Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cloning History Fact

Did you know that in 1902 German embryologist Hans Spemann split a 2-celled salamander embryo and each cell grew to adulthood, providing proof that early embryo cells carry necessary genetic information, this finally disproved Weismann's 1885 theory that the amount of genetic information in cells decreases with each division.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cloning History Fact

Did you know in 1902 that Walter Sutton published "On the Morphology of the Chromosome Group in Brachyotola magna", hypothesizing that chromosomes carry the inheritance and that they occur in distinct pairs within a cell's nucleus. Sutton also argued that how chromosomes act when sex cells divide was the basis for the Mendelian Law of Heredity.

Cloning History Fact

Did you know in 1901 Hans Spemann split a 2-cell newt embryo into two parts, resulting in the development of two complete larvae.

Cloning History Fact

Did you know that in 1894 Hans Dreisch isolated blastomeres from 2- and 4-cell sea urchin embryos and observed their development into small larvae. These experiments were regarded as refutations of the Weismann-Roux theory.

Cloning History Fact

Did you know in 1888, Wilhelm Roux tested the germ plasm theory for the first time., one cell of a 2-cell frog embryo was destroyed with a hot needle; the result was a half-embryo, supporting Weismann's theory.

Cloning history fact

Did you know that in 1885 August Weismann a professor of zoology and comparative anatomy at the University of Freiberg, theorized that the genetic information of a cell would diminish as the cell went through differentiation. That was a discovery that helped create a foundation for cloning in the future.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Human Cloning Questions

I have recieved an e-mail I would like your assitance with. If you would like please take your time and answer the following questions, you can answer them on the board or e-mail me and we can discuss them. They are very good topics concerning human cloning. Thank you.

1. What effect(s) could cloning have on our society

2. How could cloning work in our world today?

3. When did cloning experiments start? Animal and Human.

4. Is it possible to clone specific body parts such as a heart, liver, or a kidney?

5. Why are the statistics of having a successful clone not high? Why do the clones die so soon?

6. What is the most important problem facing cloning today?

7. Why do you think cloning is such a sensitive topic and people are unsure about it?

Monday, May 3, 2010

2 measures would ban cloning, human-animal hybrids

A House panel has given its approval to two measures that would prohibit cloning, the sale of human embryos and efforts to create human-animal hybrids.

The provision in S1307 that outlaws creation of hybrid humans drew skeptical questions from Rep. Ed Ableser, a Tempe Democrat.

“Is this bill trying to stop future Islands of Dr. Moreau?” he asked. “Is this part of a broader scare? Is this a paranoia of monstrosities, of animals and humans cloned together?”

Nikolas Nikas, an attorney and founder of the Bioethics Defense Fund, said the matter is less science fiction than one might imagine. The British Parliament recently gave approval for scientists to merge the DNA of human and animal embryos. The result hasn’t been a true hybrid - half human, half animal - he said, but a “cybrid,” where only a minute fraction of the DNA is that of an animal.

But that doesn’t erase the ethical questions such experimentation raises, Nikas said.

“There are profound ethical questions about how much … animal does a human embryo have to be before you wonder if it’s still a human,” he said. “Anyone who says it can’t be done is foolish.”

However, critics said the bill could stifle medical research in Arizona. Dr. Kimball Pomeroy, an embryologist, told the House Health and Human Services Committee that tests routinely performed by embryologists would be criminalized by the bill.

One such test to determine infertility problems uses a hamster egg to determine if a man’s sperm is able to penetrate the egg. Pomeroy said that would be outlawed under the bill.

And Pomeroy said that, while the United Kingdom’s research into cybrids sounds unusual, the method is aimed at developing ways to cultivate human stem cells without creating human embryos.

“What this (bill) really is, is an anti-stem cell (research) bill,” he said. “This sort of bill prohibits a lot of future research and it paints us as anti-science.”

But Nancy Barto, a Phoenix Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said there are some research techniques that conservative lawmakers and scientists are bound to disagree philosophically on.

“What we’re trying to do is preserve life and not sacrifice it on the altar of research to save another life,” she said.

The bill passed 5-2, with Ableser and Tucson Democrat Phil Lopes voting against it. After a check for constitutionality, it will be ready for floor debate and voting.

