revealed at last as an agent of the devil, who decides whether the secrets of The Nine Gates will be unlocked - and to whom. Balkin goes up in flames, of course, and Corso has intercourse with his demon girl friend and is permitted to enter into Satan's kingdom.

2 Cor. 4:4 Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them. They don't understand the message we preach about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Closing thought: Satan brought death to several people in the film. He does indeed have the power of death. There is a little known verse in the Bible that tells how Jesus' resurrection from the dead broke the power of Satan: Hebrews 2:14 -Because God's children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death.


Date: Fri, 04 Aug 2000
From: anonymous

Emmanuelle Seigner's character, the female demon of sorts, was actually the "great whore" not the character "Liana Telfer", which is indicated. As if the last few scenes of the movie when she seduces Depp's character (literally) did not give it away, the astute viewer will note that the final page, the real 9th page, that Curso finds in the brother's shop at the end of the movie, the harlot sitting on top of the beast has Emmanuelle Seigner's face on it... . So if she was the harlot riding the beast in the engraving, and keep in mind that each engraving had a direct correspondence to some aspect of the plot, though veiled in symbol and allegory, the question rises to one, well just who was she "riding" a couple of scenes earlier on the grass outside the castle.

There was a definite humor to the movie, it had a sort of dark comedy edge to it. The evil of Corso's character is of a profoundly different nature than that of any of the other characters. He is simply just bankrupt and empty. But again the harlot rides the beast in the engraving, in the "real life" of the movie she "rides" Depp's character . Perhaps this is implying that Depp himself is or will be the 'beast' in a sense, in this movie's world ?

One effective thing was to keep matters from becoming as blatantly supernatural as possible, most of the movie's events can be explained away by people in the matrix of the movie itself, the viewer has a privileged position and can see openings of the supernatural, such as the blond girl (Emmanuelle Seigner) appearing to fly or float, or to shape shift. It happens so fast and in so ambiguous of a way that the viewer does not quite know what is going on, which is effective. Perhaps it is not Polanski's best work, but it does provide some food for thought.

I would be remiss if I did not give an alternative perspective, an Islamic one. Like Christianity, Zorasterianism, and Judaism, Islam is deeply concerned about the problem of evil and the entity know in the bible, and in our scriptures, as "shaitan" the accursed. One of the frequent concerns of Muslims is that, from our perspective, it appears that Christians elevate this being to an almost divine status, making him the "god of the world" or the "god of darkness". To a Muslim this is blasphemy since the foundation of Islam is complete monotheism, not on a superficial level but more profoundly that the ONLY power, and might, and force, that exists is God (Allah in arabic, Eloh in Aramaic, the spoken language of Jesus).

In the Islamic view shaitan is a slave of Allah's, free to rebel against Allah but ultimately the devil can not do anything unless God wills to allow it to occur. The Muslim view is closely mirrored in the book of Job (interestingly enough, as a piece of trivia, the hebrew in the book of Job is a particularly archaic form, and contains a lot of Older Arabic words, the names of some of Job's companions are also arabic). The devil apes God, the devil imitates God but truly has no power whatsoever.

To Muslims the emphasis placed on the devil in Western cultures is very strange and disturbing, beyond just movies and pop songs, even preachers in some Churches talk over and over again about the devil. This causes the people to fear the devil which in Islam can sometimes be almost equivalent to non belief or infidelity since if a person fears the devil then logically they must believe that the devil has power to affect them somehow, to harm them, when only God has any power and only God, Allah, should be feared.

The devil can influence mislead, yes seduce, and misguide, and some of shaitan's agents can produce physical effects in this World, but it is all only through Allah's permission just as I can will to blow out a candle but in reality it was not I inhaling wind and my loungs pushing it out in the direction of the candle that allows the candle to be blown out, rather it is that Allah allowed me to blow out the candle, if he had so willed I could have been prevented from blowing out the candle. So to the devil is not strong, his strength is in illusion, in smoke, veiled reality, suggestion, making the unimportant and trivial seem important. In reality most of humanity is so divorced from God and God's will that the willingly do the "devil's work" with very little prompting whatsoever, without even realizing it.

If one trains and conditions a man's mind to do certain things and accept certain ways as good that person will eventually need very little reinforcement. So we see that we live in perhaps the most wretched society on the earth, with murder endemic to our condition, our comfort sustained by the consuming and payment of usury (prohibited by the bible until Calvin allowed it), with legions of the poor in debt selling their bodies and souls for money, in which abortion is used as a matter of convenience, and in which nowadays even 11 year olds whore themselves out, a society of wealth (much like Rome, or indeed Babylon) that maintains comfort but is gotten from the conquest and exploitation of others.

In spite of massive structural flaws we still have the illusion that our society is the greatest that has ever been. We are given much but when you peel up the veneer and look beneath the surface you see that underneath the gilding there is rot, and that rot is indeed ancient. In spite of this we fail to see our own conditions. This is due to a wonderful sort of magic and illusion, very strong but inshallah (God willing) not too hard to break. The point is that it is all illusion, and Islam sees this as being most important, that the devil, and its tricks and effects are illusion, and illusions can be broken.

So the point is not to FEAR freddy kruger, or Jason, or any of the current architypes in which the devil may pop up in the mind and heart of contemporary man because to fear a thing is to lend it power in one's heart that it does not even have. Shaitan is weak, its just that too often we are often weaker still in our will and resolve. Shaitan to the Muslims is nothing more than Mankind's sworn enemy and a test of man's attachment and devotion to Allah. Shaitan's hatred of man leads him to try to tempt and misguide man but his "powers" are in reality only but illusion.

As to the gentleman who was formerly involved in the occult, yes books like the fictional one in the movie do exist, the so-called "Keys of Solomon", the galderbook, the Magus, etc., etc. In general they are probably about 80% gobbly gook and nonsense. If there is anything dangerous in them it is leading a person's fantasies astray away from the path of truth and in inciting his or her greed for power. The occult can seem to produce some effects through the actions of various agents and "powers", but this is mostly just illusion. Where there is serious harm coming from magic and the like one should avoid involvement in such matters and seek refuge from God in prayer. The "powers" that do seem to come from the occult may have a strange way of returning to the person foolhardy enough to seek them...

The hidden demonic powers (ifreets) that some occultists either knowingly or unknowingly try to tap are contemptuous of man and desire nothing other than man's ruin. Most of what is passed off as the occult is probably just smoke and mirrors, and God knows best. But there is danger even in this, in that in uttering garbage one may willingly turn his or her back on God. So even what appears to be harmless is not so. In some parts of the world magicians are able to produce wondrous effects, they are able to stab themselves with real swords, the "darb shish" and skewer themselves without harm to themselves, they can lift heavy objects such as stones, a friend of mine actually saw such with his own eyes in Indonesia. Of course God's chosen can on occasion display certain miraculous effects as well through Allah's power.

Even things such as being penetrated with an iron blade. The difference being that the miraculous deeds of an infidel or a magicians will misguide one, but God may choose to let one of his elect display a miracle for the benefit of the people, perhaps to demonstrate to a non believer that God's power extends beyond his understanding, for example. The modern world has perhaps the most profoundly disturbing and effective magic ever known to man ! It is called the Cinema, and TV. Through it one can make a person believe whatever one wants, clothe truth in falsehood and falsehood in truth. Make wars seem just, paint the oppressed as oppressors, and the oppressors as the oppressed. It is quite a strange set of instruments, do you not agree :-)

In any case I hope that someone finds this perspective thought provoking or useful, the Muslims have a prayer that is simple "God show us truth as truth and grant us to follow it, show us illusion and falsehood as illusion and falsehood and grant us to avoid it" perhaps a prayer such as this might be useful to those caught up in the grand illusions of the cinema, or of everyday life.

Subject: Thought Provoking
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000
From: anonymous

Johnny Depp continues on in his strange typecast character roles. His character acting is one of the attributes of this film that almost makes it worth watching. Depp who has played in such roles as Edward Scissors Hands, and the wonderful little film, Benny and June among others has come to be known for the odd ball characters he has played and the disturbing off film life he leads.

Dean Coroso in The Ninth Gate could possibly be the most complex character that Depp has played and as disturbing as the film is, he plays the part quite well. As a matter of fact each of the actors in the film do a very good job, kudos to the Casting Director.

This is a film that many Christians will see and be quite disturbed about. To be honest, so was I, even though I came out of a background that involved the Occult. One of the attributes of this film besides its acting was the research that was done. The Ninth Gate portrays the Occult in a real light and with accurate portrayals. It also speaks at how easily Satan uses each individuals weaknesses to gradually take over their souls which will lead to ultimate death. This is also portrayed extremely well throughout the film as Coroso gets drawn further and further into the trappings of Satan. Numerous times through the film, we the viewer are saying to ourselves, "quit", "get out leave this stuff behind." Coroso has a love for money and curiosity however that continues to draw him further and further into danger and away from any real life.

While the film is made with a great deal of artistic integrity it is disturbing that there are no positive characters portrayed in the movie. The only character that could be perceived as a positive influence is later discovered to be nothing more than a demon drawing Coroso further into his ultimate spiritual death. Not including a positive character role leaves the viewer with little or no hope at the conclusion of the film. It is almost as if Coroso went down the only path he had available when in reality we have a choice. I would hope that the viewer, would realize that there is a ultimate hope, Jesus Christ.

While the aspects of the film involving the Occult are fairly accurate they are only partially accurate. We as true followers of Christ know that victory over Satan was won at the resurrection. The growth of the Christian Church, Christianity and the miraculous life changing events of the lives of those who once followed Satan are evidence to this. Just think about the influence of Jesus the next time you put a date on a check or any other item.

Many Christians or individuals watching this film may look at the Occult as a primary method of drawing persons to Satan, I would caution to be careful of this view. It is not Satan's goal to have everyone worshipping him out right. It is only his goal to draw them away from Christ, it is then that he has succeeded. The Ninth Gate should not be seen as the way Satan draws people to him. It should be seen as a way that some may be drawn to him as well as the ultimate death and deception that he brings. I would certainly caution many from viewing the film and will openly admit that the film is at times boring and difficult to understand. It does have a few twists and plots but frankly I did not leave the film with any positive thoughts or reflections. While this film deals with the dark side of our faith I would encourage viewers who are not Christians to also watch the film Tribulation with Gary Busy, a good ol Tulsa boy by the way, Margot Kidder and Howie Mandel. This film deals with the same types of battles but personally I like the ending much more in the film Tribulation. I will say that both conclusions in both films are true and accurate in their own way. It is up to the viewers as to which path they choose.

Subject: The Satanic View of Ninth_Gate
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000
From: anonymous

Satan or Lucifer (the Greek God of Light) is the Light Depp founds at the conclusion. It is he who was truly chosen to ascend to Godhood. Unlike Balkin, who was in error - Corso (guided by the grace of Satan) truly found Equality w/ God (the aim of a true Satanist). If you shudder and cringe at my "blashphemy" then it is no concern of mine. Satan was condemned to the Abyss of Ignorance (hence the significance of Black in satanic symbolism) his light hidden in the feeble humility of Xtian ignorance. Try to pray it away, but truth and reason, not faith. is the path of progress. Remain in the Flock, but I will not obey the steering of the Sheperds crook. The Children of Lucifer think for themselves.
Subject: Ninth Gate
Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2000
From: anonymous

I didn't exactly realize that Johnny Depp's character had become obsessed right away. I saw him as being more of a benevolent protagonist who was looking out for good's sake by retrieving the inscriptions. Eventually I realized his obsession. I feel that the statement that this movie is making is that we are now entering the final chapter or book; revelation. It makes satan out to be benevolent, and makes Depp's journey into Hell a glorious one, implying that the world will live out revelations prophecy.
Subject: -Lukewarm.
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000
From: anonymous

"I know all things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!" Revelation 3:15,16 Johnny Depp's portrayal of "lukewarm" is a real warning to those that sit on the fence. You must choose whom you shall serve, be it dark or light. Because of his status as "free agent" in the spiritual realm, he was easily seduced into the dark side. Not much different than the way it actually happens outside of the theater. Reach for the Light! As for the movie, I wouldn't have missed much by not seeing it. I left the theater wanting to have a drink. There was so much consumption of alcohol and my being an alcoholic in recovery received some sort of mental suggestion because of it. There should be a warning "Movie may cause a desire to get drunk!" I think I'll go see "MY DOG SKIP" next.
Subject: Ninth Gate summary
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000
From: anonymous

I recently saw The ninth Gate and it is not a typical Hollywood movie by any stretch of the imagination. I think one will finally realise that no one chooses the Devil, he chooses you and watch out if he does. Certain things upon reflection made me realise that the female bodyguard was not only a demon but was also the one that chose Depp. she also marked him with her blood a form of baptism. The devil is man's worst enemy but we are completely infatuated with him. It is this infatuation that caused almost everyone in the movie to die. but who killed them? with the exception of olin everyone else died by strange circumstances. Of course everyone thinks its Balkan (Langella) but i believe it was the girl, leading depp to the ultimate prize.
Ninth Gate, The

Apollo Score: Users' Rating: 61 (114 votes)

The Ninth Gate begins ominously – a comfortable-looking study takes on a distinctly uncomfortable atmosphere as middle-aged man hangs himself with a rope that dangles from the chandelier.

Then we see Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) at work. He’s a rare books expert, who doesn’t hesitate to rip people off to make a buck. As the wealthy book collector Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) observes, Corso is “the lean, hungry, restless type, who would stab friends in the back.”

Corso readily admits that he’d do just about anything to make a buck, and he proves it when he takes on a job for Balkan, who collects books about the devil. Balkan has just picked up a particular prize – from the fellow whose suicide opens the film. The book is called The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows – purportedly inspired by the devil’s own writings. Legend has it that the book can be used to get the devil to drop in and visit Earth. Balkan wants Corso to travel to Europe and inspect the other two remaining 300-year-old copies of the book to determine which, if any, are authentic. He’s paid a million bucks for this book, but isn’t convinced that it’s the real thing.

Corso grabs the book and heads off to make travel plans. He soon realizes that he’s being followed, and by more than one person. As he starts to piece together the truth of the Nine Gates, Corso is befriended by a mysterious young woman who regularly appears on the scene when he’s in trouble. She’s got remarkable powers, which Corso doesn’t seem to notice. Corso eventually figures out the truth about the book, and of course, he’s still competing with others for its possession. Although Corso supposedly cares about nothing other than his paycheque, he inexplicably becomes obsessed with the devil conjuring.

The Ninth Gate just doesn’t add up. Despite incessant talk about the devil, evidence of the supernatural is largely absent until the film’s conclusion. Until then, we get a Sam Spade-like Corso stumbling about, and we’re left to notice the film’s many weaknesses. These include continuity problems – for example, in France, it seems that dawn comes about an hour after dusk. There are also plenty of implausible elements to the story. We’re supposed to believe that a rare book expert would carry a million dollar volume around in his handbag, handling it with his grimy hands, chain-smoking and drinking booze as he leafs through it – treating the thing like an Archie comic book. Almost as unlikely is Corso’s willingness to carry on with the job even after he learns that it’s a dangerous situation and he’s consistently not getting answers from those around him, including Balkan and the mysterious young woman.

The Ninth Gate is not very spooky, and while the mystery is mildly interesting, it’s just too easy to be distracted by gaps in continuity and character motivation. As a result, the movie leaves us unspooked, unthrilled and unsatisfied.

Brian Webster


The Eighteenth Angel

Eighteenth Angel, The

Apollo Score: Users' Rating: 59 (116 votes)

I suppose it's snobby to think that some fans of supernatural thrillers aren't particularly demanding of the genre. After all, the same can be said of those who are keen about other genres. Who hasn't grimaced as comedy fans have laughed uproariously at weak jokes or as action fanatics have hooted with joy at mindless car crashes and explosions? Supernatural thrillers seem to work the same way. Just mention the name, 'Lucifer' and some people seem to line up to rent the video.

Well, The Eighteenth Angel is perfectly suited to just that audience. Here's a film that doesn't bother to explain why its characters do much of what they do. It's a film that would have you believe the last person to meet with a woman who commits suicide in a spectacular manner wouldn't even be interviewed by the police, and that a woman attacked by a bunch of domestic cats is done for.

The Eighteenth Angel tells us that Satan is destined to return just as soon as 18 angels make cameo appearances on earth. To rush this along, the leader of an ancient Etruscan order has made a deal with a discredited geneticist to do up a dozen and a half cloned humans, each missing just one part -- the face of an angel. Don't ask why he didn't produce perfect faces to go with the perfect bodies, because that would take away the whole point of the movie. The Etruscans go in pursuit of 18 pretty young people, so they can rip off their faces and plant them on the clones.

We get to follow one family and how it deals with the unfortunate fact that their daughter has been fingered as the source of one of those pretty faces.

Sound real dumb? Well, it is. But remember, this movie is about Lucifer, so anything goes.

Brian Webster

Darwin Conspiracy, The

Apollo Score: Users' Rating: 72 (13 votes)

There are two lessons to be learned from analyzing a trend: Determine what the majority is doing and what should be avoided to distinguish yourself from that majority. It is unfortunate that Hollywood consistently remembers only the first lesson. The Darwin Conspiracy hasn’t let the success of a television program like the X-Files go unnoticed and uses much of that show’s elements as its basis.

The Darwin Conspiracy tells the age-old story of a lone fighter for justice against the evils of greed and self-interest. Specifically, Jason Brooks plays a brilliant geneticist, Jack Ward, whose forte is DNA research. Jack is courted by National Security to unwittingly conduct radical experiments in human intelligence. Not only are the experiments against his high scientific ideals but also the subject of the experiments turns out to be his mentally disabled brother. These experiments are based on finding a prehistoric “ice man” from Antarctica whose DNA is thousands of years more evolved than present day humans’. Now, if the viewer can accept this premise, the film might succeed.

The Darwin Conspiracy is competently made. The direction is solid if not stylish. In fact, upon viewing, you might be reminded of a particularly “sci-fi themed” episode of C.H.I.P.S.. This film just has that look about it: straight visual storytelling techniques, nothing innovative, and even a little corny (i.e. cuts to close-up of a lab monkey’s eyes and the brother, who received telekinetic powers when exposed to the ice man’s DNA). Despite the plot foundation being a little far-fetched, the script has few sections where the viewer is further obliged to make leaps of logic. After all, the addictive quality of films is to make us believe. Although there is nothing glaringly wrong with the film, there is nothing evidently original or exciting about it either. Paranoia and conspiracy are two very seductive narrative devices that a program like X-Files exploits to full potential: These qualities are illustrated with the chiaroscuro lighting, sets that are cramped and untidy, and characters. “Cancer Man”, later politically corrected to “Cigarette Smoking Man”, increases the sense of paranoia by not even having a proper name and constantly emitting a swirling mass of smoke around his head.

The Darwin Conspiracy fails to elevate the sensation of paranoia and conspiracy to more than a passingitch; an itch that certainly isn’t worth a 90 minute scratch.

Chris Kaynes


World's Second Cloned Baby Is Born, Raelians Say

Updated 11:40 AM ET January 4, 2003

By Eric Onstad

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The world's second cloned baby was born on Friday to a Dutch woman, the head of the Raelian sect in the Netherlands said on Saturday.

"A baby girl was born yesterday evening. The baby is healthy and the mother, too," Bart Overvliet told Reuters by telephone.

The woman, a lesbian, is in the Netherlands with her partner, but the birth might have taken place in another country, he added.

He said the child was created by Clonaid, the same cloning firm that claimed last month to have organized the birth of the first human clone, named "Eve," to a 31-year-old U.S. woman.

Clonaid's initial claim sparked widespread skepticism among scientific experts, and the company has yet to provide DNA samples or other evidence to support its assertions about last month's birth.

