Saturday, January 19, 2008

Getting comfortable with harvesting your clone

Many science fiction stories and movies have featured clones created as backup organ donors.

Just saying (emphases mine) ...
Mature Human Embryos Created From Adult Skin Cells -

Scientists at a California company reported yesterday that they had created the first mature cloned human embryos from single skin cells taken from adults, a significant advance toward the goal of growing personalized stem cells for patients suffering from various diseases.

Creation of the embryos -- grown from cells taken from the company's chief executive and one of its investors -- also offered sobering evidence that few, if any, technical barriers may remain to the creation of cloned babies...

...Five of the new embryos grew in laboratory dishes to the stage that fertility doctors consider ready for transfer to a woman's womb: a degree of development that clones of adult humans have never achieved before.

No one knows whether those embryos were healthy enough to grow into babies. But the study leader, who is also the medical director of a fertility clinic, said they looked robust, even as he emphasized that he has no interest in cloning people.

"It's unethical and it's illegal, and we hope no one else does it either," said Samuel H. Wood, chief executive of Stemagen in La Jolla, whose skin cells were cloned and who led the study with Andrew J. French, the firm's chief scientific officer.

The closely held company hopes to make embryos that are clones, or genetic twins, of patients, then harvest stem cells from those embryos and grow them into replacement tissues. When transplanted into patients, the tissues would not be rejected because the immune system would see them as "self."...

...Asked what it was like to look at embryos that were replicas of himself, Wood said: "I have to admit, it's a very strange feeling. It is very difficult to look at an embryo and realize it is what you were a few decades ago. It is you, in a way.
We knew this was coming a few months ago.

Just tissues of course. We'd never let the clone develop any further -- say to a more advanced stage of tissue differentiation. That would be unethical ...

In a related article (no link, sorry) I read that a similar experiment went forward because a survey of the public showed they were quite comfortable with the protocol.

So where's the religious right when you want them? Well, I fear they were brought down by the appeal of modern eugenics. The elimination of Downs syndrome requires abortion -- and that was too great a temptation to be resisted. I think they've slunk away.

How do I know this will go all the way?

Well, if my 6 yo needed a heart tissue patch, I'm not all sure I wouldn't authorize a differentiated clone ...

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