The committee also approved SCR1044, which would ask voters in November to amend the state’s constitution to ban all forms of human cloning. The measure was approved 5-1, with Ableser voting against it.

Ohio bill to ban human cloning draws fire from stem cell

An Ohio senator has reintroduced legislation stem cell researchers had hoped would never again see the light of day: a cloning ban some in the medical industry fear will hurt innovation in the state.

If you think you’ve heard this story before, it’s because you have–a similar drama played out during the 2007-2008 legislative session after the same senator introduced a similar bill. That bill never made it to a vote. However, a research ban inserted into other legislation was vetoed by Gov. Ted Strickland in 2008.

Sen. Steve Buehrer, a Republican from Delta in Northwest Ohio, is the man behind both bills. The latest proposal, Senate Bill 243, would ban human cloning, “human-animal hybrids,” as well as transferring a nonhuman embryo into a human womb and vice versa.

“The idea is to ban some of these perverse and immoral activities that masquerade as scientific research,” Buehrer said.

Anyone who violates the law would be subject to a maximum of five years in prison, plus a monetary fine that would take effect if the offender reaped any financial gain from the activities the bill would outlaw. Buehrer stressed that the bill wouldn’t affect research on adult stem cells.

Even though the bill’s text doesn’t contain the words “stem cells,” researchers in the field say if the legislation passed, it would harm the state’s ability to attract grants and top-notch biomedical researchers.

“Trying to ban everything because there’s cloning in the title doesn’t make a lot of sense when you’re trying to grow the state’s bioscience industry,” said Debra Grega, executive director of the The Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Grega pointed out a recent report from economic development group BioOhio that showed 18 percent job growth in the state’s bioscience industry between 2000 and 2008. The figure is all the more impressive when compared with an overall 4.2 percent decline in the number of jobs in Ohio over that same period.

Grega drew a distinction between reproductive cloning–creating humans–and therapeutic cloning, which is done for research purposes and can lead to breakthroughs in treating diseases. She said the bill was written too broadly and fails to reflect that distinction. “Everyone agrees no one should be doing reproductive cloning,” she said.

While Buehrer would no doubt raise a glass to that sentiment, he also opposes therapeutic cloning that involves human embryos. It’s an open question as to how much of what the bill seeks to ban actually happens in Ohio. However, Grega said that due to the bill’s “broad language,” it “would likely impact the work of a number of researchers here and throughout the state.”

Fifteen states have laws pertaining to human cloning, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It’s unclear whether Buehrer’s proposal stands a better chance of becoming law this time around. But with Democrats in control of the House and the governor’s mansion, don’t bet on it.

No tax benefits on Shariah funds

Shariah refers to the Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Koran, which has certain strictures regarding finance and commercial activities permitted for Muslims. While trade and investment are encouraged, shariah investing rules prohibit involvement in alcohol, gambling, pornography, abortion, human cloning, defence, conventional banks or insurers, and most forms of entertainment. Industries associated with pork are also out.

In March 2009, Benchmark Mutual Fund launched Shariah BeES, an exchange traded fund. It is a passively managed fund that invests in securities that constitute the S&P CNX Nifty Shariah Index, in the exact proportion. For an investor seeking a low risk exposure, this passively managed fund is a good option that would replicate the market and provide returns that closely correspond to the returns of the securities as represented by the S&P CNX Nifty Shariah Index.

Shariah refers to the Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Koran, which has certain strictures regarding finance and commercial activities permitted for Muslims. While trade and investment are encouraged, shariah investing rules prohibit involvement in alcohol, gambling, pornography, abortion, human cloning, defence, conventional banks or insurers, and most forms of entertainment. Industries associated with pork are also out.

In March 2009, Benchmark Mutual Fund launched Shariah BeES, an exchange traded fund. It is a passively managed fund that invests in securities that constitute the S&P CNX Nifty Shariah Index, in the exact proportion. For an investor seeking a low risk exposure, this passively managed fund is a good option that would replicate the market and provide returns that closely correspond to the returns of the securities as represented by the S&P CNX Nifty Shariah Index.

ICICI Prudential Infrastructure is 5-star rated. Besides, the fund is a good investment option, as infrastructure remains an attractive theme. Stick to this fund. If you want to opt out of the infrastructure theme, you may switch to any of the other funds you currently are invested in. They all command good ratings and are worthy of being held on to.