Clonaid was established by the Raelian movement, a religious group that believes aliens landed on Earth 25,000 years ago and started the human race through cloning.

The founder of the movement, Claude Vorilhon, who calls himself "Rael," told CNN on Friday that Clonaid and the Raelian movement were "very different" and he could not personally vouch for the accuracy of Clonaid's claims.

Overvliet said the Dutch woman involved in the latest birth plans to raise the baby with her partner and is not a member of the Raelian movement.

"It's a lesbian couple, but she is not a member of the religion, she got in contact with Clonaid by herself," said Overvliet, a 45-year-old Amsterdam salesman.

Cloning a human is forbidden in the Netherlands, but nothing in the law forbids the birth of a cloned baby, a spokesman for the Dutch Health Ministry said.


Clonaid, which says it has a list of 2,000 people willing to pay $200,000 to have themselves or a loved one cloned, announced its initial breakthrough on December 27 and said four more cloned babies would be born by the end of January.

Cattle, mice, sheep and other animals have been cloned with mixed success. Some of these animals have shown defects later in life and critics of human cloning say it is unethical to subject a baby to these dangers.

The Raelians dismiss fears about cloned babies suffering health problems as propaganda aimed at impeding the progress of cloning.

"These scientists don't want to let cloning progress, they want to stop it because they are afraid of human cloning. They say on purpose that it has a lot of faults and genetic defects," Overvliet said.

He said Clonaid's work was a logical progression of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), the technique used to help infertile couples have children.

"Human cloning is more of an extension of IVF, cloning of humans is actually less complicated than of animals," he said.

The Raelian Movement, which claims 55,000 followers around the world, has around 30 members in the Netherlands, but none of them so far have expressed interest in being cloned, he said.

Aliens who created humans and then departed for their own planet have been monitoring mankind's progress, Overvliet said.

"They now think we are far enough along in science so we can understand how we were created," he said.

On Thursday, Clonaid chief executive Brigitte Boisselier said in television interviews that DNA tests on the baby born to an American woman had been put off because the parents were anxious about keeping their identity secret.

PARIS (Jan. 3, 2003) - The parents of a newborn claimed to be the world's first cloned human are balking on whether to allow DNA testing on the child, said the head of the cloning company that says it brought the baby to life.

Many experts have expressed skepticism about the company's claim that the baby was a clone, saying they needed to see a DNA matching as proof.

But ``the parents told me that they needed 48 hours to decide yes or no - if they would do it,'' Brigitte Boisselier told French television station France-2 in an interview Thursday.

Boisselier is chief executive of Clonaid, which is linked to a religious sect that believes space aliens created life on Earth. She is also a member of the sect, called the Raelians.

Clonaid has refused to identify the parents or offer any proof that the child - nicknamed ``Eve'' - is a clone. But the company had promised DNA test results to confirm their claim by around the end of this week.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Michael Guillen, the freelance journalist who was arranging the DNA testing, were not successful Thursday. A spokeswoman for Clonaid said she was not familiar with Boisselier's broadcast remarks and was unable to comment Thursday.

Boisselier told France-2 the parents were reconsidering whether to submit to testing because of legal action taken in Florida that could result in the cloned child being taken away from them.

Earlier this week, a court in Florida was asked to turn the baby over to state care if it found the baby's health was in danger. Though Clonaid has kept secret the baby's whereabouts, the company held its news conference to announce the clone's birth in Florida, which could give the court jurisdiction, argued lawyer Bernard F. Siegel.

``That is a lot of turbulence for the parents (who) have gone home and just want to have some peace and spend time with their children,'' said Boisselier.

Meanwhile, a second cloned baby was expected to be born somewhere in Europe before Sunday, Boisselier said. She declined to name the country.

Boisselier had previously said that three additional couples were expected to give birth to Clonaid-created clones by early February.

Clonaid, which declines to reveal where its facilities are, was founded in the Bahamas in 1997 by the man who founded the Raelian religious sect. The man, Rael, says he learned about the origin of life on Earth from a visitor from outer space. He says he views cloning as a step toward reaching eternal life.

Clonaid retains philosophical but not economic ties to the Raelians, the company says.

01/02/03 21:26 EST

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (Dec. 27, 2002) - A chemist connected to a group that believes life on Earth was created by extraterrestrials claimed Friday to have produced the world's first human clone, a baby girl named Eve.

The 7-pound baby was born Thursday, said Brigitte Boisselier, head of Clonaid, the company that claimed success in the project. She wouldn't say where the baby was born.

Even before the announcement, other scientists expressed doubt that her group could clone a human.

Boisselier, who spoke at a news conference, said the baby is a clone of the 30-year-old American woman who donated the DNA for the cloning process, had the resulting embryo implanted and then gestated the baby. If confirmed, that would make the child an exact genetic duplicate of her mother.

''It is very important to remember that we are talking about a baby,'' she said. ''The baby is very healthy. She is fine, she doing fine. The parents are happy. I hope that you remember them when you talk about this baby, not like a monster, like some results of something that is disugusting.''

Boisselier did not immediately present DNA evidence showing a genetic match between mother and daughter, however. That omission leaves her claim scientifically unsupported.

The group expects four more babies to be born in the next few weeks, another from North America, one from Europe and two from Asia.

She said the baby will go home in three days, and an independent expert will take DNA samples from the baby to prove she had been cloned. Those test results are expected within a week after the testing.

Most scientists, already skeptical of Boisellier's ability to produce a human clone, will probably demand to know exactly how the DNA testing was done before they believe the announcement.

Clonaid was founded in the Bahamas in 1997 by Claude Vorilhon, a former French journalist and leader of a group called the Raelians. Vorilhon and his followers claim aliens visiting him in the 1970s revealed they had created all life on Earth through genetic engineering.

Cloning produces a new individual using only one person's DNA. The process is technically difficult but conceptually simple. Scientists remove the genetic material from an unfertilized egg, then introduce new DNA from a cell of the animal to be cloned. Under the proper conditions, the egg begins dividing into new cells according to the instructions in the introduced DNA.

Boisselier, who claims two chemistry degrees and previously was marketing director for a chemical company in France, identifies herself as a Raelian ''bishop'' and said Clonaid retains philosophical but not economic links to the Raelians. She is not a specialist in reproductive medicine.

Human cloning for reproductive purposes is banned in several countries. There is no specific law against it in the United States, but the Food and Drug Administration contends it must approve any human experiments in this country. Boisselier would not say where Clonaid has been carrying out its experiments. Bush administration officials said in Washington on Thursday they were aware of rumors of an announcement but had no plans to comment on the matter until after the details were known.

In Rome, fertility doctor Severino Antinori, who said weeks ago he had engineered a cloned baby boy who would be born in January, dismissed Clonaid's claims and said the group has no scientific credibility.

The news ''makes me laugh and at the same time disconcerts me, because it creates confusion between those who make serious scientific research'' and those who don't, Antinori said.

''We keep up our scientific work, without making announcements,'' he added. ''I don't take part in this ... race.''

So far scientists have succeeded in cloning sheep, mice, cows, pigs, goats and cats. Last year, scientists in Massachusetts produced cloned human embryos with the intention of using them as a source of stem cells, but the cloned embryos never grew bigger than six cells.

Many scientists oppose cloning to produce humans, saying it's too risky because of abnormalities seen in cloned animals.

AP-NY-12-27-02 0942EST

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.

Cloned monkey embryos are a "gallery of horrors"

A high percentage of cloned monkey embryos that look healthy are really a "gallery of horrors" deep within, says a researcher at Advanced Cell Technology, the company that last month published the first paper on cloned human embryos.

December 12 , 2001

Sylvia Pagan Westphal, Boston

This could mean that there is something unique about primate eggs that will make cloning monkeys or people far more difficult than cloning other animals. At the very least, the experiments show that there's a lot to learn before primates can be cloned.

Tanja Dominko, who presented the results last week at a conference in Washington DC, did the work before joining ACT, while she was working for the reproductive biologist Gerald Schatten at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center in Beaverton.

Several groups have been trying for years to clone monkeys, but while the embryos look normal, no one has ever got them to develop further.

Uneven scatter

To try and figure out what was going wrong, Dominko looked at 265 cloned rhesus macaque embryos created by nuclear transfer - plucking out an egg's nucleus and then adding a nucleus from a donor cell. She followed development of the embryos through several divisions, from the two-cell stage until the 32-cell stage.

Though they appeared superficially healthy, the cells in the vast majority of Dominko's embryos did not form distinct nuclei containing all the chromosomes. Instead, the chromosomes were scattered unevenly throughout the cells.

"The surprising thing is that these cells keep dividing," says Dominko. Some embryos developed to the stage known as a blastocyst, but by day six or seven they had started to look abnormal.

The cloned human embryos created by ACT didn't even get this far. Only one reached the six-cell stage.

Trauma of removal

Dominko says that the trauma of removing the nucleus from the egg might be what triggers the defects. Eggs whose nuclei are removed and then put back inside show the same abnormalities, as well as evidence of programmed cell suicide. "This is not to say that normal embryos can't be made, but not on a regular basis," says Dominko.

Ian Wilmut, who cloned Dolly the sheep, told the conference that Dominko's results were not surprising in the light of experience of nuclear transfer in mice and cows. Even in these animals the success rates are not high, so the phenomena observed by Dominko probably occur in them as well - it's just that everyone focuses on the few successes, he says.

Even so, researchers hoping to publish work on nuclear transfer in humans may now have to come up with better evidence that embryos are healthy. William Haseltine, editor of the journal in which ACT published details of its cloned human embryos, now agrees that pictures alone aren't enough.


Date: 8/1/2001

US bans human cloning

WASHINGTON - The US House of Representatives has approved a sweeping ban on human cloning, a prohibition that would make it a federal crime to clone people to produce children or to create embryos for medical research.

Saying that human cloning posed too many safety risks and ethical dilemmas, lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House passed the legislation by a 265-162 vote.

The House defeated 249-178 an alternative backed by medical groups and the biotechnology industry that would have permitted human cloning for a type of stem cell research.

The bill, favoured by President Bush, now awaits action by the Democratic-led Senate.

"The moral issues posed by human cloning are profound and have implications for today and for future generations," Bush said in a statement issued by the White House.

"Today's overwhelming and bipartisan House action to prohibit human cloning is a strong ethical statement, which I commend. We must advance the promise and cause of science but do so in a way that honours and respects life," Bush said.

Two groups of scientists have announced plans to clone people to provide children for infertile couples by using the same techniques that gave the world Dolly the sheep in 1997. Lawmakers agreed that human cloning for reproduction should be illegal but battled over whether to permit researchers to make cloned embryos to get their stem cells, the versatile cells at the centre of a controversy over federal funding.

Scientists believe embryonic stem cells, early master cells that can be coaxed into becoming almost any other cell type, can potentially be used to treat serious diseases.



Wednesday August 1, 2001

Archerd: Hollywood campaigns for stem cell funding

By Army Archerd, Daily Variety Senior Columnist

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Not since the Clinton-Gore campaign days has Hollywood been galvanized to support -- not a candidate -- but an issue. The issue: to get President George W. to authorize funds for embryonic stem cell research.

As already noted, congressional support urging government funding has crossed party lines. One of those, a right-to-lifer, who favors the embryo stem cell research funding is Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

The Zuckers and fellow Hollywood supporters of this issue have hired a lobbyist in D.C. to fight the fight. The premiere of ``Rat Race'' Monday in Century City raised $420,000, which goes directly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Stem Cell Advocacy Campaign. Paramount underwrote the premiere and the lavish party -- to the tune of $280,000.

``(Paramount boss) Sherry Lansing is fantastic,'' both the Zuckers and Lucy Fisher enthused to me. Janet Zucker added, ``She is a galvanizing force. She has written to President Bush, she is organizing committees and a 'summit conference' in the industry.''

Further, Wick's father, Charles Wick, former head of the USIA under President Reagan, has written to his friends in D.C., including Tommy Thompson, head of the Human Health Services. And Nancy Reagan is also an advocate of the research, having written to President Bush, hopeful her husband's legacy will leave no further suffering for any one afflicted by Alzheimer's, one of the diseases targeted via the research.

Marvin Davis, whose daughter has diabetes, had a conversation with President Bush about the research funding. The Davises are no strangers to the Bush family -- George pere once worked in the Texas oil fields with/for Davis.

Those attending -- and buying party tables at the Las Vegas-style post-premiere screening -- included ``High Rollers,'' ``Big Cheeses'' and ``Fat Cats'' and crossed all political lines. GOP fundraiser Ann Dunsmore got 'em to support the evening's program.

Reuters/Variety REUTERS

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


Wednesday August 1, 2001

Israelis Turn Human Stem Cells Into Heart Cells

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists said on Wednesday that they had grown heart cells from human embryonic stem cells, an important step toward harnessing the transformational qualities of these primitive master cells to regenerate tissue damaged by cardiac disease.

Israeli researchers said they had created early-stage human heart cells in petri dishes using stem cells derived from an embryo just days after fertilization. They said they envisioned using these cells, after refining the process, to reverse damage inflicted on cardiac muscle by heart attacks.

``It was shown for the first time definitely that the cells that are being created are cardiac cells that show electrical, biochemical and morphological characteristics of early or young cardiac muscle,'' Dr. Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor of the Faculty of Medicine and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa said in a telephone interview.

The publication of the study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation comes as President Bush (news - web sites) considers whether to permit federal funding of research involving human embryonic stem cells.


Embryonic stem cells can be viewed as the body's early building blocks. Their wondrous ability to transform themselves into virtually every cell type enables the embryo to grow from a round ball of a few cells into a fully formed body.

Researchers are hoping to use stem cells to create therapies for a variety of illnesses, including heart disease, one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

``The idea is that if you now have a source for heart cells, in the future you can transplant them into a nonfunctioning area (of the heart) and possibly replace the cells,'' said Dr. Lior Gepstein of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Faculty of Medicine, an author of the study, along with colleagues including Itskovitz-Eldor and Dr. Izhak Kehat.

``When we have a heart attack, the area of the heart that doesn't receive blood supply actually dies and is replaced by scar tissue,'' Gepstein added. ``Because the adult heart doesn't have any regeneration capacity, this area in the heart won't contract anymore (to pump blood). So this can lead to deterioration in heart function and eventually to heart failure.''

The goal would be to inject the early-stage human heart cells created in the laboratory using stem cells into the damaged area and create healthy cardiac muscle that restores heart function, the researchers said.

Other researchers recently reported they had used mouse stem cells to create mouse cardiac cells.


The Israeli researchers used human embryonic stem cells to grow an undifferentiated mass of cells using a standard laboratory technique. They then sought to steer the multiplying cells toward transformation into cardiac cells by optimizing the conditions in the petri dish.

As the cells divided, the cells aggregated into microscopic clumps. In about 10 percent of these, the researchers detected small groups of cells that were contracting spontaneously just like cardiomyocytes -- the cells that develop into heart tissue in an embryo.

The researchers then put these groups of cells through a battery of tests to confirm that they were cardiomyocytes and thus destined to differentiate into mature heart cells.

The researchers said the cells checked out in every way, including the genes they activated, the proteins they possessed, their electrical activity as they regularly contracted like a beating heart, their use of calcium and their response to hormones such as adrenaline.

``These are heart cells,'' Gepstein said.

He said the researchers still needed to devise a way to increase the number of these cells produced in the laboratory. Noting that 90 percent of the cells created in the experiment were not heart cells, he said the researchers were exploring different combinations of chemicals to induce the stem cells to produce pure cultures of cardiomyocytes.

The researchers said several million of these cells would be needed for a theoretical transplantation.



Tuesday July 31, 2001

Research Points to Stem Cell Therapy for Diabetes

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israeli researchers said on Tuesday they had succeeded in coaxing human embryonic stem cells into producing the hormone insulin, in a key step toward creating a revolutionary treatment for type 1 (juvenile) diabetes.

Stem cells that were derived from a human embryo days after fertilization were transformed with chemical prodding into an abundant mass of cells possessing important qualities of the cells of the pancreas that secrete insulin, the researchers said. Those cells are called islet cells, or beta cells.

The findings represent a major stride toward using embryonic stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes. The appearance of the study in the journal Diabetes, published by the American Diabetes Association, comes as President George W. Bush considers whether to allow federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells are known for their ability to transform into virtually every cell type. Some scientists hope to harness this quality to treat type 1 diabetes by transplanting these cells into the bodies of patients in order to create healthy islet cells to secrete and regulate insulin.

The findings were ``a necessary prerequisite for therapeutic strategies'' for type 1 diabetes using stem cells, the researchers write. The investigators are with the Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology and the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, and were led by Suheir Assady.

Dr. Christopher Saudek, president of the American Diabetes Association and a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, called the findings ''exciting.''

``Up until this point, people have talked about the possibility that human stem cells could be made to produce insulin. But here it is being demonstrated,'' Saudek said in a telephone interview.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas fails to pump out insulin due to an immune system attack on its insulin-producing cells. Insulin is a hormone necessary for cells to be able to use blood sugar (glucose), the basic fuel for body cells.

More than 1 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, which strikes children and some adults suddenly, making them dependent on daily insulin injections to stay alive. People with the disease face complications such as heart disease, stroke, amputation, blindness and kidney failure.

Pancreas transplantation is one strategy for combating the disease, but there is an insufficient supply of organs. Investigators are exploring alternative sources of the insulin-producing islet cells.

The Israeli research team said the cells they created in the laboratory possessed many characteristics of islet cells, including insulin production and release. But they acknowledged they had not shown that the cells could regulate insulin secretion based upon the body's glucose levels.

``Although we have not demonstrated glucose responsiveness, we cannot conclude that the cells are glucose unresponsive,'' the researchers write.

``You can say they have demonstrated that you can turn on the gas. What they haven't demonstrated is that you have brakes and accelerators to control it. And that's what you would need in a final use,'' Saudek said.

Because the federal government has never funded research involving human embryonic stem cells, the study could not have been conducted in the United States with grant money from the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites), the major supporter of medical research.

``This is definitely the kind of research that would be accelerated enormously if federal funds could be made available for it,'' Saudek said.

SOURCE: Diabetes 2001;50:1691-1697.

Copyright © 2001 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.


Thursday July 26, 2001

Press Release

SOURCE: Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Leading Orthodox Jewish Groups Write Bush Encouraging Support For Stem Cell Research With Guidelines

NEW YORK, July 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America wrote to President George W. Bush to express the support of these leading Orthodox Jewish organizations for federal funding for stem cell research so long as such research is conducted under careful guidelines.

The position expressed by the statement was developed in close consultation with leading rabbinic authorities and Orthodox Jewish scientists. The UOJCA represents nearly 1,000 Orthodox Jewish synagogues and the RCA has a membership of over 1,000 Orthodox rabbis.

A complete copy of the letter can be viewed on the Union's website -- http://, portions are excerpted here:

``[T]he decision you face is one with complex moral dimensions. On the one hand scientific research indicates that there is great life-saving potential in embryonic stem cell research, potential that warrants federal support. On the other hand, we must be vigilant against any erosion of the value that American society affords to human life, including potential human life ... Our Torah tradition places great value upon human life; we are taught in the opening chapters of Genesis that each human was created in G-d's very image. The potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life from the traditional Jewish perspective ... Thus, if embryonic stem cell research can help us preserve and heal humans with greater success, and does not require or encourage the destruction of life in the process, it ought to be pursued.''

``Nevertheless, we must emphasize, that research on embryonic stem cells must be conducted under careful guidelines. Critical elements of these guidelines, from our perspective, relate to where the embryonic stem cells to be researched upon are taken from. We believe it is entirely appropriate to utilize for this research existing embryos, such as those created for IVF purposes that would otherwise be discarded but for this research. We think it another matter to create embryos ab initio for the sole purpose of conducting this form of research ... Other elements of an ethically sensitive oversight regime would include a rigorous informed consent process from future IVF procedure participants, a fully funded and empowered oversight body comprised of scientists and bio-ethicists, and periodic reviews by relevant Executive branch agencies and congressional committees.''

SOURCE: Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Copyright © 2001 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.


WASHINGTON, July 26, 2001

/U.S. Newswire/ -- In light of the Vatican's statement July 25 that embryonic stem cell research, " help others," is "absolutely unacceptable," a well-known Catholic theologian and an Episcopal priest, both affiliated with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice have expressed other views on the moral issues involved.

According to theologian Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., and Episcopal priest The Reverend Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, prohibiting such research -- or federal funding for research -- elevates respect for embryos slated for destruction above respect for those who could benefit from research findings.

"As people of faith we are called to be partners with God in healing and in the alleviation of human pain and suffering," they said. "Our respect for life includes respect for the embryo and fetus. Therefore, decisions about research should be made responsibly, under existing federal guidelines."

Pope John Paul II's condemnation of using embryonic stem cells for research represents the view of those who see fetal and embryonic life as morally equivalent to human persons. Most Americans do not. The question before President Bush is research on excess embryos created for in vitro fertilization and slated for destruction.

The enormous life-saving potential of embryonic stem cells cannot currently be matched by adult stem cells, according to researchers. Narrow theological arguments disregard a basic religious principle, that of the common good of all humanity. "The Pope is only one religious voice in the debate," they said. "Many other faiths and individuals have strongly held beliefs in support of this research. We hope President Bush will listen to all sides of the issue."

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, founded in 1973, is the national alliance of pro-choice religious organizations.

Copyright © 2001 Yahoo! Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday July 25, 2001

Bone Marrow Cells Can Develop Into Kidney Tissue

By Richard Woodman

LONDON (Reuters Health) - Scientists said on Wednesday they had discovered that adult stem cells found in the bone marrow are capable of turning into kidney cells after a bone marrow transplant. The discovery, made in mice and human transplant patients, suggests that bone marrow-derived cells could be used to treat kidney failure, although more research is needed to determine if this is true.

The stem cells found in bone marrow are immature cells that can give rise to all cells of the blood and immune system. Past studies have shown they also have the potential to transform into liver cells and researchers in London said their work proves for the first time that these remarkably plastic cells can also transform themselves into kidney cells.

They hope that their findings, published in the online version of the Journal of Pathology, could one day enable doctors to restore kidney function to patients suffering from kidney failure or perform gene therapy for kidney diseases.

The team, from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Imperial College School of Medicine in London, examined kidneys of female mice that had received a male bone marrow transplant and kidney biopsies from eight male patients who had received kidney transplants from female donors.

By using a special DNA probe to detect the sex chromosomes, the researchers showed that circulating stem cells frequently engraft into the kidney and differentiate into kidney tissue cells.

They said bone marrow-derived cells were found in both normal mouse kidneys and in the human transplanted kidneys.

``These data indicate that bone marrow cells contribute to both normal turnover or renal epithelia and regeneration after damage, and it is suggested that this could be exploited therapeutically,'' they state in the journal.

Professor Malcolm Alison, a research pathologist working at both Imperial Cancer and Imperial College School of Medicine, said in a news release, ``Our laboratory experiments showed the presence of cells in the kidney that came from bone marrow stem cells, but we then went a step further and proved it can actually happen in the human body.''

According to Dr. Richard Poulsom, lead author and research pathologist at Imperial Cancer Research Fund, ``The potential for advances in medicine from using adult stem cells is enormous. They can give rise to many different types of cells so any organ may one day be repaired. Using adult stem cells also avoids the ethical dilemmas associated with embryonic stem cell work.''

Stem cells can also be collected from embryos and are thought to have great potential in treating adult illnesses, but are currently at the center of a raging debate over the ethics of using such tissue. While adult stem cells are promising as well, many researchers believe that embryonic cells can form an even greater variety of adult body tissues.

Sir Paul Nurse, Director General of Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said, ``This is a great achievement and shows real progress by the team which, almost exactly a year ago, discovered that bone marrow stem cells are capable of turning into liver cells and repopulating damaged liver.''

SOURCE: Journal of Pathology 2001;193:1-7.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


Wednesday July 25, 2991

Vatican Says No Exceptions to Pope's Stem-Cell Stand

Bush Returns to White House - (WKMG, Orlando)

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican (news - web sites), rejecting suggestions that Pope John Paul (news - web sites)'s stem-cell warning to George W. Bush left the president room to maneuver, said on Wednesday he condemned all research using embryos without exception.

In a public address to Bush at their meeting on Monday, the Pope referred to stem-cell research, a topic at the forefront of the conservative president's mind as he deliberates whether to permit federal funding for such work.

Stem cells can be taken from embryos and are capable of developing into cell types that make up the body. Scientists believe they can lead to cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, spinal cord injuries and cancer.

The Pope defined as evil ``proposals for the creation for research purposes of human embryos, destined to destruction in the process.''

While the Pope clearly referred to embryos created to be destroyed by research he did not specifically refer to those created for use in in-vitro-fertilization (IVF) and which are left over after a woman becomes pregnant.

The Washington Post on Tuesday cited U.S. administration officials as saying the Pope's words were ``sufficiently ambiguous'' to provide comfort for Bush if he approves funding for stem-cell research with extra embryos in fertility clinics.

The paper said this was a compromise the conservative president was considering, adding that the U.S. administration believed the Pope's words could have been much broader if he wanted to include IVF embryos.

The Vatican, anxious to cut short any suggestion of different rights for different embryos, weighed in firmly with an official statement by its chief spokesman.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls quoted from the Pope's 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), which specifically condemned the destruction of embryos produced for IVF.

``This moral condemnation also regards procedures that exploit living human embryos and fetuses -- sometimes specifically 'produced' for this purpose by in-vitro fertilization -- either to be used as 'biological material' or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the treatment of certain diseases,'' the statement said.

``The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act,'' it said.


Stem cells can give sick people new cells that have been instructed to act as replacements for damaged tissue.

They can also be taken from organs and tissues in a body -- these are known as adult stem cells -- but scientists say that research on embryonic cells is more promising.

The Church, which teaches that life begins at the moment of conception, does not oppose adult stem-cell research.

After his meeting with the Pope, Bush said he would keep the Pontiff's stand in mind when making his decision on whether federal money should be used for embryonic stem-cell research.

Bush, who is opposed to abortion except in cases of rape and incest, is said to be agonizing over the stem-cell decision, one of the most important of his presidency.

``I do care about the opinion of people, particularly someone as profound as the Holy Father,'' he said on Monday.

``I'll take that point of view into consideration as I make up my mind on a very difficult issue confronting the United States of America. It's the need to balance value and respect for life with the promise of science and the hope of saving life,'' he said.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


Monday July 23, 2001

Pope Warns Bush of 'Evil' of Embryo Cell Research

President Bush to Meet Pope for First Time - (WKMG, Orlando)

By Philip Pullella

CASTELGANDOLFO, Italy (Reuters) - Pope John Paul (news - web sites) warned President Bush (news - web sites) on Monday of the ``evils'' of stem-cell research using embryos and spoke of the right to life and dangers of globalization.

Bush, 55, dressed in a dark suit, appeared slightly nervous as he was introduced to the 81-year-old Pope, who greeted him while leaning on a cane.

Bush, asked later about his feelings during the meeting, said: ``It's hard to describe. I'm not poetic enough to describe what it's like to be in his presence.''

Meeting the Pontiff for the first time as president, Bush took the ailing Pope's left hand and helped him walk to chairs where they held 35 minutes of private talks in a room overlooking a lake at the papal summer residence south of Rome.

``This is where the Popes spend their summers,'' the Pope said while photographers clicked away.

``Yes Sir. And I can understand why. It's so beautiful here,'' Bush said.

During their private talks, which Bush later described as a ''good discussion,'' the two men spoke of the recent violence-marred Group of Eight summit in Genoa, the Middle East, and ways of helping the developing world, a Vatican (news - web sites) source said.


The Pope saved his thunder for his public speech.

In a talk woven around the theme of respect for life, the Pope made a clear reference to stem-cell research, a topic in the forefront of the conservative president's mind as he deliberates whether to permit federal funding for such work.

He spoke of ``evils such as euthanasia, infanticide and, most recently, proposals for the creation for research purposes of human embryos, destined to destruction in the process.''

The Catholic Church condemns stem-cell research using embryos because they are destroyed in the process but does not oppose other forms of stem-cell research where cells are taken from body tissues and life is not threatened.

The Pope's specific words on stem-cell research concerning embryos appear to leave maneuvering room for Bush as he ponders what kind of stem-cell research to approve for federal funding.

Bush later told a news conference he would keep the Pope's words in mind when thinking about his decision.

``I do care about the opinion of people, particularly someone as profound as the Holy Father,'' he said.

``I'll take that point of view into consideration as I make up my mind on a very difficult issue confronting the United States of America. It's the need to balance value and respect for life with the promise of science and the hope of saving life,'' he said.

Advocates believe research with embryonic stem cells, the early master cells formed soon after a human egg is fertilized, could lead to medical advances.

The aging Pontiff also spoke out, albeit indirectly, against the death penalty, which Bush supports.

``A free and virtuous society, which America aspires to be, must reject practices that devalue and violate human life at any stage from conception until natural death,'' he said.

During Bush's six years as Texas governor, the state carried out 152 executions, the highest rate in the United States. Under his presidency, U.S. federal authorities resumed executions after 38-years. Two men have been put to death.


Saying ``a global world is essentially a world of solidarity,'' the Pope decried that many do not reap globalization's benefits.

``The Church cannot but express profound concern that our world continues to be divided, no longer by the former political and military blocks, but by a tragic fault line between those who can benefit from these opportunities and those who seem cut off from them,'' he said.

He also repeated calls for industrialized countries to share technology with poorer countries, to respect the environment, to cancel or significantly reduce developing country debt and to be open to immigrants.

In his speech, Bush avoided controversy, praising the Polish Pope for his role in defense of human rights and referring to his role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

``You have urged men and women of goodwill to take to their knees before God and to stand, unafraid, before tyrants...this has added greatly to the momentum of freedom in our time,'' Bush said

After the private talks, Bush's wife Laura and daughter Barbara, both clad in black and wearing mantillas for the occasion, were called in and shown the view from the papal balcony, overlooking Lake Albano, an extinct volcano.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.



Report: Test-Tube Baby Born to Save Ailing Sister


WASHINGTON (Oct. 3, 2000) - A Colorado couple used genetic tests to create a test-tube baby that would have the exact type of cells desperately needed to save their 6-year-old daughter, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper said it was the first time a couple was known to have screened their embryos before implanting one in the mother's womb for the purpose of saving the life of a sibling.

The baby, named Adam, was born in Denver on Aug. 29. Doctors collected cells from his umbilical cord, a painless procedure, and on Sept. 26 infused them into his sister Molly's circulatory system, according to the Post report.

Molly suffered from an inherited bone marrow deficiency that is universally fatal without a transplant like the one she received from her newborn brother. She is recuperating in a Minneapolis hospital, and within about a week doctors should know whether the procedure was successful, the Post said.

The procedure is both a promising and worrisome harbinger of where scientific advances are taking human reproduction in the near future -- at least for those who can afford to take that path, the Post said, quoting doctors and ethicists.

''We knew we were running out of time,'' Charles Strom, director of medical genetics at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where the genetic testing was done, told the paper.

Now, he said, the girl has an 85 percent to 90 percent chance of being largely free of the marrow disease.

But the case also raises questions about parents' ability to choose the traits of their children, for whatever practical -- or capricious -- reason they may have.


The girl who received the cell transplant, Molly Nash of Englewood, Colorado, was born with Fanconi anemia, an inherited disorder that causes a massive failure of bone marrow cell production.

Children with the disease suffer from anemia, bleeding disorders and severe immune system problems and generally die from leukemia or other complications by the time they are 7.

The only effective treatment is to get a batch of healthy cells from a perfectly matched sibling to replace the ailing child's faulty bone marrow cells.

The Post said Molly's parents, Lisa and Jack Nash, had long wanted more children, but were afraid to conceive another for fear that any new baby would be affected by the disease. Each parent carries both a normal and a faulty version of the Fanconi gene, which meant they had a 25 percent chance of having an affected child with each pregnancy.

But a few years ago they learned of a new technique under development called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

Researchers harmlessly pluck a single cell from embryos that have been created by standard in vitro fertilization and are developing in a laboratory dish. They test each of those cells for the presence of a disease gene, and then transfer to a woman's uterus only those embryos whose cells test normal.

Lisa Nash told the Post that when she tried in vitro fertilization for the first time a few years ago she turned to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis primarily to select an embryo unaffected by Fanconi. She allowed researchers to test the embryos for compatibility with Molly's cells, but the tests were not very good then, she said.

The couple went through this four times, and each time benefited from increasingly sophisticated cell typing tests. But none of the attempts resulted in a pregnancy.

Finally, in the fertility cycle initiated late last year, two of the couple's 15 embryos tested as both free of the disease and having a perfect match for Molly, Strom said.

Only one of those two embryos was healthy enough to transfer to Lisa Nash's womb. On Christmas Eve the couple learned that the embryo had implanted properly and that Lisa Nash was pregnant, according to the Post report.

After Adam was born, doctors saved blood cells from his umbilical cord. Research has shown umbilical cord cells, like transplanted bone marrow cells, can go to a recipient's bone marrow and repopulate the marrow space with healthy cells.

The transplant was performed last week at Fairview-University Hospital in Minneapolis, which specializes in bone marrow replacements for children with Fanconi anemia.

''Molly was holding Adam in her lap'' while the cells dripped through a plastic tube into the girl's chest, Nash told the Post. ''It was the most awesome, monumental experience of our life, yet it was so simple. You'd think there'd be thunderbolts and lightning, but it was calm.''

So far, doctors said, Molly is doing well.

University of Minnesota cord blood specialist John Wagner, who oversaw the transplant, told the Post there had been no complications, and Molly would soon be out of the high-risk period that follows such procedures. Doctors suppressed her immune system with the radiation and chemotherapy to increase the chances the cells would not be rejected.

Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


Opposition to human cloning will 'blow over,' scientist says

January 7, 1998

Same technique used in sheep cloning

Ethical, legal dilemma

CHICAGO (CNN) -- A scientist who plans to clone babies for infertile couples believes any opposition to his work will be short-lived. "I think it will blow over," Richard G. Seed told CNN on Wednesday.

"There were an awful lot of people against the automobile, too," he said in a live interview by telephone from Chicago. "Any new technology ... creates fear and horror." But as time passes, human cloning will receive "enthusiastic endorsement," he said.

CNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore explains the cloning dilemma

Seed, who has a Harvard doctorate in physics and has done fertility research in the past, plans to begin his work on a human clone within three months . "My target is to produce a two-month pregnant female (within the next 18 months)," he said.

If he is barred from pursuing his work in the United States, Seed said he plans to go to another country. He said he has talked with officials in Tijuana, Mexico, and also was considering the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.

In a separate interview with National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent Joe Palca, , Seed said it was his objective to set up profitable human clone clinics, first in the Chicago area and then at "10 or 20 other locations" in the U.S. and "maybe five or six" internationally.


'Cloning and the reprogramming of DNA is the first serious step in becoming one with God.'

— Scientist Richard G. Seed

Seed, who is not a medical doctor, says he has already assembled a group of doctors willing to work with him and has four couples who have volunteered to be cloned.

The goal for each of them is to achieve a pregnancy within a year and a half.

The researchers will use a donor cell from either the mother or father and test it for genetic abberations, he said.

He declined to name any of the couples and it was not immediately clear where in the Chicago area Seed planned to open his proposed clinic. He told USA Today he needs $2 million to begin his privately funded project but has only raised "a few hundred thousand" dollars.

Same technique used in sheep cloning

Human cloning goes under the microscope

Seed plans to use the same technique utilized by Scottish scientists in 1996 to clone the adult sheep Dolly, the first mammal cloned from adult tissue.

The human cloning procedure involves taking an unfertilized egg from a female, removing the nucleus, which contains most of the genetic information, and replacing it with the nucleus of a cell from the person to be cloned.

The hard part is tricking this egg into acting as if it has been fertilized by a sperm, thus starting it dividing as if it were a new baby, instead of just creating more skin cells or liver cells or cells of whatever organ the nucleus was taken from.

If the technique is successful, the fertilized egg would grow to 50 to 100 cells and the embryo would then be transferred to a woman. A baby clone would be born nine months later.

Seed says the cloned babies he and his colleagues would create would have no chromosomal damage and a normal life span.

He first talked about his plans December 5 at a little-noticed Chicago symposium on reproductive technologies sponsored by the Illinois Institute of Technology, Palca told CNN.

Ethical, legal dilemma

Seed will attempt to use the same techniques used to clone Dolly

After Dolly was cloned, President Clinton set up an advisory group which recommended last year that Congress pass a law making human cloning illegal.

Harold Shapiro, who headed the panel -- the National Bioethics Advisory Committee -- believes Seed's project is "scientifically and clinically premature," with many legal and ethical issues yet to be resolved.

In the future, however, Shapiro acknowledged there might be cases where human cloning could benefit infertile couples.

Clinton issued an executive order blocking the use of federal funds on human cloning research and proposed a law banning such research for five years, actions Seed disagrees with. "I am an independent thinker," he told NPR.

Several measures to ban cloning are awaiting action in Congress. In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration says it has the authority to regulate human cloning research.

The American Medical Association said Wednesday it does not have an official policy on the subject but expects members to discuss the issue at a meeting in June.


Human Cloning Plans

January 6, 1998 -- American scientist Richard Seed tells NPR’s All Things Considered that he and his colleagues are set to begin work on human cloning within the next 90 days. In an interview, NPR’s Science Correspondent Joe Palca reports that Seed and some Chicago-area doctors have the skills and equipment to make an attempt at the procedure, which they plan to offer to infertile couples wishing to have children.

The controversial move runs counter to President Clinton's directive that the public and private sectors refrain from human cloning research. The president made that request last year in the wake of news that Scottish scientists successfully cloned the adult sheep Dolly. The prospect of human cloning has been widely denounced by ethicists, scientists, and public officials.

But, as Palca reports, Seed sees human cloning as a moral imperative -- something that will bring humankind closer to God. Hear Richard Seed explain his rationale.

Ethicist and lawyer John Robertson disagrees with Seed’s rationale but says some people may find legitimate uses for human cloning in the future. Listen to Robertson's arguments.


The Lancet, Jan 2, 1999

Human cloning trial met with outrage and scepticism. Kelly Morris; Jonathan Watts.

The announcement last month by South Korean scientists that they had made the world's first human clone sparked public outrage and scepticism among scientists.

Researchers at Seoul's Kyunghee University Hospital infertility clinic reported on Dec 16 that they had fused an adult human nucleus with an enucleated egg to create the embryo, which divided twice to reach the four-cell stage. The experiment was stopped on Dec 11 to avoid contravening ethical guidelines, but team leader Lee Bo-Yeon said the next stage would have been to transfer the embryo to a womb. "If implanted into the uterine wall of the carrier, we can assume that a human child would be formed and that it would have the same gene characteristics as the donor", he told reporters.