While ICICI Prudential Infrastructure is a thematic fund, Sundaram BNP Paribas S.M.I.L.E. is a mid- and small- cap fund. Together, these funds will make your portfolio volatile and they should not form a significant part of your portfolio. Limit your exposure to 20 per cent.

While a fixed deposit give assured return, liquid funds score on liquidity and the possibility of a higher return. The one-year return of this category as on March 29 was around 3.68 per cent (category average). In case of a liquid fund, you would be able to avail off the redemption proceeds after a day.

Distribute your money between liquid funds and a bank fixed deposit. However, you could also park your money in a bank flexi deposit. This enables you to earn interest higher than what is offered in a savings banks account. Should you need to withdraw some money, you can do so without breaking the entire deposit.

The great divide: therapeutic cloning

Should Australia lift its ban on therapeutic cloning? Few topics in Australian science have generated such strong opinions. Ruth Beran reports.

The independent committee appointed to review Australia's federal stem cell legislation has a busy few weeks ahead. Chaired by retired Federal Court judge John Lockhart, the committee has until December 19 to report back to the parliament on whether changes should be made to the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 and the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002.

It received more than 800 submissions from researchers, the public and special interest groups -- and most of them concern whether Australia should lift its ban on so-called 'therapeutic cloning', otherwise known as 'somatic cell nuclear transfer' (SCNT), a technique whereby an embryo is created by removing the nucleus of an egg and replacing it with the nucleus of a donor somatic cell.


"Therapeutic cloning is a bit of a presumption," says Kathleen Woolf. "Scientifically it doesn't exist. Either you're cloning to make an embryo or you're not. The purpose of it is in the mind of the scientist doing the cloning." Woolf, the spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, is, not surprisingly, strongly opposed to therapeutic cloning. "I just can't see that you could ever say one human being -- no matter what the stage of development -- is fodder for experimentation," she says.

Dr Bridget Vout, executive officer for the Life Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, holds a similar view. "We're against all forms of human cloning," she says, "whether it be therapeutic or reproductive cloning."

Reproductive cloning differs from therapeutic cloning in that it is intended to create another human by placing the cloned embryo into a uterus, in the same way Dolly the sheep was created. Vout views the term therapeutic cloning as "a misnomer".

"Therapeutic cloning certainly isn't therapeutic for the embryo that is produced, commodified and then destroyed for its stem cells," she says. She would prefer to use the terms 'cloning for biomedical research' or 'cloning to produce children' because "all human cloning gives rise to a living human embryo".

Allaying fears

Many scientists prefer not to use the term 'cloning' at all and instead follow the International Society of Stem Cell Research's recommendation to replace the term therapeutic cloning with 'somatic cell nuclear transfer' (SCNT).

"We're not cloning in the sense that people understand we're cloning," says Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories head Prof Alan Trounson. "Nor, necessarily, are we focused on a therapeutic. So somatic cell nuclear transfer is more descriptive of what we're trying to do."

Prof Bernie Tuch, head of the Diabetes Transplant Unit at the Prince of Wales Hospital, agrees. "If you mention the word 'cloning', the public thinks that you're trying to produce another person. Therapeutic cloning has got nothing to do with that," he says.

Another reason for changing the terminology according to Paul Bello, program manager for biotech company Stem Cell Sciences, is that embryos produced from SCNT will not only be used for therapeutics. "There's also cell-based assays," he says.

As well, embryos created from SCNT are "never intended to ever give rise to a human," he says, "and I think that's the public's greatest fear".

However, Dr Gregory Pike, director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, calls the name change "semantic gymnastics".

"What is in fact cloning is now masked behind a cloudy vagueness," he says. "It has made it difficult for the public to know what actually is being talked about."

The promise

So why do some sections of the community, including researchers and patient advocacy groups, want the ban on SCNT in Australia lifted?

Joanna Knott, spokesperson for the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia and a director of the SpinalCure, an organisation set up to raise funds for spinal cord research, represents hundreds of thousands of Australians living with conditions such as motor neuron disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. "They want to hear about hope," she says. "This is potentially hope."