Lee explained that the team had used the so-called Honolulu technique. This method, which was used to clone mice in Hawaii earlier last year, involved insertion of a somatic-cell nucleus into an enucleated egg followed by activation of the egg. This was a modification of the technique used at the Roslin Institute (Roslin, UK) to create Dolly, the first vertebrate cloned from an adult cell. In Dolly's case, a whole somatic cell was inserted into an enucleated egg, and the two cells were simultaneously fused and activated by passage of a small electric current.

Lee's claims were dismissed as unsound by scientists around the world, many of whom noted that Lee's unpublished work is not part of a major cloning research programme. Yukio Tsunoda (Kinki University, Nara, Japan), the first scientist to clone twin calves, said, "I have never heard of such an experiment taking place and at the moment I don't believe it is true".

Harry Griffin, a scientific director at the Roslin Institute, said that "taking a putative embryo to the four-cell stage doesn't actually tell us anything at all", since a fertilised human egg is "preprogrammed" to divide to at least the eight-cell stage. To produce a live, healthy clone, the 100 000, mainly silent, genes in the somatic-cell nucleus need to be activated rapidly and "perform perfectly for the next 9 months", Griffin explained. The generally low success rate with cloning sheep, calves, and mice suggests that a cloned human embryo would probably be stillborn or die soon after birth. "Nuclear transfer is not in-vitro fertilisation with a twist."

Another risk associated with cloning from somatic cells is the potential for inheritance of somatic-cell mutations from the donor. Nuclear transfer bypasses mechanisms that correct DNA errors in germ cells so cancer incidence may be increased in clones. Scientists are also concerned that the DNA in a cloned animal may behave like that from an animal that has the combined age of the donor and offspring, and that this might shorten the clone's lifespan.

These scientific concerns added to the serious ethical reservations expressed internationally as the world came face-to-face with the possibility of human cloning. Protesters demonstrated outside Kyunghee University Hospital demanding that Lee and his team apologise to the human race for their "inhuman experiment". Local newspapers reacted with a mixture of pride and dismay, though there was widespread agreement that South Korea needs new laws to curb cloning research. Currently, the only restraint is voluntary--a 1993 resolution by the South Korean Medical Association.

Lee said he would continue his studies, but only within the limits of the law. "I understand the concerns of people who are opposed to it."


The New Republic, March 1, 1999 p20(1)

Will Homo sapiens become obsolete?: MEDICAL EVOLUTION. (stem-cell research raises cloning controversy) Gregg Easterbrook.

Abstract: Two scientists have isolated embryonic stem cells; the cells that are the precursor of all body parts. Also, they have induced them to copy themselves into like cells that can generate any type of human tissue. The research uses tissue from aborted fetuses, and this aspect of it has raised some controversy. Also, some fear this stem-cell research puts biotechnologists only a step away from human cloning. The 2 scientists who pioneered the research are calling on Congress to lay down clear guidelines for the field.

For John Gearhart, a biologist at Johns Hopkins University, professional life had been an exercise in slamming against walls. Gearhart's specialty is Down's syndrome, triggered when one of the infant body's chromosomes copies itself once too often. Gearhart had spent 20 years trying to puzzle out this genetic error. "All our data suggested that Down's was caused by something that happens quite early in embryo genesis," he says--but the only way to find out what happens then would be to conduct experiments on human embryos, a prospect repugnant at best. Trying to think his way out of the problem, Gearhart wondered; What if there was a way to isolate and culture embryonic "stem cells," the precursors of all body parts? If they could be transferred to the laboratory, it might become possible to study the cytology of conception.

Stem cells are the philosopher's stones of biology, magical objects capable of metamorphosing into any component of the body: heart, nerves, blood, bone, muscle. Mammal embryos begin as a clump of stem cells that gradually subdivides into the specific functional parts of the organism. Researchers have long assumed that, because stem cells are genetically programmed to change into other things, it would never be possible to control them, let alone culture them. But Gearhart and another researcher working independently, James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, found this is not so.

Three months ago, Gearhart and Thomson announced that they had each isolated embryonic stem cells and induced them to begin copying themselves without turning into anything else. In so doing, they apparently discovered a way to make stem cells by the billions, creating a biological feedstock that might, in turn, be employed to produce brand-new, healthy human tissue. That is, they discovered how to fabricate the stuff of which humanity is made.

Researchers had already demonstrated that stem cells might be a medical boon by showing that such tissues extracted from aborted fetuses could reverse symptoms of Parkinson's disease. But so many fetuses were required to treat just one patient that the technique could never be practical, to say nothing of its harrowing character. By contrast, Gearhart and Thomson have found that stem cells can be reproduced roughly in the way that pharmaceutical manufacturers make drugs.

If researchers can convert stem cells into regular cells like blood or heart muscle and then put them back into the body, then physicians might cure Parkinson's, diabetes, leukemia, heart congestion, and many other maladies, replacing failing cells with brand-new tissue. Costly afflictive procedures such as bone-marrow transplants might become easier and cheaper with the arrival of stem-cell-based "universal donor" tissue that does not provoke the immune-rejection response. The need for donor organs for heart or liver transplants might fade, as new body parts are cultured artificially. Ultimately, mastery of the stem cell might lead to practical, affordable ways to eliminate many genetic diseases through DNA engineering, while extending the human life span. Our near descendants might live in a world in which such killers as cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia are one-in-a-million conditions, while additional decades of life are the norm.

Granted, sensational promises made for new medical technologies don't always come to pass, and some researchers are skeptical about whether stem-cell technology will pan out. But Harold Varmus, head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recently declared, "This research has the potential to revolutionize the practice of medicine." Notes John Fletcher, a bioethicist at the University of Virginia, "Soon every parent whose child has diabetes or any cell-failure disease is going to be riveted to this research, because it's the answer." Ron McKay, a stem-cell researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, says, "We are now at the center of biology itself." Simply put, the control of human stem cells may open the door to the greatest medical discovery since antibiotics.

But there are disquieting aspects to stem-cell research, too. The first is that, for now, the only way to start the process of controlled stem- cell duplication is to extract samples from early human life. Gearhart used fetuses aborted by Baltimore women; Thomson, embryos no longer wanted by Wisconsin in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. Gearhart, Thomson, and other stem-cell researchers propose to continue drawing on such "resources," as some bloodless medical documents refer to the fetus and the embryo. This is possible because, even though Congress has placed a moratorium on federal funding for experimentation on most IVF embryos and most kinds of fetal tissue, no law governs what scientists can do to incipient life using private funding, either in research settings or within the burgeoning IVF industry.

Because the rules have banned embryo research by federally funded biologists, but not comparable private science, Congress has created the preposterous situation in which most stem-cell research is not being done by publicly funded scientists who must pass multiple levels of peer review and disclose practically everything about their work. Instead, most stem-cell science is in the hands of corporate-backed researchers. Gearhart's and Thomson's projects, for example, are being underwritten by Geron, a company whose name derives from "gerontology," and which anticipates a licensing El Dorado if stem-cell-based good health can be patented and sold to the seniors' market. "That a sensitive category of research is legal for people who are not publicly accountable, but illegal for those who are accountable, is just very strange," says Thomson.

But the greatest anxiety about stem-cell research is that it will make human cloning respectable. Many of the techniques being perfected for the medical application of stem cells are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from those that could apply to reproductive cloning. Society isn't even close to thinking through the legal, ethical, regulatory, and religious implications, but, thanks to stem-cell research, cloning may arrive much, much sooner than anyone expects.

Stem cells stand in the vanguard of human life. When a sperm penetrates an egg, it triggers a majestic sequence whose first step is to create a new structure that is composed mainly of stem cells. Biologists call such cells "undifferentiated," meaning they have not yet decided what they will be. Once the fertilized ovum implants in the uterus, differentiation starts. Some stem cells become placenta; others begin differentiating into the baby's organs, tissue, or blood. A stem cell might divide into any of the many components of the body, but, once it does, it can only continue growing as that part.

Because once a stem cell begins to differentiate it cannot turn back, biologists assumed that all stem cells could never turn back. But, in 1981, experimenters succeeded in extracting stem cells from the embryos of mice. By the mid-'90s, researchers had learned which chemicals instruct mouse stem cells to become particular tissue types and how to insert the new tissues back into mice. Loren Field of Indiana University became so adept at signaling mouse stem cells to become mouse heart cells that "his lab is almost pulsating with heart cells beating in dishes," Gearhart says.

But, though the stem cell clearly dominates human germination, mysteries abound. The overriding enigma is why stem cells work so phenomenally well in the womb but then stop working when the body matures. After all, every cell in the body contains a complete DNA blueprint for a person's being. In theory, if your coronary arteries became clogged, your DNA could direct the creation of stem cells that would subdivide into new arteries to replace the failing tissue. In some lower animals that regrow limbs, this is roughly what happens. But, after reaching maturity, the human body never again draws on its DNA blueprints to replace tissue more complex than skin. Thomas Okarma, vice president for research for Geron, asks, "Who is really more highly evolved, the lizard that can grow new body parts, or us?" Using stem cells to make fresh new tissue or organs, as if the body was still nascent, is the revolutionary therapy Geron hopes to market.

Another mystery concerns the regulator that shuts stem-cell division off, called the telomere. Any human cell is capable of dividing roughly 50 times; after that, growth stops. Cells are born with a length of telomere, which gets slightly shorter each time the cell divides. When the last snippet is gone, after about 50 divisions, the cell can no longer duplicate. Running out of telomeres is one reason we age.

Why God or natural selection put telomeres into the cell is hotly debated among theorists. But, along with their other dizzying advances, stem-cell researchers have learned to rejuvenate the telomere, at least in the lab. Using an enzyme called telomerase, Geron scientists have already guided batches of stem cells through 200 divisions, with the descendant tissue being stable and nonmalignant. Researchers joke that cells that endlessly divide are "immortal," but this has always been a sardonic adjective, since the only immortal cells observed in natural biology are cancerous. Now Geron is making hale, normal cells that don't grow old, and wondering if this effect can be transferred to people. Therapeutic use of "immortal" cells would not confer unending life (even people who don't age could die in accidents, by violence and so on) but might dramatically extend the life span. Stem-cell research is spinning out so many breakthroughs so fast that its pursuit of the ageless cell, which in other contexts might be the scientific story of the century, here seems like just an asterisk.

The hope among stem-cell researchers is that practical treatments will be available in ten years or less. Biologists have been encouraged by the reasonable success of stem cells collected from the umbilical cords of newborns and used to treat conditions such as bone-marrow disease. (The sudden awareness that stem cells can be manipulated is causing crash programs to collect umbilical cords, which are rich in these enchanted cells.) But many things could go wrong between here and a new form of medicine. Loren Field's experiments with mouse hearts, for example, have shown that 97 percent of artificially cultured, stem- cell-based heart tissue works properly when transplanted into mice. But for reasons unknown, the other three percent becomes malignant. Obviously that problem has to be surmounted before human stem-cell trials can be contemplated.

More pressing is resolving the basic ethics of stem-cell research. When Gearhart first proposed to use aborted fetuses as the basis of his stem-cell research, his sponsoring university was not thrilled. Although research on aborted fetuses is legal, it's a gray area, and restrictions are many. Occasionally, a maverick researcher protests this situation by asking the discomfiting post-Roe question: If it's okay to terminate a fetus, why isn't it okay to experiment on the remains? Few object to research on the cadavers of adults. Do we ban research on the aborted out of a sense of guilt that we should not add mutilation to the wrongs suffered by a life denied?

Gearhart's stem-cell extractions employ "fetal tissue," which researchers may view as differing from fetuses, though the reasoning is obscure. Johns Hopkins put his proposal through eleven levels of legal and ethical review, and also review by the university's security office, which worried that the degenerate fringe of the pro-life movement would target the project. Gearhart chose to focus on a type of stem cell called a "primordial germ cell," which he extracts from a region on the aborted fetus called the "urogenital ridge." Gearhart will work with fetuses no more than nine weeks old. Around nine weeks is when the fetus begins to appear recognizably human, though it is believed there is no consciousness until weeks later. He says, and not without defensiveness, "Remember, it's not criminal at this point." Technically, Gearhart's project might have qualified for federal funding, but he never asked, knowing there would be an outcry.

For his part, Thomson isolates stem cells from the "inner mass" of roughly week-old embryos that were conceived in IVF clinics but which couples elected not to use. Thomson thus extracts tissue from the early, pre-uterus stage in which it is impossible to tell which stem cells will become the placenta and which the person. Strictly speaking, then, Thomson has no way of knowing whether the cells he plucks could have grown or would have been lost anyway. Though Thomson's extractions are timed to occur at what seemed to him the least ethically perilous moment of incipient life, in the cockeyed world of bioethics regulation, his recent experiments clearly could not have qualified for federal funding, since he was employing embryos.

Both Gearhart and Thomson call on Congress to enact clear legal guidelines for their field. Thomson says, "The human embryo is the most special cell in biology, and there are just some things you shouldn't do to embryos"--mainly clone them. The primary point stem-cell researchers make in their own favor is that the cells they experiment upon, once brought into the lab, might be made into muscle or blood, but can no longer become a human being. This assertion seems true, though slightly cute, since the reason the cells cease being capable of personhood is that they've been artificially snatched from it. But then no one plans to conceive the IVF embryos that Thomson gets, and the fetuses Gearhart receives have already had their lives terminated. Neither biologist can change these things, though both might change others' lives for the better.

Reflecting the delicacy of the situation, stem-cell researchers are

beginning to wrestle over the terms "totipotent" and "pluripotent." A totipotent cell is what exists at the earliest germination stage, when each stem cell is capable of becoming a whole person. A pluripotent tissue is an isolated stem cell, capable of transforming into any desired cell type, but not of becoming a whole person. Not, at least, with current technology.

In January, government lawyers sided with the pluripotent versus totipotent distinction, ruling that the NIH can begin funding stem-cell research on the grounds that the cells being worked with cannot become persons and thus are not embryos. This ruling hasn't yet taken effect; assuming it does, there will be beneficial results. Publicly funded scientists from research-center universities will jump into stem-cell investigations: research-center scientists are generally the country's best, and always the most accountable. Equally important, federal funding will move stem-cell findings into the public domain rather than allowing them to become proprietary. Geron shares samples of its stem cells with academics but asks the recipients to sign a statement that Geron owns the knowledge embodied in the cell line. Once public funding flows, proprietary claims will diminish.

Bringing public funding to stem-cell research will force a public debate on this new biology. There has been little so far. In Congress, a few members, such as Representative Jay Dickey of Arkansas, have declared themselves opposed, for pro-life reasons, to any research on embryonic cells. A few members, such as Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, have openly endorsed stem-cell studies. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was expected this year to introduce legislation making human stem-cell research explicitly legal, as it is in the United Kingdom. But Specter now says he will postpone action, feeling the time isn't right.

Many researchers were pleased by this decision, fearing that drawing public attention to today's stem-cell research might only provoke a backlash, whereas, once treatments derived from stem cells are available, lobbying impetus for the technology will be unstoppable. But, while the science world may be trusted to police its own for professionalism and high standards, it can't be trusted with the ethical end of this debate.

Science types tend to be unreflective boosters of funding, funding, and more funding. A 1994 NIH commission on whether to allow embryonic research endorsed it without meaningful objection, tossing off slighting remarks--like a statement that the human embryo is "significantly smaller than the period at the end of this sentence," as if that had anything to do with anything. Stem-cell research came over the horizon so fast that the 1994 panel's work quickly became obsolete, and now a National Bioethics Advisory Commission has been convened to study the latest developments. But it, too, seems mainly concerned with rationalizing the status quo. In January, I watched as the bioethics commissioners had a chance to grill Gearhart and Thomson. The commissioners were awestruck and deferential, asking what they could do to help win stem-cell funding--not much more aggressively than Dolly the cloned sheep herself might have. Toward the end, one commissioner, Rhetaugh Dumas of the University of Michigan, asked the sole unfriendly question: Does stem-cell research have any downsides? When neither of the scientists spoke, Dumas looked around at her fellow commissioners and asked skittishly, "Was that an inappropriate question?" It wasn't a reassuring moment.

One reason the interplay between science and religion has become a topic again is that thoughtful researchers know biotechnology is raising questions science can't answer. For one, whether stem-cell research is ethically good, bad, or indifferent depends largely on when life begins, and on this subject there is neither definitive science nor ethics. Many Catholic, evangelical, and Islamic theorists say that life begins at the moment sperm meets egg; therefore, a single cell can have sacred rights. But this seems not quite right, because DNA sets from egg and sperm do not immediately merge; the ovum divides once before the onset of genetic recombination. Besides, what would happen if cloning rendered every cell in the body a potential person? Varmus, the NIH director, has asked, "If we say any cell has the potential to be a human being, then every time you cut your finger, do you have to wear black?"

Obstetricians sometimes mark the big moment as the time, around two weeks after conception, when the fertilized egg implants in the womb and pregnancy begins. Thomas Aquinas taught that the fetus became "ensouled" after about six weeks. This view, which was Vatican policy until 1869, differs only somewhat from Gearhart's conclusion that fetal tissue extractions should stop after about nine weeks. Roe declared that the rights of life are in view when the fetus is capable of existing outside the mother, a milestone technology keeps pushing back toward the second trimester. Surely once brain activity begins, around the twenty-fifth week, the fetus has become human, leaving the late- term abortion a cause for moral abhorrence, except when the life of the mother is threatened. But, before that point, it's all speculation.

Consider that huge numbers of embryos die during the normal process of conception. As many as a third of pregnancies end in natural miscarriage, even with the best obstetric care. Studies increasingly show that it is surprisingly common, even in the absence of contraceptives, for eggs to be fertilized but never begin to divide, or to become embryos but never implant. Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, considers it central to the stem-cell debate that "an embryo cannot in itself be considered a human life because as many as half of embryos never become babies." Perhaps it's true that the soul is bestowed at the instant of conception. But, if so, the divine is pitiless, denying a glimpse of the world to at least half of the souls so conceived. "It just can't be that every fertilized egg is a human life," one mother of three says. "Too many things go wrong for that."

Lee Silver, a Princeton University biologist, argues in the 1997 book Remaking Eden that what happens in the womb is a continuum, lacking any clear jump from cell cluster to sanctity: "There are no isolated moments along the way where you can point at an embryo or fetus and say that it is substantially different from the way it was a few minutes or even hours earlier." Silver notes that the fertilized egg can be frozen, apparently indefinitely, and asks in what sense a handful of cells motionless in liquid nitrogen can be considered alive, even if, for the sake of argument, the soul can be frozen, too.

Because the moral status of the early embryo is, at best, ambiguous, it seems likely society will decide that the first claim lies with those already alive, and permit further experimentation to generate stem cells. "We should respect every embryo," the bioethicist Caplan says, "but I'm not going to look at a person in a wheelchair and say, `Sorry, you have to stay in that wheelchair for the rest of your life because of my belief that the frozen embryos in my liquid nitrogen might have become life.'" Thomson contends that stem-cell research is simply inevitable: "Even if we force it out of the United States and the European Union, it will still happen." Stem-cell medicine is coming, ready or not.

There is one possible avenue of escape from the moral enigmas of this research: if stem cells can be found in adults, there will be no need to draw on embryonic "resources." Biology textbooks call this quest hopeless, since by adulthood every cell is differentiated and incapable of further transformation. At least that was the view until February 1997, when the British researcher Ian Wilmut cloned Dolly. Essentially, he did this by taking cells from an adult lamb, making them act like stem cells, and then fusing their DNA into a donor egg which germinated into a baby lamb genetically identical to the adult. Mainstream biologists had thought that embryos, still rich in stem cells, might be cloned, but never adults--or that, if adult stem cells could be found, they would be incapable of reactivating. Since Dolly, however, cows and mice have been cloned from adult cells by variations on the Wilmut technique. Researchers are now finding indications that small amounts of stem cells continue to exist, overlooked, in the adult's nerve tissue and elsewhere; it may be that there are small adult stem-cell deposits throughout the body.

One biotech company, Advanced Cell Technology, claims it has already grown human stem cells by starting with adult tissue. The company says it removed the DNA from a skin cell of a man, inserted these genes into a cow's egg cell in such a way that the human DNA took over, and then watched as the cow egg dutifully produced human stem cells. Word of this procedure, mingling human and animal reproductive cells, caused President Clinton to say he was "deeply troubled" by the experiment-- though, if the work was done as the company claims, the tissues created were human, since the human DNA had taken over.

Several experts dispute whether the experiment actually happened, and Advanced Cell Technology hasn't yet published the peer-reviewed data that back up a discovery claim. But whether or not stem cells have been made from an adult, some biologists are beginning to think this will happen eventually--"eventually," at the current pace of biotech advances, often meaning "next year." Stem cells derived from adults would not only resolve qualms about embryonic tissue; they might have superior therapeutic properties. Suppose you had a liver disease. If one of your own cells could be used as the template for fresh stem cells that would then be converted into liver tissue, what would end up transplanted into you would contain your own DNA and antigens, which presumably would forestall tissue rejection. Transplants might become something the typical person experienced several times in adulthood. Life expectancy would shoot upward, along with the health care share of GDP.

If any person's cells can be made into stem cells, gene therapy and gene engineering, hyped but so far very rare, might also become more common. For two decades, researchers such as W. French Anderson of the University of Southern California have labored to use genes to cure fatal childhood genetic conditions. It just hasn't worked. So far, the only way to deliver healthy DNA into patients is by using viral envelopes as little biological guided missiles. But the immune system shoots these missiles down, defeating the therapy. Anderson, a sainted physician who has spent most of his professional life seemingly inches shy of a great breakthrough, and who instead endlessly watched young patients die, has grown so frustrated he recently proposed attempting gene therapy within the womb. "Once the child is older, the cells may just be too developed to accept new genes," Anderson says--"older" in this sense meaning anyone who's been born.

In 1995, an NIH study panel called genetic therapy "a logical and natural progression in the application of fundamental biomedical science," which is certainly an engaging use of the term "natural." But there's no reason in principle to fear genetic theory, which simply represents using brainpower against medical problems that either God or evolution left for us to solve. And, if stem-cell research succeeds, the barriers against gene therapy may fall. Stem-cell based genetic therapy agents would contain the patient's own DNA code, with only the defective gene altered; the delivery vector would be not viruses but stem cells, which are designed to multiply like mad anyway. At the current rate of progress in research, stem-cell based gene therapy may not be far off, bringing cures to people now classified as incurable.

And once you're standing on this hill, it's pretty easy to see over to the next peak: genetic engineering. Technically, genetic therapy would be a form of genetic engineering--the purpose would be to engineer out the recessive gene that causes cystic fibrosis or sickle-cell anemia, replacing it with healthy DNA that does not. Yet the same technology that may make this gene manipulation possible might make possible the substitution of new genes for DNA that isn't diseased. "DNA engineering itself is now straightforward," says Austin Smith, a biologist at the University of Edinburgh, though only for plants and mice. Plant breeders have been recombining DNA for a decade now, famously inserting fish genes into tomatoes so that they resist frost better, while many of the specialized types of mice used in lab experiments have engineered traits.

Though no gene engineering has been attempted on humans, there appear to be no special technical barriers against doing so. Silver, the Princeton biologist, argues that our generation will be looked back on as "the point in history when human beings gained the power to seize control of their own evolutionary destiny." Control over evolution might turn out well or badly, but there's no reason to reject it out of hand, since evolution has left humanity disease-prone, short-lived, and fragile. Why shouldn't we try to change that?

The disturbing question is whether we will begin sooner than we think through the consequences. Currently, NIH protocols--but not legislation--ban any attempt to alter the human "germline," meaning to change genes in a way that would be passed along to offspring. Gene therapy attempts have been confined to "somatic" cells, the nonreproductive parts of the body, with anything else considered taboo. Yet, last year, Louise Markert of the Duke University Medical Center asked the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, which supervises genetic experiments, to begin a debate on whether engineering of reproductive cells should be tested. It's not even the twenty-first century yet, and already earnest, respectable researchers are talking about altering human heredity.

Now back to that cow's egg experiment that may or may not have succeeded. Chromosomes from a grown person were fused into a into a donor egg, the egg began to germinate, and then stem cells were extracted. Suppose the stem cells hadn't been extracted. What might have developed might have been the embryo of a human clone.

Promising as stem-cell research is, what it's doing in the larger scheme is accumulating the technical information that will make human cloning possible. In principle, stem-cell technology might allow a clinic to isolate an adult's gene endowment, engineer it for frost resistance or God knows what else, and then, by allowing the new stem cells to reproduce themselves before implantation, clone unlimited facsimiles of the person.

It may be that the knowledge of cloning is unstoppable, in the sense that no force has ever incarcerated knowledge. And cloning should not be feared in and of itself, for there are arguments in its favor. Clones would be facsimiles of their parents (technically, parent) only in the physical sense. They'd be born as babies--no imaginable technology would create life directly as adults, making the business about rich men or dictators Xeroxing themselves a Hollywood silliness that detracts from the serious arguments against cloning. Character- shaping effects of each generation's particular upbringing would inevitably make the cloned child differ from the parent, while a clone's thoughts, personality, and experiences would reflect the unique human dignity possessed by every individual. No one argues that each member of a pair of identical twins, who are genetic duplicates, does not possess unique dignity.

Human cloning would also have the beneficial effect of providing the means for even the infertile person to conceive and raise a child, a blessing it is easy for the fertile to overlook. Thus we should not be squeamish about cloning merely because it mixes reproduction, technology, and the new. Leon R. Kass has argued in these pages (see "The Wisdom of Repugnance," tnr, June 2, 1997) that cloning is horrifying in part because it would make possible "the grotesqueness of conceiving a child as an exact replacement for another who has died." Aside from the fact that child B would not and could not be "an exact replacement," as both a parent and a churchgoer this possibility does not strike me as grotesque. If a child's life were cut short, the prospect that the lost child could leave behind a similar life, consoling the parents and preserving the memory of child A, might seem like a miracle.

When IVF techniques made their debut in 1979, pundits pronounced themselves repelled by "test tube" children, and polls showed the public strongly opposed. By 1994, at least 150,000 IVF babies had been born, brightening the lives of couples who would otherwise have been barren, while public support for IVF science had become widespread. Babies made possible through this technology aren't weird or abnormal, and they are less likely to suffer from gene-defect diseases, since their embryonic chromosomes are comparatively easy to check. The first American IVF child, Elizabeth Carr, just turned 17, and she wants to be a journalist. According to The Boston Globe, she attends an annual reunion of IVF children and delights in holding the latest in her lap. Can anyone believe the world would be a better place if the technology that caused Elizabeth Carr had been banned?

Every new life has an interest in being born, which was the clincher argument for IVF, and may someday be the clincher argument for cloning. Imagine meeting a cloned person and asking, "If you had been given the choice of either not existing or being conceived as a clone, which would you have chosen?"

Of course, it's possible the cloned person would turn the question around and say, "If you had been given the choice of either coming into existence as an unpredictable one of a kind or as a clone, which would you have chosen?" Perhaps there are some people with genetic defects who would say they'd rather have been cloned from someone with problem- free DNA, but most of us would say we'd rather have our gloriously unpremeditated forms. Cloning should produce physically healthy children--but what about mentally healthy ones? It's one thing to bear resemblance to a mother or father; most children take pride in that. It may be another to be born with expectations about you preformed--to miss the chance, as Kass has beautifully said, to arrive "an unbidden surprise, a gift to the world."

If a child could only be conceived through cloning because circumstances made it impossible for the parent to have progeny any other way, then the clone's interest in being born might outweigh the psychological risks. But what about the prospective mother or father who simply wants a mirror-image child, especially if the motive is vanity? In that case the chance of harmful psychological burdens on the child might argue against allowing cloning. It is this kind of imaginable-now issue, rather than science fiction about biotech dystopias, that ought to govern public debate on stem cells and the prospect of cloning.

Today's situation with stem cells and cloning might be likened to what would happen if a fleet of modern jet fighters were teleported back in time to ancient Sumeria. First, the ancients would marvel at the objects, noting their extraordinary complexity--as scientists marveled when they first glimpsed the extent of the double helix. Initially, they'd be too scared to touch, and some would argue that the gods would punish those who touched. Eventually, the fear would wane, and, by poking and prodding and pushing buttons, someone would manage to start one of the plane's engines, generating thunder and fire. At that point, the ancients would believe they had "discovered" the true purpose of the mysterious objects, and that, now being able to manipulate the planes, they had become masters of them.

Owing to the stem-cell breakthrough, there now stands the prospect that our children will not only live healthier lives but that their children will be the final generation of Homo sapiens, supplanted by Homo geneticus or whatever comes next. Homo erectus didn't last, so there's no reason to assume Homo sapiens won't ever give way to a next stage. If all goes well, the advent of control over our own cells might offer our grandchildren many things we would wish for them.

But it's all happening much, much faster than society understands. It's also happening under conditions in which we are telling ourselves that we understand genes because we have learned to make them do certain things, but we probably know little more about the totality of our DNA than would the ancient who doesn't even realize that airplanes are supposed to fly. It's time to move biotechnology to the center of the national debate, so that we can sort out its rights and wrongs before sheer technological momentum imposes an outcome upon us.

(Copyright 1999, The New Republic)



Radio Natonal with Norman Swan

Human Cloning

Monday 5 April 1999

Summary: Recently the annual meeting of members of the Human Genome Organisation has been held in Brisbane. One conclusion from the conference was that there should be no attempt at reproductive cloning in humans.

Norman Swan: Hello, and welcome from me, Norman Swan. Appropriately for an Easter Monday Health Report we're going to get into some pornographic videos: males and females, males and males, and even a male Congo line, with sexual overtones, all to illustrate a mutant gene which makes males bisexual and females disinterested in sex.

And the fact that they're fruit flies shouldn't bother you too much as there is probably the equivalent gene in you and I.

And, the world's leading gene conference which has just taken place in Brisbane. It was the annual meeting of members of the Human Genome Organisation, the global organisation which represents scientists involved in mapping our genes and then sequencing their DNA code.

This year we were the hosts, and one of the outcomes as you might have noticed from last week's news, was a statement on human cloning.

Sue Williamson was there for The Health Report. Sue is Associate Editor of the journal, Today's Life Science.

Sue Williamson: You might remember Dolly the sheep, who gained worldwide attention as the first animal to be cloned. The scientists did it by taking a cell from the udder of an adult sheep and fusing it to an egg which had no nucleus, the control centre which holds most of the cell's DNA. The result was a sheep identical to its mother. This is reproductive cloning, or the production of a genetically identical copy of an animal.

One conclusion from the conference was that there should be no attempt at reproductive cloning in humans. The Ethics Committee of the Human Genome Organisation released their statement on cloning which said that they rejected reproductive cloning in human beings, saying that it should not be attempted. Secondly, they supported cloning for the production of cells and tissues for transplantation. They also supported cloning to investigate how genes function and they felt that cloning should be used to avoid disease. This was provided that the disease is caused by 'mitochondrial DNA' as opposed to DNA found in the nucleus of a cell.

Mitochondria are involved in producing energy which helps cells to function. Sometimes the DNA mitochondria can contain disease-causing mutations, such as some neuro-degenerative problems. If an egg were known to contain dysfunctional mitochondria, the nucleus could be removed and transferred into another egg that contains healthy mitochondria.

Lastly the committee recommended that animal cloning should be supported, but made this recommendation cautiously, stating that the purpose of the research be clearly defined with a regard for biodiversity.

These statements mean that the deliberate creation of human embryos is unacceptable, but legislation in individual nations may differ in the use of human embryos. For example, Australia at the moment does not endorse reproductive cloning of humans, and also limits the use of human embryos in other research areas. So where is the rest of the Human Genome project up to?

Rapid technological advances have enormously increased the rate at which the composition, the code of the human genome, is being sequenced, and it is estimated that there will be a working draft of the human genome by April, 2000, and now that private, as well as public groups are involved in the sequencing, estimations of its completion are around 2001-2003.

But while the sequencing of the human genome is increasing rapidly, linking genes to disease and the ensuing development of therapies, is occurring at a slower rate. The reason for this is that one disease may involve many genes, for instance, with diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Progress is being made and some genes recently identified have been associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cirrhosis but there is still a long way to go, and treatments are likely to be a long way off.

One of the reasons for the rapid rate of progress of the human genome project has been due to commercial involvement, particularly in the United States, but this has raised concerns about the patenting, or ownership of genes. At the conference it was recognised by scientists from both the private and public research centres, that the basic human genetic sequence cannot be patented on its own. This sequence is seen as a basic currency and as it is deciphered, it will be placed in a gene bank which will be in the public domain. Patents will be based on having the full sequence of a gene and a use for it, so once a gene is linked to a disease, or involved in the development of a therapy for a disease, only then can the gene be patented.

The next meeting of the Human Genome Organisation will be in Vancouver in a year's time. By then, scientists should have a working map of our chromosomes, and it is hoped that discussion will be more about what our genes do rather than where they are located.

Norman Swan: Sue Williamson of Today's Life Science.

Guests: Sue Williamson - Associate Editor - Today's Life Science

Sydney, Australia


Skeptical Inquirer, Nov 1999

Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?

Terence Hines.

Who's Afraid of Human Cloning? is the best thing Ire seen written about cloning since the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep in 1997. The vast majority of post-Dolly writing on cloning, especially in the nonscientific press, has been near-hysterical fear-mongering drivel. Typically, commentators trot out the worst possible, and most unlikely, horrors that they think (hope?) might grow out of successful human Cloning, such as being threatened with dozens of Hitlers (or Saddams, or whomever). Or the possibility that an army of mindless clones might be created by some ruthless warlord. Or the possibility that rich individuals might have themselves cloned, but leave out the genes for the brain, so that they would have a spare parts source.

Gregory Pence, a professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, destroys such arguments against human cloning. He argues cogently that if and when human cloning becomes possible, it will represent little more than another step in reproductive technology and one that individuals should be free to choose if they desire.

Regarding the idea that a group of clones could be created from the cells of an evil ruler, Pence points out one of the most misunderstood aspects of cloning. This is the belief that a cloned individual would be genetically identical to the individual from whom the cell nucleus was obtained. To make this point clear, it is necessary to provide a bit of detail on how cloning is done. Basically, a cell (it need not be an egg) is obtained from a female and the nucleus of that cell is removed. Then a nucleus from a cell from the individual to be cloned is obtained and inserted into the enucleated cell from the female. This now nucleated cell is placed in a uterus and allowed to implant and come to term. The individual generated in this fashion will almost never be genetically identical to the individual who was cloned. This is because the female that donated the cell into which the nucleus is inserted will almost never be the mother of the individual who donated the cell nucleus. It is common knowledge in the biological sciences, but apparently almost totally unknown outside, that there is DNA not only in the cell nucleus, but in the cell's cytoplasm. This is known as mitochondrial DNA. Thus, a cloned individual will have the nuclear DNA of one individual, but the mitochondrial DNA of another. Mitochondrial DNA plays important roles in biological processes in the cytoplasm and in a number of serious diseases.

Only if the enucleated cell came from the nucleus donor's biological mother would the cloned individual be identical to the nucleus donor genetically. But this would certainly not mean that the cloned individual would be identical to the nucleus donor in every respect. Unless, that is, environment, both in utero and after birth, has absolutely no influence on any aspect of the individual's physical and behavioral development. In the case of humans, environmental influences have major effects on the more psychological aspects of an individual. Even if, as now seems likely, genetic factors can account for around half of the variance in different aspects of personality, intelligence, and the like, this means that environmental factors are responsible for the other half.

So, for Saddam, or whomever, to try to create himself over again, he'd have to get cells from his mother, try to duplicate her intrauterine environment as it was 50 or so years ago, and recreate his own childhood experiences during at least the first 15 or so years of the clones' lives, just to have a reasonable shot at turning out someone like himself. Does this sound very likely? Not at all. Like conspiracy theories that fall apart when one considers how much effort would have had to be put into the conspiracy if it were true, so worries about cloning disappear when one considers the practical side of actually doing the cloning.

Another excellent example is the often-expressed fear that someone like Saddam could create an army of mindless automatons. First, no one would really want an army of automatons. They'd make lousy soldiers, being unable to make any decisions on their own. That aside, cloned humans would still be human in every respect. Each would have their own mind, personality, fears, dreams, and so on. Even if these objections aren't enough, cloning an army would be an astonishingly costly and inefficient way of getting an army. First you'd have to get lots of nuclei, and then lots of uteri. Then you'd have to let the embryos come to term. Then you'd have to wait another 18 years or so before the clone army would be old enough and trained enough to go into combat. Wouldn't it be a whole lot easier to raise an army the old fashioned way - draft young men when they are of age? Thus, the "army of automatons" objection turns out, with a little thought, to be just plain silly.

What if the cloning process turns out humans who are in some way abnormal? Perhaps there will be physical harm. But certainly, before it becomes generally available, human cloning would have been tested on primates to establish its safety, just like any other medical procedure. Or perhaps there will be psychological harm, with cloned children seen by their peers as "freaks." But how would anyone know if a given child (or adult) is a clone? They won't have a bar code birthmark on their forehead, or the word "clone" in big red letters on the backs of their hands!

Other, more scientific-sounding objections fare no better when subjected to Pence's penetrating analysis. For example, maybe human clones would reduce human genetic diversity. But, if and when it becomes available, human cloning will be an expensive procedure to be used only in extreme situations. There will be few human clones out there. Most people will continue to produce their offspring via the considerably more enjoyable procedure of having sex.

Pence points out that the arguments against human cloning are very similar to those put forward against "test tube babies" (now known as in vitro fertilization - IVF) in the late 1970s. In fact, the clamor over IVF was nearly as great then as the clamor over cloning is now. But, twenty-one years after the birth of Louise Brown, the first IVF baby in 1978, IVF is so widely accepted that it has just been commemorated by the British Post Office. The 63 pence denomination in the BPO's "millennium" series of stamps noting great events of the century illustrates a small bronze statue of a baby commemorating Ms. Brown's birth

In addition to the specific objections to human cloning, there has also been a lot of hand wringing with a more philosophical tone. Pence (p. 46) quotes Nigel Cameron, a bioethicist and theologian at Trinity International University (Deerfield, Illinois) as saying that human cloning "would be perhaps the worst thing we have ever thought of in the maltreatment of our species. It [sic] would be a new kind of slave class. You would have human beings who were made by other human beings for their purposes." But, as I've noted, there is no reason whatsoever to think that cloned humans would be slaves. The parents who went to all the trouble to have a child via cloning would, if anything, be especially loving of that child. And what about these children being made for their parents' "purposes"? Well, yes - but how is this different than when two people have sex to have a child? That child, also, was made for the parents' "purpose" - the purpose of having a child.

Another example: Well-known bioethicist Leon Klass of the University of Chicago (quoted on p. 46) has said, "It is not at all clear to what extent a done will truly be a moral agent." Of course it's clear. Cloned humans are going to be just as human as you and me and will have all the legal rights of any other human being in whatever society they are born into.

Along these lines, Pence is critical of the failure of most "physicians, distinguished scientists, and some well-known bioethicists" (p. 36) to reduce the misinformation that flooded the press after Dolly. Some of this misinformation, as the quotes above demonstrate, was actually produced by these very people.