The hope that Knott is talking about lies in the potential benefits of creating stem cell lines from SCNT embryos. Although Knott freely admits that she is not a scientist, she is well versed on SCNT. She also has a spinal injury and is wheelchair bound.

"This is something that society as a whole we have to embrace," Knott says. "Just because someone's lucky enough not to have any of these things right now, the potential of it happening to them or someone they know is really quite high."

According to Dr Andrew Elefanty, director of the Australian Stem Cell Centre's blood program and head of Monash University's Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, the main promises of SCNT are twofold. "One is as a research tool, to study and learn about diseases," he says. "The other is a practical way of helping minimise transplant incompatibility when we get to the stage of having cells that we would be able to transplant into patients."

The first of these potential benefits of SCNT relies on the creation of a stem cell line from an embryo using the somatic cell nucleus of a person who has a genetic defect or complex disease such as cancer, Alzheimer's or Huntington's disease.

"I think it's terribly important to make disease-specific stem cells," says Trounson. "A lot of people think that we will see things happening to those cells that we wouldn't be able to predict if we're looking at patients with the full expression of the disease."

For example, it may be possible to determine whether the disease is genetic, epigenetic, whether it's caused by a multiple gene effect or by a combination of epigenetics, environment and genetic factors, he says. Such stem cell lines could also be used for cell-based assays to test new drugs. "You might get a whole new drug strategy for slowing diseases down or in fact preventing them from being expressed," says Trounson.

The second benefit relates to the therapeutic potential of customising stem cell lines to a particular patient. Deriving cells, such as pancreas or blood cells, from a person's own tissues makes it less likely that the person's immune system would reject these cells if later treated with them.

"It could help with areas like diabetes in terms of where the pancreas is malfunctioning; in areas like Parkinson's where the dopamine neurons have gone wrong in the brain; in motor neuron disease in which the neurons that control voluntary movement progressively die and then you look at replacements for these cells; and in areas like new heart muscle and blood cells and in spinal injury," says Knott.

However, Dr Peter McCullagh, a retired senior fellow at the Australian National University's John Curtin School of Medical Research, says it is "sad" to see people clinging to the false hope of embryonic stem cells. "Patients are dependant and vulnerable individuals," says McCullagh, and medical practitioners should be "damned careful" about statements they make that are likely to influence a patient's behaviour.

Others are also dubious about the promise offered by embryonic stem cells. "We still haven't really clearly seen the benefits of embryonic stem cell research and therapies," says the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese's Vout. "We still don't have a single human treatment. There haven't even been any human trials."

Instead, Vout suggests that scientists should focus on adult or mature stem cell research.

Adult stem cells

Griffith University neurologist Prof Alan Mackay-Sim has spent the last five years investigating adult stem cells in neural regeneration, and has won widespread kudos for his work. He believes that it may not be necessary to "go to the trouble" of SCNT for the purposes of studying diseases.

"I think that the potential for adult stem cell work is lost in all of the hype about embryonic stem cells," he says. "A lot of generalisations are made about the so-called shortcomings of adult stem cell research, automatically assuming that embryonic stem cells can do everything you ask of them and adult stem cells can't."

Mackay-Sim argues that with cell therapies, for example, if you have the appropriate cell, such as beta cells from the islets of the pancreas, then a stem cell may not be needed. "You don't necessarily need to have any kind of stem cell therapy if you can grow them from another cell type," he says.

And the fact that adult stem cells may not be as pluripotent as embryonic stem cells is irrelevant, he says, if they make the right kind of cell for a particular application. "The full potential of either adult stem cells or therapeutic cloned stem cells is not really well explored," he says.

Right-to-life spokeswoman Woolf says that embryonic stem cell scientists should be asked to divert their activities to mature stem cell research. "There are massive advances being made in adult stem cells," she says.

But Tuch says that all avenues, both adult and embryonic stem cells, should be explored. "The Diabetes Transplant Unit has been able to make insulin producing cells using both adult and embryonic stem cells," he says. "At this stage we don't know which one of those options is going to be the best option. But if we don't explore all avenues we could find ourselves discovering in several years times that, in fact, it isn't the best way to go, and we will waste time otherwise."

What defines an embryo?