Pence is especially scathing in his discussion of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), the board that President Clinton ordered to come up with a recommendation on human cloning following Dolly. The Commission recommended a total ban on human cloning. Pence notes that this was done with no real debate on the issue. The Commission knew that Congress wanted a total ban, and it provided one. Proponents of human cloning were not welcome to testify before the Commission, although a large number of individuals who objected on religious grounds presented their views.

Pence argues convincingly that the horrors and dangers of human cloning have been vastly exaggerated and that the procedure should be seen as nothing more than another reproductive option. In a free society government has no business limiting safe reproductive options, certainly not on religious grounds. He makes the most valuable suggestion that the emotionally charged word "clone" be dropped and replaced by the more accurate and descriptive term "nuclear somatic transfer" or NST, just as "test tube baby" was replaced by IVF.

Terence Hines is in the Department of Psychology, Pace University, Pleasantville, New York.

Named Works: Who's Afraid of Human Cloning? (Book) - Reviews


The Lancet, Jan 8, 2000

Cloning takes another step.

Scientists report that they have produced six cloned cattle from fibroblasts taken from the ear of an adult bull and grown in culture for up to 3 months. This result indicates that it might be possible to produce cloned, genetically manipulated animals via easily obtained somatic cells. The results will be published in February in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



10-3-00 - Silver is a Professor of Genetics at Princeton University where his laboratory is attempting to identify genes that influence personality and behavior.

You predicted, I think two years ago, that human cloning would be here with us, within two years.

I don't think I said that ... I predicted that human cloning would be with us in 10 years and I still believe that is the case, because there is a demand among a small number of people for this technology to have babies. It's being driven by the marketplace. I think that, ethically, one should not use this technology until they are convinced that it is safe and efficient, shown with the use of animals. But I don't think that physicians around the world are going to wait for the confirmation that it's safe and efficient in animals.

The best example I can give you why physicians are not going to wait as they should is with ICSI, an intracytoplasmic sperm injection. This was a new technology developed in the early 1990s to overcome severe infertility and physicians did not wait to prove that it wasn't going to cause birth defects before they embraced it wholly across the country. We can use that history to understand how cloning is going to go. I'm not advocating the use of cloning in this way. I think it is wrong, but it's going to happen.

Can you explain simply what cloning is, because [some] people think that it's the creation of an adult copy.

When biologists use the term cloning, they mean something very different than what the public views cloning as. In the case of Dolly, what happened is the genetic material was taken from an adult cell and that genetic material was placed into an egg whose own genetic material had been removed. Under the right conditions, that egg with a complete set of genes, with a complete genomic material, could develop into an embryo. It would divide into multiple cells and that embryo could be placed back into a uterus to develop into a fetus and ultimately into a baby.

What would happen in those relationships?

Well, in purely genetic terms, if a woman used this procedure to have a baby, the child, the daughter would actually be the genetic sister of the mother. But I don't think that the mother would treat the child as a sister. The social situation would make the mother treat the child as a daughter ... we already have confused examples of heritage right now. If a person's father has an identical twin brother, then that person's uncle is also their genetic father in purely genetic terms. So we don't look at things in purely genetic terms. We look at things most often in social terms.

We have these confused identities and new forms of family, but we don't deliberately create them very often. In this instance, we are creating them and we are creating them within a private, market-driven industry.

When it comes to cloning, people are over emphasizing the genes ... the genes are being blown out of proportion. The reason is because every day somewhere in the world there are children born who look just like one parent and who grow up and behave just like one parent.

A clone will be no different than children who are already born today. It will pretty much look like one parent and it will have many of the same behavior predispositions as the one parent. But that already happens, so nobody is going got be able to distinguish a cloned child from a child who happens to look and behave like one parent.

Do you think that the people who are proponents of using this new technology, that see some real excitement in it, and see some possibilities in it, will actually develop a new language for it?

... ultimately, when children are born with the use of this technology they will not be called clones. There is a technology that scientists developed called nuclear magnetic resonance. When this was used in medical scenarios, people were resistant to it, because the word "nuclear" was there. So we changed the name of the technology to MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] and now everybody accepts it. The same thing is going to be happening with the so called cloning technology. It's going to be called single parent children or some other innocuous phrase that is going to be used.

Can you tell me where this new technology will emerge from?

Cloning is certainly going to emerge from the fertility clinics that exist in this country and elsewhere around the world, because it's only in the fertility clinics where the technology exists from taking eggs out of a woman's ovary, developing the eggs in a petri dish and putting the embryos back into a woman's uterus. That is done at fertility clinics. It is not done at biotech companies or anywhere else. So when cloning happens it's definitely going to happen within the context of a fertility clinic.

So even if 99% of them say no, all it takes is one clinic somewhere to not talk about it and just to use the technology to give rise to children who are going to be genetically identical to one parent.

Do you think that there is something coy or slightly political about them saying no?

Oh, it's absolutely political. Fertility treatments are highly controversial in this country. One of the things that president Harold Shapiro, president of this university, and who is also the head of the national bioethics advisory commission, told me is that when they had hearings on human cloning in the United States about a year or two ago, he invited a whole series of fertility doctors to come testify, and they all refused. They are a profit making business. They're in the business of trying to help infertile couples have babies, and they have no reason to publicize themselves.

You know what the critics say about children as commodities, as products, as designer babies. What do you say to this ...

I don't think that these people who claim that we are commodifying babies have ever actually talked to any couple who has had a child by one of these assisted reproductive technologies. The vast majority of these couples desperately want to have children and they treat their children as children.

This word cloning, indeed, the practice as you see it on the horizon, does not greatly dismay you?

I am not dismayed by cloning, because I don't think that it's going to be used in all of the outrageous kinds of ways that people have thought up, like the egomaniac, for example, that wants to have a replica of him. Cloning does not achieve immortality. What the ego maniac will end up with is a baby that will kind of looked like he looked like a baby that will grow up into a boy that won't listen to him. So he's not going to get what he expected. He's not going to achieve immortality. He's just going to have a son. He's not going to be able to control the life of that son. When people understand the little that cloning does, most of these kinds of people will lose interest in the technology. It's not going to accomplish what they think it's going to accomplish.

So you may ask me, "Then why would anybody use it if you're not going to be able to guarantee the child is going to turn out in a particular way?" My answer is that the only people who will end up really using this are people who can't have biological children another way and are going to be using this to have biologically children, because what most normal people want is unpredictable biological children. They want this genetic link to their children. And if that's why they're doing it, not expecting anything except to have a child that may not listen to them, that I don't have a problem with that use of the technology.

You have raised the issue before about creating Madonnas, Michael Jordans and the critics say that is indeed what will happen. At first, one can dismiss that argument very quickly. But when you see how market driven this culture is, how many groupies swarm around people like Madonna, clasping at her clothes, at her hair ... it gives you pause, really...

Well, the question I have for people who worry about this star being cloned is to say to them, how often do you think a movie star has donated their sperm or eggs to a sperm bank today? I think the answer is none of them have put their sperm into a sperm bank. They're not interested in getting the $70 back to put their sperm or to donate their eggs, which is a serious protocol, into a bank ...

One of the issues that I raise in my book is that it might be done surreptitiously. That somebody will come up and take a scraping from Michael Jordan's skin and use that scraping to have a clone. I don't know how realistic that is. But I don't think it's very realistic, because the child that comes out of that cell, even though that child will be genetically identical to Michael Jordan, I can guarantee you that there is no way that child will ever make it into the NBA. Because Michael Jordan is more than his genes. Michael Jordan worked very, very hard and it was this hard work and this spirit that allowed him to reach the point that he reached. People forget that genes provide a framework and the potential, but unless you work very, very hard you're not going to get anywhere without it.

Can you describe where this technology could go that concerns you?

The most disturbing part of this technology is not the cloning, where you just have a child born who happens to be related to one parent instead of two. The most disturbing part of this technology is when parents are going to try to use genes to provide their children with serious advantages.

Now the problem is that all parents want to give their children advantages. In the United States, we have a market-based mentality, where we say that parents who have money can give their children more advantages than parents who don't have money. We all accept that. I think parents are going to keep going back to the genes and say, "I want to give my child every possible genetic advantage in the book."

That is troubling to me, for two reasons. One is that some of these genes really will provide advantages. Advantages of longevity, decreased risks of cancer and stroke and dementia, and so these children really will have health advantages, which means that the parents who are unable to afford this technology will have children who are disadvantaged. So I see this as greatly exacerbating the gap between have's and have-not's--much, much greater than it is today. That concerns me.

The other thing that concerns me is that parents will be giving their children genetic enhancements that they think are going to increase the behavioral, cognitive or talents of their children. And many times, they're going to be disappointed. It doesn't mean to say that the genes won't increase the probability that their child will have a particular talent, once we understand how genes affect talents, we don't yet. But I think that parents may be getting into this not realizing that all they're doing is increasing probabilities. You're not going to guarantee anything. So you worry about how parents are going to feel about children who don't express the genes that they got.


Grifo is Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at New York University Medical Center.

Do you think that in 20--50 years, whatever, cloning will be offered in a fertility clinic for a small number of patients?

It is an interesting question. Personally, I can't think of a clinical situation where cloning would be a better treatment than any other treatment that I could offer. I have no interest in cloning a human being. I don't think there is any need to do that.

Now, in spite of that, nature has already cloned. People don't realize it. Identical twins are clones. Nature has already done the experiment and what is the result of that experiment? Have you ever seen identical twins? They are very similar, their genes are much closer than yours and mine are, yet they are two very different people. They are two different individuals with two different souls. So I don't know that it necessarily would be something that bad, but I don't see any reason for us to be doing cloning. I don't see a clinical problem that is solved by cloning that we can't solve in other ways with assisted reproductive technology. So I have no interest in it. Can it be done? I guess it could be done. Is it going to be done? I doubt it. I don't think people are really working in that direction.

The fear is that somebody somewhere, a renegade probably will do it. Do you think that is science fiction?

I definitely think it is possible and if someone said, "You and your lab have to clone and could we do it," I bet we could, but I have no interest in that and I am not going to do that. Will somebody do it? Perhaps. How bad would that be? How terrible would that be? It probably wouldn't have very much of an impact at all, although it would be highly sensationalized, I am sure. But I don't see any need to do it and we are not working in that direction.

But I don't think fear of cloning is a reason to say, "We had better stop all this assisted reproductive technology because now look what they are going to do. Now they are going to clone." That is what a lot of people are doing. Well, if you do that, what about all these patients who need us ... Do we just say, "Forget it. Can't help you anymore because we are afraid that someone is going to clone?" It doesn't make sense ...

You said ... you don't have an interest in moving forward with cloning because you don't see a clinical use for it. Obviously, cloning technologies are, potentially, incredibly valuable scientifically ... Where do you think cloning will head?

Cloning technology, in terms of assisted reproduction, is not something that is really going to have much of a future. There aren't really clinical situations where that would be a better treatment than what we could already offer, so I don't think it is really something that is going to affect our field. But a lot of the research from it will help our field in terms of being able to do better embryology and micro-manipulation. So I don't think there is much of a need for cloning. In the animal industry, [there is] tremendous need and that's where it was developed and where it will probably continue to be used. But for treatment of disease, I don't see it as much of a discipline.


Annas is a bioethicist and Chair of the Health Law Department at Boston University School of Public Health.

Do you think the industry will be able to not clone a human being?

Well, it's very interesting. The only thing the industry has ever taken a position against is human cloning. The industry's consistent position is if a doctor wants to do it and an informed infertile couple agrees to it, you should be able to do it. The exception has been cloning. Now, that's because there was a public outcry against cloning, and the industry thought if it said it was going to clone, for sure, they were going to get heavy duty federal regulation.

On the other hand, forget motives. At least, I would say that was a responsible position. I think that because for the industry to say cloning is reproduction essentially eradicates the whole field of infertility, because everybody has got somatic cells that can be used to clone--asexual reproduction. If that was considered a cure for infertility, it would essentially put them out of business. [By] definition, at least, because nobody is infertile if asexual reproduction is reproduction. So I don't the industry is ready to talk about that yet.

Until they get a position on that, they have to be against human cloning and they are. And god bless them. Now, that doesn't mean that no one physician out there or one clinic might not go ahead and try human cloning, because again, there is no law against it. And I think that's right. It probably will be seen as just impossible to contain yourself if a couple really wants to use cloning and is willing to pay a lot for it. There certainly going to be at least one infertility clinic in the United States that would be willing to do it, if we don't pass a law against it.

Is that the place where we are most likely to see cloning -- in an infertility clinic?

Yes. It's almost or sure has to be inside of an infertility clinic, cause it has to be done with someone who knows how to manipulate embryos and how to implant embryos. It has to be a physician ... for it to have any chance to work at all, it's got to be a physician who is very knowledgeable in fertility treatment.

... Are the skills of the infertility doctor the necessary skills for cloning?

Yes. There's two specific skills that infertility doctors have that are necessary for cloning. One is micro-manipulation of embryos. In this case, to take a human egg, to remove the nucleus, and then to replace that nucleus with a nucleus from a somatic cell, a body cell of the person who is going to be cloned. That's a technique that infertility physicians use in manipulating embryos. They don't use that particular technique, but they use other micro-manipulations that would permit that to do that one, too.

Secondly, and as importantly, is taking that embryo and implanting in the woman's uterus. That's not as hard to do as the other, but it's a technique, again, that infertility physicians do everyday. Or if not everyday, very often. They know how to do that. And then monitoring it to see if you have a pregnancy. That's what they do.

Other doctors don't do that. It would be very hard, and certainly no non-MD could do it. It would be practicing medicine without a license. For sure, the implantation is a practice of medicine. So only physicians could do it. I think that only people who have experience with manipulating embryos are likely to have any success doing it. So if cloning is going to be done, it's going to be done in an infertility clinic by an infertility physician.

We've seen the micro manipulation of ICSI. We have talked about cytoplasmic transfer, all of that. How close is that stuff to cloning?

It's close. You can do it well, you can't even do it reliably, except perhaps in mice ... [one] experiment took 273 tries. It was inconceivable that we'd have 273 women line up to be impregnated with the clones of one person. So I don't think we're close today. Now, if you said could we do it in the next five years, the answer to that is almost definitely, yes. Is it going to be possible to do it? We'll still don't know that. It looks like it is, because we've done it in three mammals now. The mouse, the sheep and the cow. That doesn't mean it can be done in humans. But it certainly means somebody will likely try to do it in humans.

Unless there is kind of an international outrage, and we have an international ban on it, someone will almost necessarily try to do it. On the other hand, one has to ask, what's the point? I mean the best cloning can do is give you a genetic duplicate of something that already exists. And besides the question--just look, I'm going to do it, cause I'm interested to see whether it can be done.

Other than that it's pointless, as most people have pointed out ...because you can't make anything better than what you have now. It's a genetic dead end. Again, all you can do is duplicate something that already exists. It's hard to see any rationale for that.

But to the infertile couple that has tried everything else, and this would be a very small group, it seems like it could be the next logical step up in a long stairs that they have already been climbing and committed to.

Well, cloning is not ... the argument is that an infertile couple might want to use this to reproduce. The problem with that is, this has nothing to with couples. Only one person will be reproducing. Even that person won't really be reproducing, they'll be replicating. They'll be getting a genetic copy. They can get one or more genetic copies.

It has nothing to do with infertility ... no one is infertile with cloning, all right. It has nothing to do with couple, because you don't have to be a couple to do this. It's just a technique to make a genetic duplicate.

The embrace of infertility by the cloning crowd is to try to cover their tracks. To try to say there is some good can come out of this. Infertility community itself has rejected cloning ... because it's not a treatment for infertility. In fact, the argument has been made by geneticists, that the parents of the clone are not going to be the infertile couple. The parents of the clone are the parents of the person who is being cloned. So, for example, if I clone myself, I would not be the parent of my clone, rather the genetic make up of my clone would come from my mother and father.

... So what does that mean? That means if an infertile couple is trying to have a genetically related child, they can't do it through cloning. They can have their brother or sister. But, the child they're having will be the child of their parents.

Technically, that works right, but to some of these couples, it would be splitting hairs. They just want a child ... Say your husband or your wife can't contribute, why go outside the family?

Well, if they think it's splitting hairs, again, it's the ability to rationalize anything. This kind of self-deception that says, "I don't care what the geneticists say. I don't care what the facts are. I'm having my baby and it's genetically related to me." Well, it's just not true. The fact you want to believe that bad enough and are willing to pay any amount of money to believe it and for people not to tell you the truth, again, shows the problems in the industry. The desperation of couples and their willingness to do "anything."

The next question to ask them--well, let's take the embryo we make from your clone and implant in a cow and let the cow gestate and give birth to it. If all they want is a genetic connection, they could have no real objection to that. But I think most people would be horrified at that and should be horrified at that. It's got to be more than just a genetic connection at making babies.

In terms of cloning, the industry says it's not interested. Do you believe them?

Yes. I believe as an industry, because there is no money in cloning. There is no payoff in cloning. There may be a couple of people in the world who want to clone themselves. But virtually every couple that wants to have a baby wants a baby better than any of them. They really ideally want to mix their genes and have a baby that's a combination of the two of them.

I mean, that's how this industry got started and they know that. That's what they first try to do with in vitro fertilization. It's only later on if it turns out one of the two couples can't produce gametes that we go to trying to get donor egg or donor sperm or try to get somebody else's genetics involved. But you still try to get two people with genetics involved.

Just having a duplicate of one of the two in the couple, again, is not something there's a market for. There won't be a market for this until you can take the genetic duplicate and make it better. Take me, for example. Make me taller, you know, or stronger. Maybe someone will want to do that, but not just to make a duplicate.

There are some people, I guess, who are so self-absorbed that they'd like to see themselves be duplicated. But, so far, this guy [Seed] from Chicago is the only person to publicly say that. He'd like to duplicate himself. He says that he would like to see himself grow up and not make the same mistakes he made growing up. But that's certainly not a rationale to create a clone.

And again, if you look at it, as I think you have to, from the child's perspective, that's a terrible thing to do to a child. To have it born to someone who wants a duplicate and is going to try to raise that kid the way he should have been raised. To do the things that he should have done. Again, if you look at it from the child's perspective, you can't clone. You can't permit it.

Sauer is an infertility specialist and Chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at Columbia University.

What do you see on the horizon?

...Certain aspects of cloning, especially the embryonic splitting. Being able to duplicate high quality embryos and bank high quality embryos along cloning lines, has some merit, despite the fact that no one wants to talk about cloning. So these are things are fairly easy to project, because we know the technology already exists, and the animal work has already been done that would tell us these things will indeed be successful.

Talk about the cloning issue. People have said that it's going to come out of the infertility work in some way.

It will. The groups that can do cloning, such as the Dolly sheep experiment, this is an IVF type of procedure. So it would normally occur in an IVF laboratory setting. Whether or not any of us would take that bold step is hard to predict. My gut feeling is when there's a challenge, and you put it in front of people like us, someone will always take that challenge and take it to the next step. When that will occur and under what circumstances, I really don't know, but I'm sure it will happen.

Are these things that are happening now around the egg, are we talking about cloning technology?

We are. Not so much intracytoplasmic transfer as the nuclear transfer. That requires a certain electrofusion type of an approach that is extremely similar to cloning methodology. It unfortunately gets a little confused along the way. People have looked askance at some of this research, thinking that it was a kind of smoke and mirrors for cloning, and I don't think that was the intent of people doing this kind of work. The idea is to try and change the dynamic of an aging egg, which there is certainly a great demand among age-related infertility patients, and that's somewhere between 5,000-10,000 women a year.

What do you think of cloning?