The great ethical divide between the different view points on SCNT mainly rests on the definition of an embryo and what rights it should be afforded.

Trounson believes that a nuclear transfer embryo is not a "normal embryo". "First of all, it doesn't have much developmental competence -- less than one per cent ever go to term," he says. "And they're never intended to go back into the uterus. So these are cells for research rather than embryos in a reproductive sense."

But Pike, of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, disagrees. "Despite some attempts to claim that what's being produced is not an embryo, we have to acknowledge that a cloned embryo would indeed be an embryo," he says.

Pike believes human embryos ought to be afforded respect, and such respect would not allow embryos to "be destroyed in research programs". In particular, he sees SCNT as a process that "involves the destruction of embryos, ones that have been deliberately created defective".

Tuch sees SCNT research differently. "We are creating an embryo that is being used specifically and solely for the purpose of creating cell lines," he says. "It is not a natural phenomenon, and you certainly wouldn't want to go about creating a being from it.

"Potentially it is possible, but you wouldn't want to do that because of the genetics involved. The arrangement of chromosomes in embryos created by this method is not the same as what occurs normally."

Interestingly, while the scientific community is seemingly united in its condemnation of so called 'reproductive cloning', Vout says that despite the Catholic Church's strong ethical objections to cloning, reproductive cloning would be preferable to therapeutic cloning.

"At least with cloning to produce children the intention would be to create human life: to nurture it, to bring it to birth," she says. "But in therapeutic cloning we're creating human life solely for the exploitation of that human embryo. We're creating a human embryo, a living human being, to destroy it, to use it as a means to some other end."

Woolf has similar views. Although she is not in favour of reproductive cloning, seeing it as an expression of "massive egotism", she says, "at least it allows the clone to live".

However, Elefanty says that given the current social and legislative position in Australia it is "unfair to argue that every embryo has the same rights as a person". He points out that in Australia, women have the right to choice, with abortion being permitted as required.

Australian legislation also allows assisted reproductive technologies; and frozen excess embryos -- created in vitro for this purpose -- are required to be destroyed after five years. Organ transplantation from patients who are still alive, albeit brain dead, is also accepted in Australia.

"We're not operating in a vacuum," Elefanty says. "We're not doing anything contrary to what is already agreed to in legislation. We're not making or advocating [completely] new laws, we're working within what, as a society, has been decided."

Strong principles

Although Australia's federal legislation on stem cells as enacted in 2002 allowed embryos to be created for the purpose of infertility treatment, Pike points out the legislation contained a "fairly strong principle" that "no embryos should be deliberately created for research".

He says that if the ban on therapeutic cloning or SCNT in Australia is lifted, "we will be suspending yet another principle that we have previously seen as an important one."

However, scientists such as Tuch believe that limiting embryonic stem cell techniques will "limit people's ability to produce and be creative in trying to solve problems". "You have to explain to me why countries like England, Spain, Israel, Korea, China, Singapore, and so forth, all basically think it's appropriate," he says.

If the ban on SCNT continues, some argue that Australia will see some of our best and brightest scientists leave to pursue careers elsewhere. "We have the ability," says Tuch, "but if you stifle our capacity then you will certainly lose people overseas."

"Australia considers itself a leader in scientific knowledge and breakthrough research," says Knott. "We wouldn't want to fall behind in that position."

Woolf is dubious, though. She says, "We keep saying that we're going to miss all these opportunities in world trade. No one specifies what we're actually missing."

Trounson, however, says that SCNT should be allowed in Australia because it offers "such a huge opportunity to make discoveries, particularly about complex disease states. "This is really something that we can't ignore."

The AusBiotech 2005 conference features a session on stem cell science as therapy, on Wednesday, November 23. Chaired by Hugh Niall, of the Australian Stem Cell Centre, it features South Korean researcher Woo-Suk Hwang -- whose lab this year made key discoveries in embryonic stem cell research -- and Megan Munsie of company Stem Cell Sciences.

Where Do the Candidates Stand on Religious Faith?