I see cloning, in general, as a major step in the right direction, but not necessarily along adult cell lines. I don't see much purpose in cloning adult cell lines. That, to me, is an exercise in supreme narcissism, to just want to have an identical twin that's so many years younger than yourself. I don't see any real purpose in that ...

We've taken sex out of the bedroom and put it into the petri dish or into the little tube, and with successful cloning, you actually take the man out of the picture, presumably. What do you feel about that as a profound change in sexuality and reproduction?

I suppose we're dealing with such a small, theoretical subset is not to be too disturbing. To be honest, sex will always be part of behavior as long as there's males and females, so I'm not too worried about that ...Certainly, the fabric of society gets changed by these types of paradigms, and taking males out of reproduction, which we do these days when we're dealing with lesbian couples and inseminating them with donor sperm. I don't think that's that troubling, because it's a small group of the population that we're servicing that way.

People would like to have this image that Americans are this "Ward Cleaver and his wife" type families, and they're not. There's all types of women and men wanting to have children. We see it first-hand because these couples come to us. Many times these couples are just single women. So if that became an option, and it was a reasonable one, and society accepting cloning, I would guess practitioners would probably not think that hard about it either. We're not there. I mean, there's no question that that's not where our heads are at right now. But then we weren't willing to probably put embryos into 50-year-old women 15 or 20 years ago, so who knows?


The Lancet, Jan 15, 2000

Embryo splitting produces primate "clone". Sarah Ramsay.

A team of US investigators formally announced the birth of "Tetra, the first nonhuman primate clone produced by embryo splitting" this week. Tetra, who was born on Sept 7 last year, is "an outgoing, curious, and healthy monkey", lead investigator Gerald Schatten told The Lancet.

Schatten and his colleagues at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center (Beaverton, OR, USA) split a total of 107 rhesus monkey embryos by separating them into their constituent blastomeres, then reaggregating them into twin, triplet, and larger sets of identical embryos.

In the case of Tetra, an eight-cell embryo, from which the zona pellucida had been removed, was mechanically disrupted into individual blastomeres. Two blastomeres were put into each of four empty zonae. Two fertile surrogate rhesus monkeys each received two of these quadruplet embryos. Both became pregnant, each with one of the two embryos transferred. One surrogate miscarried, although the placenta appeared to be normal on ultrasound. The second implantation resulted in an uneventful pregnancy, the result of which was Tetra. Pedigree analysis by microsatellite PCR showed that the products of both pregnancies were genetically identical (Science 2000; 287: 317-19).

In total, the team tranferred 13 embryos created by splitting. Two other transfers resulted in biological pregnancies, but each was miscarried at less than 30 days' gestation. The investigators point out that this pregnancy rate of four in 13 attempts (31%) is acceptable compared with their 53% success rate in in-vitro fertilisation in rhesus monkeys.

The creation of Tetra marks a change in direction of cloning techniques from nuclear transfer, the technique used create Dolly the sheep in 1997. Schatten said that his group remains interested in nuclear transfer. But, he pointed out, a group of sheep "clones" created by nuclear transfer since Dolly have different temperaments and sizes. He added: "Others have raised concerns regarding [the sheep's] 'chimeric' natures since each has different mitochondria from the different enucleated eggs used. Furthermore, the fetal and neonatal losses encountered by cloning domestic species raised concerns regarding the speed with which adult somatic cell nuclear transfer could be achieved in monkeys."

"These results are very exciting because they strongly suggest that Dr Schatten's group have a method for making identical primates. There are important opportunities for medical research once they are available", said Ian Wilmut (Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, UK), leader of the team that produced Dolly in 1997. Schatten is equally enthusiastic about future applications of embryo splitting, saying "identical primates fill the gap for medical researchers between transgenic mice and sick people".


U.S. News & World Report, Feb 7, 2000

Copies upon copies. (cloning and animal research) Joannie Schrof Fischer.

It may be early yet, but it looks as if 2000 is shaping up to be the year of the clone. In January alone, the first clone of a clone (a 96- pound calf) was born in Japan; the first monkey ever to be cloned--a rhesus macaque named Tetra--was born in Oregon; and, perhaps most significant, the U.S. biotechnology firm Geron Corp. won from the British government the first patent in history covering cloned human embryos.

These developments will alter everything from how animal research is conducted to the tenderness of filet mignon to the way human diseases are treated. They may also signal an acceleration of the unethical manipulation of life itself. Antibiotechnology activist Jeremy Rifkin is challenging the British government to revoke its patent to Geron on the grounds that human life cannot be "intellectual property." He and others are calling for congressional hearings in the United States, where a similar patent is expected to be granted to Geron within a few months. "This is dangerous science," says Mark Nicholls of the Movement Against the Cloning of Humans. "Soon we may not even have control over our own DNA."

The "father" of Dolly the sheep, Scottish scientist Ian Wilmut, counters that a more legitimate concern is that governments will put shortsighted restrictions on research that could ease the suffering of millions of people. Wilmut says cloning technology could offer the first real remedies for diseases that have been almost untouchable so far, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Geron executives also scoff at "alarmists," saying they have no intention of creating "baby farms" and affirming that they consider human cloning immoral. Rather than implanting cloned embryonic cells into wombs to become babies, they say they will prod immature cells to grow into one particular kind of the body's 200 types of specialized cells, like blood, liver, or brain cells. By taking a cell from an Alzheimer's patient, for example, fusing it with an embryonic cell, and tinkering with it, scientists might be able to create healthy brain cells from the patient's own genetic material.

Financial times. Then there is the matter of money: With billions of dollars to be made in the business of growing new hearts and lungs, if giants like Geron can monopolize the market, a whole range of medical advances might be reserved only for the wealthy, warn ethicists. Geron executives respond that research will advance more quickly with a profit motive and that in a free market, other firms are likely to develop other cloning methods.

At the same time, just as scientific advances can raise ethical issues, further advances might solve them. Researchers are working on a way to take a few skin cells from a patient with kidney failure and coax those cells into changing their function, becoming kidney cells, without using the controversial embryonic cells. "The bottom line is that you can't avoid the brave new world," says Max Mehlman, director of the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who favors the "responsible" use of the new techniques. "Perhaps we wouldn't be so concerned about some potential abuse of the new technology if we were on intimate terms with even one of the 4,000 people who will die waiting for an organ this year, whose lives the new technology could save."


Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Britain to allow human cloning research

By EMMA ROSS-- AP Medical Writer

LONDON (AP) -- The government said Wednesday that it would introduce legislation to amend a ban on human cloning to allow scientific research on embryo cells, raising the possibility Britain could be the first country to authorize cloning from humans.

The move, which does not endorse creating cloned babies, came in response to a report published Wednesday by a government-commissioned panel led by the country's chief medical officer.

"We're talking about research at this stage, not treatment," Dr. Liam Donaldson, the medical officer, cautioned. "There is major, major medical potential, but we need medical research to see whether this potential can be realized."

While many countries are working on laws to ban human cloning, several others are considering the prospect of allowing its limited use for research into the treatment of disease. Ethical concerns have tempered the pace in many countries.

Britain allows scientists to conduct research on embryos up to 14 days old for fertility, congenital and other disorders, but does not permit them to be used for the study of diseases acquired in adulthood. The cloning of humans either to create babies or embryos for research was banned in 1990.

The report recommended the 14-day law remain and that legislation be introduced to ban hybrid animal-human embryos and to reaffirm the nation's ban on creating cloned babies.

The reason for the proposed change is the potential of what are known as embryonic "stem cells," the parent cells of the human body that go on to form most types of cells and tissues.

An embryo is essentially a ball of stem cells that evolves into a fetus when the stem cells start specializing to create a nervous system, spine and other features -- at about 14 days. Scientists hope that by extracting the stem cells from the embryo before they start to specialize, their growth can be directed in a lab to become any desired cell or tissue type for transplant.

The hope is that one day it will be possible to grow neurons to replace nerve cells in a brain killed by Parkinson's disease, skin to repair burns, and pancreatic cells to produce insulin for diabetics.

Scientists would create a clone of a sick patient by removing the nucleus of a donor egg and replacing it with that of a cell from the patient. The egg would be induced to divide and start growing into an embryo.

The cloned cells would be genetically identical to the patient's and therefore theoretically overcome problems of transplant rejection, which happens because the immune system fights foreign tissue.

Experts say the technique could prevent or cure scores of diseases and would touch nearly every field of medicine.

The government said it recognized that the creation of embryos by cloning will be unacceptable to some people.

"However, we have assessed carefully the scientific and ethical case presented in the report and conclude that such research should be allowed, but only under the very stringent safeguards set by the 1990 Act," the government said.

Since human stem cells were isolated in a lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the first time in 1998, advances in the field have come rapidly.

In June, scientists reported converting bone marrow cells into liver cells, offering hope that cells from adults can be made to regress and redirect themselves to form different types, without the need to create an embryo.

"That is the ultimate goal," Donaldson said. "Scientists believe research in embryonic stem cells is vital to getting that breakthrough."

While the potential benefits of stem cell therapies with cloning are widely recognized, opponents say no advance is worth research on embryos.

Opponents were quick to denounce the report, saying it opens the door to cloned babies and takes no account of the latest advances, which suggest adult cells might be able to be reprogrammed to become other types of cells.

The group Movement Against the Cloning of Humans said the newest advances -- which emerged after the report was completed in May -- make the recommendations "almost useless." The group called for a new investigation before legislation is submitted to Parliament.

Donaldson said the potential for adult cells to be redirected is limited.

Lord Winston, a fertility specialist and ardent campaigner for stem cell research, said the evidence the work will be beneficial is so overwhelming that it would be unethical not to pursue it.

"I don't think nature herself regards the embryo as sacrosanct," Winston said. "A fetus is different. Embryos are destroyed in menstrual periods, in miscarriages. An embryo doesn't have rights. An embryo is 20 cells with potential."

"I am pro-life," he said. "This is to protect and fulfill healthy human life."

The vote on the legislation is expected in Parliament this fall. Individual members will be allowed to vote according to their consciences, instead of being made to follow their party's line.


Thursday August 17, 2000

Press Release - SOURCE: American Bioethics Advisory Commission

Human Cloning Is Shoddy Science, ABAC Expert Says

Fr. Howard: Human Cloning Aims at One Life Out of the Deaths of Many

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 /PRNewswire/ --- ``Human cloning is based on shoddy science, and it leads to disastrous and inhumane results,'' said Father Joseph Howard, director of the American Bioethics Advisory Commission, a division of American Life League. Father Howard was responding to reports that the British government is moving one step closer towards government support of human cloning and human cloning research.

``Practically speaking, a human clone cannot be ethically produced, because human cloning destroys human lives in the process. Human life obtained through human death is botched science,'' Father Howard said. ``Human cloning is not a credible scientific endeavor, but science turned on its head and facing backwards.''

Moreover, Fr. Howard said, ``a science which attempts to advance humanity at the expense of human life is premised on utilitarianism, which seeks the personal advance of the few at the expense -- and in this case the deaths -- of many.''

In America, Father Howard said, human cloning research is already underway in the private sector at the University of Wisconsin, and likely at other private institutions. ``Our government here in the US, and our society, is based on the maxim 'e pluribus unum,' which means 'from the many [people] one [state].' Human cloning, on the other hand, aims at producing one life out of the deaths of many. The endeavor of human cloning is morally bankrupt, and a just government should outlaw this dangerous science.''

ABAC is dedicated to defending the human person. ABAC is a division of American Life League, P.O. Box 1350, Stafford, VA, 22555, 540-659-4171 or .

SOURCE: American Bioethics Advisory Commission



Science, Aliens, Theology Meet Over Cloning

September 28, 2000

Mix science, theology and images of aliens together in the new Millennium and you're bound to generate offbeat ideas that are certain to create controversy.

Take the case reported by Canada's National Post newspaper in its Sunday editions this week: A small religious sect plans to offer human cloning services beginning this fall, based on its beliefs that the technology is nothing more than God's gift of immortality. And, in fact, believes the Raelian Movement, humanity, itself, was created by extraterrestrial intelligent life forms in ET laboratories and that these extraterrestrials clone Jesus for the resurrection. (Cosmiverse reported in August that another organization in Europe, Clone Jesus, hopes to clone Jesus from DNA by Christmas, 2001, to speed His second coming.)

"The Raelian Movement, a 50,000-member religion that believes human cloning is the first step toward eternal life, has found a set of parents in the United States willing to pay up to $2 million to have their baby cloned," reported the National Post's online edition. The couple hopes to re-create their 10-month-old child who died, using blood samples from the deceased infant as the DNA source for the cloning.

To realize its mission of immortality, the Realians founded Valiant Ventures Ltd. in the U.S., claiming to be the first in the world to offer human cloning as a commercial venture. While the location of the company's facilities has not been disclosed, it's said to be in one of the states that has no restrictions on the practice.

The Post said the movement's leadership has identified 50 members of the sect that have volunteered as surrogate mother for the new cloned baby, which it hopes will be born by Christmas of 2001. "The company has received hundreds of calls from parents asking about the service, including inquiries from homosexual couples who want a child cloned from one partner's DNA," said the Post.

For $50,000, Valient Ventures will store an individual's DNA for later cloning. It expects the fee for the full cloning service to start at $200,000. And earlier this year, the company announced its plan to offer cloning of animals for pet owners; that service could cost up to $50,000 and may begin as early as October, said the Post.

Dr. Patricia Baird, who chaired Canada's Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies in 1993, told the newspaper she is strongly opposed to human cloning. "It's disrespectful to the individuality of that human being.

Cloning does not copy all the kinds of attributes of human beings that we value. It copies certain genetic ones, but not the ones that are important in terms of personal interaction, which are determined by environmental input."

"It raises so many social and ethical questions of harm that it raises the need--again--for regulation internationally to deal with the issues surrounding human cloning," Baird told the Post. Canada has a moratorium on human cloning.

Staff Writer Sally Suddock

UNESCO Courier, Sept 1999 p32

Human cloning is Dolly's debatable offspring. David Dickson.

Abstract: The science to create a cloned human is available, but the actual idea draws criticism from many people. In Great Britain, human cloning is banned, but the use of cloning for therapeutic purposes is allowed by law, but highly controversial. Scientists argue that the use of therapeutic cloning for disease research would benefit society.

The dawning possibilities of human cloning raise unprecedented ethical and political dilemmas. Nowhere is the debate more intensive than in Britain, where the cloned sheep Dolly was created using a revolutionary technique.

In February 1997, when British scientist Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute outside Edinburgh announced that they had successfully cloned a sheep, Dolly, the news set off a global wave of concern about the possibilities of human cloning. In contrast, the reaction of government officials in Britain was one of satisfaction - bordering perhaps on complacency - that adequate preparations had already been made to address the full implications of cloning research.

As political leaders across the world spoke sternly of the need for an immediate global moratorium on such research, Britain was able to point out that human cloning - the creation of humans copied from other humans - was already banned under the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act, passed in 1990.

The 1990 Act does, however, allow research on human embryos up to 14 days old and in principle appeared to open the way for "therapeutic cloning" - the use of cloning techniques to develop a potential range of medical treatments such as organ and tissue replacement and repair.

But the mood changed in June this year, when the government refused to endorse a proposal from the respected regulatory body established by the act - the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority - to allow amendments to the legislation which would formally allow research into therapeutic cloning. The government said it needed more time to study the ethical implications of such amendments.

For Britain, the political dilemma is particularly acute. On the one hand, the cloning techniques developed by Wilmut and his colleagues have been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough whose broad potential medical applications promise to provide a major boost to the British economy, for example through licensing to companies across the world.

But with trust in government scientists already deeply scarred by the experience of bovine spongi-form encephalopathy (BSE, informally known as Mad Cow Disease), and further dented by concern over the potential health and environmental dangers of genetically modified crops, the government appeared reluctant to take further risks to its credibility by giving rapid approval to another "revolutionary" and controversial technology.

Copies of pop stars

There are few who would endorse the use of cloning technology to produce replica human beings to order. It is therapeutic cloning, with its enormous potential medical applications to humans, that is at the centre of most current controversy.

One possible application of therapeutic cloning could be the treatment of women whose mitochondrial DNA - the genetic material that provides energy to the cell - is damaged, and therefore risks passing this defect on to their children. Another is the ability to grow and graft skin in this way, which would replace the need for the current practice of using skin taken from another part of a patient's body. The same technique could be used to replace damaged bone or liver cells.

The problem, of course, is that the word cloning remains highly emotive, creating, as it does, visions of rich pop stars or autocratic dictators ordering up multiple copies of themselves. Critics argue that cloning represents the ultimate "instrumentalization" of a human being: treating one individual primarily as the means to gratify another, not as an end in himself or herself. They also argue that any attempt to distinguish between "reproductive cloning" and "therapeutic cloning" is largely semantic, and that giving the green light to the second will inevitably lead to the first.

But the distinction is seen as critical for those keen to realize the full medical potential of the cloning techniques. Among them is Wilmut himself, who has spent much of the past two and a half years talking about both the threats and the promises that his work has opened up, and now works as chief scientific officer for Geron Bio-Med, a company set up earlier this year jointly by the Roslin Institute and a U.S. biotechnology company, Geron, to exploit the potential of his work.

For Wilmut, like many others, the ethical threats of human cloning involve sensitive issues of human identity and social relationships, particularly within the family. "We can all imagine the type of issues that would arise if a cloned child were born into our own family," he says. "Just think, for example, of the difficulties for a child who fails to meet the expectations of its parents, which is quite likely given that personality is only partly the result of our genetic inheritance." But he also insists that the promises of cloning techniques, if responsibly used, remain enormous. "There is a large potential here for providing more effective treatment for a range of diseases, such as Parkinson's Disease, that are associated with damaged cells that do not have the ability to reproduce themselves." He acknowledges that the ethical dilemmas are difficult, adding: "We are keen to take part in any discussion that addresses them."

But attempts to win acceptance for therapeutic cloning research in the political arena have proved fraught with obstacles, primarily stemming from the political strength of anti-abortion groups, who remain deeply opposed to all forms of cloning.

This, for example, has already been the fate of attempts by the Clinton administration to introduce legislation in the United States that would simultaneously outlaw reproductive cloning while allowing embryo cloning for therapeutic purposes.

Sensitivities in the U.S. are high. Earlier this year, the National Institutes of Health announced that, despite being subject to a congressional ban on the use of federal funds for research on embryos, it had decided to sponsor work on stem cells obtained from embryos provided by the private sector, e.g., left over from fertility treatments. (Stem cells are undifferentiated cells from which specialized cells such as blood cells develop.) But congress is now moving to close this loophole.

The perspective of U.S. critics is close to that which has dominated legislative debates in mainland Europe - in particular in France and Germany - with its heavy emphasis on potential threats to human "dignity". Indeed it is this approach, combined with the view that human life begins at conception, that has led most European countries to ban not only attempts at human cloning, but all forms of embryo research.

'A moral black hole'

In contrast, the official British (and American) approach has, up to now, been more pragmatic, seeing the potential dangers of human cloning primarily in terms of the possible medical risks, such as uncertainty over long-term complications. But the UK government's new announcement appears to reflect an increased willingness to accept that other more explicitly "ethical" factors need to be taken into account.

This acknowledgment was immediately welcomed by religious lobby groups such as Christian Action Research and Education, whose director, Charles Colchester, was quoted in the London Times as urging the government to ensure that a new review body set up by the government to investigate human cloning techniques should consider what he described as the "gaping moral black hole" in such scientific research.

But this suggestion was widely criticized by researchers in the field. Robert Winston, for example, professor of fertility studies at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London, warned that many of Britain's "best scientists" may be tempted to leave the country to carry on their work if the government does not back down. "By confusing the cloning argument, the government is in danger of impeding one of the most significant medical advances of the decade," he said.