In 2004, religious faith and values may have very well decided the election between President George W. Bush and his Democratic rival John Kerry. Controversial issues such as abortion, same sex marriage and stem cell research are the reasons, many political pundits believe, that states such as Ohio and Florida voted red.
However, in 2008 abortion is still a hot-button issue, as is the definition of marriage and stem cell research. How do the candidates stand on the issues of life and how will their religious faith affect their possible presidency?
Obama, who did not grow up in a religious household, has since embraced the teachings of Christianity, and in June 2006 delivered what some consider the most important speech by a politician on religious faith since John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne wrote on June 30, 2006 that, “(Obama’s speech on faith) may be the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy’s Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican … Obama offers the first faith testimony I have heard from any politician that speaks honestly about the uncertainties of belief.”
In the speech, delivered at an evangelical church, Obama spoke about his own religious conversion and doubts, and the need for religious faith to unite Americans and not divide them.
“We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expressions of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fans them, exploits them, and drives us further apart,” Obama wrote in his book The Audacity of Hope.
Nevertheless, McCain’s religious beliefs also seems to play a huge role in his politics as he sees human dignity and the sanctity of life as important issues for the next president. McCain believes Roe v. Wade is flawed and should be overturned. He plans to appoint federal judges who will reverse the 1973 ruling on abortion, and give the question of abortion’s legality to the 50 states.
“At its core, abortion is a human tragedy,” said the Republican nominee. “To effect meaningful change, we must engage the debate at a human level.”
The Arizona senator, who with his wife Cindy adopted a little girl from Mother Teresa’s Bangladesh orphanage in 1993, believe adoption should be encouraged for any woman contemplating abortion. He also wants to remove barriers that prevent interracial and inter-ethnic adoptions.
Religious faith is at the core of the same sex marriage debate. According to McCain’s official website, “The family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society and John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation.”
Joe Biden stated that he and Obama favor the traditional definition of marriage, but Obama has stated that he opposes constitutional amendments that define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Furthermore, McCain favors banning the intentional creation of human embryos for scientific research. He also favors banning all forms of human cloning. McCain believes that schools and libraries should block all children from accessing Internet pornography and favors requiring sexual predators to register all online accounts in a national database, which would result in a 10 year prison sentence if they fail to register.
As a result of both candidates’ religious faith, very few will doubt whether values will play a role in their administration, but only time will tell if religious faith will play a role in the election results like it did four years ago.

KUMC executive appointed by Obama

President Barack Obama released yesterday the list of scientists he has appointed to serve on the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethics. Among the names on the list is Barbara Atkinson, who serves as the executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center, and is a strong advocate of embryonic stem cell research and human cloning (SCNT).

While serving on the commission, Atkinson will have the opportunity to advise Obama on bioethical issues.

“I am grateful that these impressive individuals have decided to dedicate their talent and experience to this important commission,” Obama said in a press statement. “I look forward to their recommendations in the coming months and years.”

Atkinson has been known to disagree with the stance taken by conservative Kansas legislators regarding human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. In 2005, Atkinson testified on behalf of KUMC against a piece of legislation that sought to ban human cloning.

Although Atkinson testified that she did not object to the banning of cloning that would create the birth of a human clone, she objected to the bill because she thought it would result in a restriction of embryonic stem cell research in Kansas — most notably through the usage of human cloning, also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. This process creates an embryo for the purpose of research, and the embryo is then destroyed during the course of the research.

Atkinson argued that she was opposed to what she called "reproductive cloning," which she defined as the process to create the birth of a human clone, and rather she wanted to use "therapeutic cloning."

Both "reproductive" and "therapeutic" cloning use SCNT, which is extracting a somatic cell's nucleus and transferring it to an egg that has had its nucleus removed.

Either way, somatic cell nuclear transfer leads to embryonic stem cell research, which is highly controversial.

Pro-life advocates argue that embryonic stem cell research is unethical because it destroys human life, although embryonic stem cell supporters such as Atkinson say that the creation of an embryo does not create life unless that embryo would be implanted into a woman’s uterus.

Though embryonic stem cell research is highly controversial, adult stem cell research is not. Adult stem cell research utilizes cells from a person’s own body, such as skin cells or cells from an umbilical cord, and is a process successfully used regularly in current medicine.

Atkinson made it obvious during her testimony in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee in 2005 that she believed embryonic stem cell research has greater potential than its non-controversial counterpart.