There was also criticism from those keen to see cloning techniques developed as a commercial activity. "British science is currently at the forefront of this emerging field," says John Sime, the chief executive of the Bioindustry Association, the professional organization for the UK biotechnology industry. "But it is a competitive one in which much is at stake, both for patients and the economy."

Some remain optimistic that research will receive the green light. "If the promises that have been made for these new techniques, in terms of the potential for treating degenerative diseases, are even half true, it would be immoral not to go ahead with the research," says Juliet Tizzard of the Progress Educational Trust, a group that lobbies in favour of research on reproductive technologies.

But this conclusion is far from assured, and the debate is far from over. The prospect of being able to produce identical copies of adult humans continues to hold enough fascination for some - and to be sufficiently distasteful for others - to ensure that, whatever the potential medical benefits from the less dramatic aspects of cloning research, its supporters face a difficult task in getting permission to proceed.

David Dickson, News editor of the international science journal Nature, and author of The New Politics of Science (University of Chicago Press, 1988)


Ecumenical Review, July 1999

Human Cloning: Religious Responses. Kenneth M. Boyd.

Ronald Cole-Turner, Human Cloning: Religious Responses, Louisville, KY Westminster John Knox, 1997, 164pp.

Human cloning is one of the latest technological possibilities to attract media attention and provoke debate among ethicists and theologians. As with similar controversies in the past, about organ transplantation and in vitro fertilization for example, the debate has begun before there is any hard evidence of the social consequences of implementing the new technology. Moral and religious arguments about what is perceived to be at issue thus tend to be based on analogies -- either drawn from earlier debates about science and technology (the unwisdom of 19-century religious opposition to pain relief in childbirth or of 20th-century scientific enthusiasm for nuclear power, for example) or developed from established ethical or theological principles.

These features are evident in this collection of twelve short essays. Those written by scientists or theologians with a special interest in the subject (Donald Brace, John Polkinghome, Ted Peters, David Byers, Roger Shinn and the editor, Ronald Cole-Turner) are informative about the scientific details and exploratory in their moral judgments. The remainder (by Abigail Rian Evans, Peter Paris, Karen Lebacqz, Stanley Hauerwas and Joel Shuman, Brent Waters and Albert Mohler) tend to see human cloning as an example of what the writers take to be at issue in wider moral debates (for example feminism, racial justice, eugenics, "reproductive rights", and the "natural order of the family").

The latter approach can lead to difficulties. Evans, for example, claims that "When we consider the suggested goals of human cloning (to create spare body parts, produce a child, or advance science), in each case there are other techniques available to achieve these goals." This is misleading. Other techniques are of course available if the goals are described in these very general terms. But the terms in which reasonable advocates of human cloning argue in relation to the goal of producing a child, for example, are more specific. The most commonly suggested example is of what human cloning might be able to achieve for a couple both of whom are infertile, or for two women -- to have "a child of their own". This simply is not achievable by other currently available techniques, since all of these would involve genetic inheritance from at least one third party.

A similar point can be made about the goal of creating spare body parts. What reasonable advocates of human cloning argue is that the current supply of organs for transplantations falls far short of demand, and that human cloning techniques might provide an effective and efficient solution to this problem. Other techniques, of course, also might achieve this goal. But the most obvious, xenotransplantation, is experimental rather than available, and there are serious concerns about its disease-transmission risks. In fairness to Evans, it should be said that concern about these risks probably has grown since she wrote her essay, and that this whole field of science is advancing very rapidly. The most recent work on pluripotent stem cells, for example, is beginning to suggest that it may eventually become possible to use cloning technology to grow new tissues and repair or regenerate damaged organs; and some scientists now hope that, with further work, this may be achievable without the need for morally problematic embryo "organ banks". If this hope is well-founded, it is difficult to see what ethical objections could be raised to this aspect of "human cloning" technology, which would simply become part of regular medical treatment. The same technology moreover might well "produce a child", at least for infertile couples -- not by cloning one partner but by curing their infertility.

Part of the problem with Evans' claim that we should say "no to human cloning" is that it identifies "human cloning" with "cloning human individuals". Again perhaps it is unfair here to Single out Evans' contribution, because objections to "cloning human individuals" are what most contributors to this book mainly focus on. In this respect they are responding to what was, and sometimes still is, the main interest of the media in the wake of the announcement of the birth of Dolly the sheep -- the thought that because cloning human individuals is no longer impossible in principle, some scientist is about to attempt it in practice, and the further thought that if this is successful, reproductive cloning might become a preferred alternative to sexual procreation, not least because it is perceived (however unrealistically) to offer better "quality control".

The great merit of this book is that in responding to such thoughts, it marshalls effectively a wide range not only of moral and religious, but also of scientific and prudential arguments against any residual temptation to clone human individuals. The most immediate prudential argument, as Bruce, Polkinghorne and others point out, is that on the animal evidence, the risks of any such experiment going seriously wrong would make it highly dangerous for any scientist to attempt. This provides no cast-iron guarantee that it will never be tried. But to have any hope of success, an attempt to move from animal to human reproductive cloning would require a large investment of preparatory scientific effort. Neither scientists nor commercial sponsors may be willing to risk this however, especially if that effort can be invested in alternative enterprises (such as the current work on stem cells for example) which in the long run may be both ethical and more profitable. In this context "Save, Lord... by fear" may be not only the best, but also the most likely-to-be-answered prayer.

That said, perhaps the most thought-provoking essay in this book is the attempt by Stanley Hauerwas and Joel Shuman to challenge their readers' imagination with the thought that "`cloning' is not a new thing for Christians, since we believe we have been made part of Christ's body". This, they argue, is not a metaphor but a reality. Perhaps because of limitations of space, there is something unsatisfyingly programmatic about this essay -- the theme requires something more like one of Kierkegaard's "upbuilding discourses", to be read aloud. Nevertheless, the questions it raises, about why the prospect of "human cloning" created such excitement in late 20th-century Western society, perhaps are the most pertinent ones for those who live in both the earthly and the heavenly "cities" to ponder.

Kenneth M. Boyd is senior lecturer in medical ethics, Edinburgh University, and research director at the Institute of Medical Ethics.

Named Works: Human Cloning: Religious Responses (Book) - Reviews Article A57046547


Society, July-August 1999

The Ethics of Human Cloning. Sarah Franklin.

By Leon R. Kass and James Q. Wilson, Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute Press, 101 pp.

Reviewed by Sarah Franklin

Ever since the announcement of the birth in Scotland of Dolly, the cloned sheep, in February 1997, much critical attention has been focused upon the prospect of cloned human beings. Dolly's novel pedigree confirmed the viability of procreative union among three ewes and countless scientists, and her birth altered the facts of life as they were known to us from modern biological science. According to all previous scientific research it should have been impossible for Dolly to be conceived in the manner she was - from a denucleated egg cell fused with the nucleus of an adult, differentiated tissue cell and gestated in a surrogate. Adult cells were assumed to be committed to a fixed form and function, incapable of re-differentiation-creating different tissues - as is necessary in order to produce an embryo. This feat of reproductive biology having been achieved by Ian Wilmut and his team at Scotland's Roslin Institute, the potential for similar experiments to produce human clones became a source of international public concern and much ethical debate.

The Ethics of Human Cloning is an elegantly dressed publication from the public policy wing of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington in which two previously-published essays on cloning are juxtaposed. Leon R. Kass, of the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought, denounces cloning under any circumstances in his essay on "The Wisdom of Repugnance." Cloning for Kass is symptomatic of the most profound dangers that confront us today as life becomes a commodity and all our intuitive connections to nature and its mysteries are quashed by a runaway narcissistic individualism abetted by moral laxity. James Q. Wilson, professor of management and public policy at the University of California-Los Angeles, argues in a shorter and less impassioned essay on "The Paradox of Cloning" that cloning humans is not unacceptable as long as it is confined within marriage. In Part Two, both authors respond to each other's positions in specially commissioned afterwords.

Writing to more than four times the length of Wilson's brief tract, Kass is able to develop a more elaborate argument, in which cloning is not only "foulness and violation" but "the perfect embodiment of the ruling opinions of our new age." In other words, cloning is part and parcel of the cultural values (or lack of them) through which it was brought into being. Cloning enables "the ultimate 'single-parent child' [because] sooner or later only those children who fulfill our wants will be acceptable." Not only have we lost our respect for the mysteries of nature and life's creation: we have fallen prey to a "moral myopia" and an "accommodationist ethic" as a result of which "we are all, or almost all, postmodernists now."

Kass urges stringent prophylactic measures against this inexorable slide into anything-goes. Chief among these is respect for sex, or, as he would have it, "the ontology of sex." Those of us in "the shudderless society" should look more carefully at "the deeper anthropological, social, and indeed ontological meanings of bringing forth a new life." These would show us that a decent society, our humanity, and indeed life itself are built on the natural facts of heterosexual intercourse and conception. It is "the soul-elevating power of sexuality" which links "the self-transcending possibilities of children and a relationship to the divine" through "those deep natural facts of begetting."

In the manner of a natural theologian, Kass moves easily between the language of modern biological science and that of divine mystery, awe and wonder. Pointing out that "we find asexual reproduction only in the lowest forms of life: bacteria, algae, fungi, some lower invertebrates," he argues that "it is the natural way of all mammalian reproduction" which gives us kinship, morality, and society. "What would kinship be without its clear natural grounding?", he asks.

Kinship is an important bridge between Kass's account and that of Wilson, although the importance of "natural facts" is less elegiac in Wilson's version of why cloning is an affront to evolution. Whereas for Kass the links between sex, genetics and society are a seamless whole, that is not the case for Wilson. He argues that: "If the child is born of a woman who is part of a two-parent family and both parents work hard to raise it properly, and if the child's life is not harmed by the fact that it was adopted, conceived artificially, or in a petri dish, or even conceived with an egg or sperm from another person, we poor mortals have done all that man and God might expect of us." Following anthropologist Robin Fox, Wilson argues that Baby M never should have been taken from her mother, no matter how unconventional the mother's lifestyle. "The mother-child bond," he argues, "is one of the most powerful in nature and is essential to the existence, to say nothing of the health, of human society." Consequently, "the major threat cloning produces is a further weakening of the two-parent family." As for Kass, Wilson views cloning emblematically. "Cloning unmarried persons will expand the greatest problem our country now faces," he claims, asking whether "we wish to make it easy for a homosexual pair to have children?" or to encourage "families planning to have a movie star, basketball player, or high-energy physicist as an offspring?"

For Wilson, the power of kinship lies in the mother-child unit, which comprises the elementary unit of society, and which cloning does not disrupt. Kass, on the other hand, defines the elementary unit of kinship as coitus: the union of the male and female into child, and the child's embodiment of his or her dual parental lineages, comprise a natural order that has moral pre-eminence, and which cloning violates completely.

Both versions of kinship rely heavily upon the precepts of modern biology. Kass, formerly a molecular biologist at the National Institutes of Health, uses the biogenetic model of conception to ground and illustrate his moral arguments. For Wilson, evolutionary biology teaches that "the mother-child bond is one of the most powerful in nature." These conflicting appeals to the "natural facts" of reproduction in turn reflect major divisions within the biological sciences, as to whether human activity is merely the product of "selfish genes" seeking to reproduce themselves, or whether such genetic determinism flattens the complexity of interactions among individuals, populations, environments and ecosystems. They also reflect increasing uncertainty about "the facts of life" themselves. It is, after all, a well known fact that not all sex is reproductive, and even at a cellular level embryologists in in-vitro fertilization (IVF) labs are often unable to explain why fertilization often fails to take place between the egg and sperm when there appears to be "nothing wrong."

It is a direct result of attempts to discover the mechanisms of conception and development that modern reproductive biology has emerged at the point of being able to offer IVF to infertile couples, genetic screening to would-be parents anxious about familial diseases, and cloning to pharmaceutical companies that want to breed transgenic sheep. Such sheep are genetically altered in order to produce vital human proteins in their milk, for the alleviation of conditions such as cystic fibrosis. Relying on the biogeneric models of the late-twentieth century life sciences to argue against cloning, as both authors do here, when it is precisely those very same biological models of life which have brought us the capacity to alter it so irrevocably poses a contradiction neither of these authors pauses to consider. For all of their differences, both Kass and Wilson turn to biology, in the form of genetics and evolution, to legitimate their definitions of morality and society. In this pursuit both essayists are participating in a rich American tradition of grounding moral claims on natural facts. And it is in this respect they share in a deeply conservative worldview.

It is simply not the case, as Kass suggests, that "human societies virtually everywhere have structured child-rearing responsibilities and systems of identity and relationship on the basis of those deep natural facts of begetting." To the contrary, most societies for the vast majority of human history, including our own, have modeled kinship, identity, and parenting on the basis of everything from reincarnation to curdled cheese. The idea that the way people reproduce is "natural," and more or less identical to that of animals, is historically and cross-culturally rare. Such a concept, like modern biology, belongs to a post-Darwinian society that is barely a century old. Evolution may be the favored trope for those who would assume a causal relation between the biological progression that produced humans, and our social projects since we emerged as modern homo sapiens. But it is an uncomfortable implication of such arguments that contemporary biotechnologies, such as cloning by nuclear transfer, are simply the logical consequence of human technological innovation brought to bear upon our own genetic machinery.

Kass reaches to the "wisdom of repugnance" to forestall this logical progression. Why, then, is he morally indifferent to the cloning of animals, which, in the face of all the available evidence, is rather cruelly destructive? Wilson argues the mother-child bond is the bedrock of society, yet he draws the line at unmarried women or lesbians achieving this special connection. Are they exceptions to "the overwhelming body of biological and anthropological evidence support[ing] the view that women become deeply attached to their offspring?"

These and other questions about how biology continues to be used as a means of defining destiny are usefully illustrated in the Kass vs. Wilson debate about cloning, in which biological facts are used to criticize and to defend biological innovation. This paradox usefully complicates bioethicist Thomas Murray's claim before the House of Representatives on the subject of cloning that "good ethics begins with good facts." The complication lies in the same place the cloning debate originated: whose biology is it anyway?

Sarah Franklin is a reader in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University in England. She is author of Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception (1997) and co-author of Technologies of Procreation: Kinship in the Age of Assisted Conception (1998). Article A55206910


AMA unit asks 5-year halt in human cloning.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1999 United Press International

CHICAGO, June 21 (UPI)

In a long-awaited report, American Medical Association committee members are calling for a five-year moratorium in attempts to clone a human child.

However, the report today by AMA's Committee on Scientific Affairs (CSA) opposed ``unconditionally banning research and applications of human cloning.''

In a companion report, members of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) said cloning raises so many ethical issues that ``the medical profession should forsake human cloning at this time and pursue alternative approaches'' to helping couples reproduce.

Although the human cloning issue has triggered heated debate worldwide, there was little discussion in the AMA committees, where the reports were presented. One House of Delegates' committee, headed by Dr. John Osguthorpe, professor of ear, nose and throat medicine and surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, will analyze the comments and recommend action to the full House. A vote is expected Tuesday.

Dr. Mohammed Kahn of the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy, Boston, who presented the CSA cloning report, said the committee argued against complete banning of cloning.

``If legislation outlaws the use of cloning of animals and human tissues, it could easily result in loss of very useful scientific and medical insight into processes as diverse as developmental biology, cancer biology, transplantation and the cure or treatment of genetic diseases,'' said Kahn and colleagues in the report. The cloning reports have been in development for more than 18 months.

In other testimony before Osguthorpe's committee: The scientific affairs committee, Kahn reported, also agrees with other national organizations that mammography for women without symptoms of breast cancer should begin at age 40 and should be repeated annually.

Kahn said the new recommendations supplant previous suggestions that yearly mammograms begin after age 50. The scientific affairs committee also reported that the AMA needs to educate doctors on appropriate use of opiate drugs and to work to remove barriers to prescribing drugs to patients with chronic pain, said member Dr. Nancy Neilsen of Buffalo, N.Y.

``The reality is that we do not deal very well with patients in chronic pain,'' Neilsen said.

Dr. Melvyn Sterling of the University of California, Irvine, applauded the work, saying, ``This report strikes at the heart of a horrific disease opiodophobia (the fear of prescribing opiods). These drugs are safe and when used properly do not cause new addiction in chronic pain.'' Doctors supported several presentations which would put controls on the promotions of herbal remedies. Several physicians reported their patients were taking 10 or more of these supplements, some of which can interfere with prescription medication.

Dr. Richard Peer of Williamsville, N.Y., said, ``This is a huge industry that is very popular among our patients. These items do have side effects and can injure patients.'' He asked for the FDA to be given greater authority to police over-the-counter herbal remedies. The contentious question of whether the AMA should develop a collective bargaining unit for its members will come to a vote on Wednesday morning. It was previously scheduled for a vote Tuesday, but difficulty in writing a report by the committee hearing testimony caused the delay, AMA staff reported. -


The Lancet, May 8, 1999 v353 i9164 p1599

Canadian government will revisit human-cloning legislation. Wayne Kondro.

Concerns about human cloning have resurfaced in the wake of last week's announcement that a Montreal biotechnology firm has cloned three goats as part of a bid to produce spider silk in goats' milk.

Although a voluntary moratorium on human cloning remains in existence in Canada, Health Minister Allan Rock said on April 27 that the federal government will soon move to introduce legislation to criminalise certain reproductive and genetic technologies. Bill C-47, which failed to pass parliament before an election was called in spring, 1997, would have introduced prison terms of up to 10 years for practices, such as commercial surrogacy and buying and selling eggs, sperm, and embryos (see Lancet 1996 347: 1758).

"We must, of course, do more" than have a voluntary moratorium, Rock told the House of Commons. Rock added that he has been consulting experts, including former Chairman of the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies Patricia Baird, and intends "to table a bill on this issue later this year".

Now that goats have joined sheep, cows, and mice as mammalian species that have been cloned, Baird and other ethicists are demanding that Ottawa introduce legislation before cloning technologies are extended to human beings.

Nexia Biotechnologies Inc (Montreal, Canada), which cloned the goats, plans to introduce a silk gene from spiders into cells from the triplets to clone a next generation of transgenic goats capable of producing spider-silk proteins in their milk. When the proteins are recovered they are intended for commercial use in products such as artifical tendons, ligaments, and sutures.


Ethics, April 1999

Human Cloning: Religious Responses.

Cole-Turner, Ronald, ed. Human Cloning: Religious Responses. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997. Pp. 151. $15.00 (paper).

This volume is a collection of twelve short essays by Christian theologians, mostly opposed to human cloning, and two appendices: (1) recommendations of Clinton's National Bioethics Advisory Commission, and (2) five denominational statements on human cloning.

Many of the essays review both the media storm around the birth of Dolly, the cloned lamb, and the scientific background to mammalian cloning and, hence, barely begin to articulate the author's position. One introduction to these topics would have sufficed.

The essays are philosophically uneven. For example, Paris raises the crucial issues of racism and eugenics in connection with cloning, but, unfortunately, his point is lost in a welter of antiscientist rhetoric. By contrast, Hauerwas and Shulman offer a sophisticated perspective on medical technology, drawing on a careful reading of Saint Paul's account of the body.

Several authors, in effect, use cloning as a reductio of John Robertson's "secular principle of reproductive liberty": since that principle permits cloning, and cloning is (for independent reasons) wrong, we should articulate some other normative framework for procreative decision making. Waters appeals to "family integrity"; Lebacqz, to justice and love, especially for children; Byers, from the Catholic tradition, to the "civilization of love." The text is aimed at nonspecialists, thus, an annotated bibliography for further reading would have been helpful.

Named Works: Human Cloning: Religious Responses (Book) - Reviews