“I guess I’d say that most people think that the work’s been done on mature stem cells. They’ve had 50 years of research doing it,” Atkinson said. “There are, as I said, the major cures for lymphoma leukemia with bone marrow transplants. Also, the rest of the cures are relatively small genetic diseases that you can do particular manipulations on and cure. But people think the real promise is not any longer on the adult stem cells. It really is with early stem cells.”

Atkinson butted heads with pro-life legislator Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, while providing testimony in the House committee.

During testimony, Atkinson refrained from using the terms “embryo,” “embryonic” stem cell research and “adult” stem cell research. Instead, Atkinson referred to an embryo as a “blastocyst,” an embryonic stem cell as an “early” stem cell and an adult stem cell as a “mature” stem cell.

Kinzer noted that in reports he had read from James Thomson, the scientist who created the first embryonic stem cell line, Thomson used the term 'embryo' and Kinzer asked why Atkinson was refraining from the using the word.

“The thing that’s confusing is, they seem to have used a completely different vocabulary than what we’re hearing used here,” Kinzer said. “In other words, these early papers that we have — they talk about embryos. They say embryo.”

Atkinson responded by stating that there was no change in the science but that the alteration occurred because of controversy.

“There is a distinction — or a bit of a dispute — about where you call it embryo, or where you begin to call it embryo,” Atkinson said. “But scientists would say that cells in a Petri dish, that came from a blastocyst, that came from the inner cells of a blastocyst, that it is cells in a cell culture. It’s not a life.”

Kinzer then questioned how a cell — which Atkinson referred to as a blastocyst — with 46 chromosomes was not a life. Atkinson responded by stating that she didn’t believe the embryo would be considered a life in the Petri dish, but would rather become a life once implanted into a woman.

Dr. David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council, said Atkinson’s choice of language in describing stem cell research was misleading.

“I certainly can’t respect that use of terms because it is scientifically inaccurate and it clouds the debate rather than pointing to real facts,” Prentice told Kansas Liberty. “What it does, in fact, is mislead the public and the policy makers with some mild terms that don’t reflect real science.”

Prentice said Atkinson’s stance on human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning makes her appointment one of concern.

“Barbara Atkinson has been very bad on pro-life issues,” Prentice said. “She has testified in favor of cloning and embryonic stem cell research and has even promulgated and perpetuated misleading information on cloning.”

Although Atkinson will likely be an advocate of expanding embryonic research, Prentice said that another newly appointed member, Daniel Sulmasy, could provide some balance to the group.

Sulmasy is a University of Chicago researcher who Prentice said is a good promoter of ethical stem cell research.

“He has been a very good pro-life advocate, and it is good to see him on there, but I just don’t know how lonely he will be,” Prentice said.

Prentice said it appeared as though the objective of Obama’s panel of experts on stem cell research differed from the panel former President George W. Bush had appointed in that it appeared to be more of a “rubber stamp” commission.

Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, also said he had concerns with Atkinson serving on the national panel given her “strong support” of embryonic stem cell research. Siegfreid questioned whether Atkinson would relinquish her advocacy for embryonic stem cell research now that a non-controversial alternative is available, which is referred to as induced pluripotent stem cell research, or iPS.

These iPS cells are created by taking human cells, such as a skin cell, and then adding a factor, or factors, that reprogram the cell to behave as if it were an embryonic stem cell. The process is non-controversial, alleviates the need for embryonic stem cells, and iPS cells are less likely to be rejected from a person because they can be created from the person’s own skin.

The process was discovered by Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka, who originally was an advocate of embryonic stem cell research. Yamanaka told a New York Times reporter he was motivated to create the embryonic stem-cell replacement after realizing that there was “such a small difference” between embryos and his daughters.

“I hope that Dr. Atkinson will be very honest about the fact there is no further need for embryonic stem cell research,” Siegfreid told Kansas Liberty. “If we had exerted as much energy into developing cures with adult stem cells as we have with trying to legalize embryonic stem cells, we might be further along with treating diseases right now.”

Arizona lawmakers nearing cut on ballot measures

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Arizona lawmakers nearing cut on ballot measures
StoryCommentsBy PAUL DAVENPORT | Posted: Friday, April 9, 2010 1:19 pm | Comments

Font Size:Default font sizeLarger font sizeFive ballot initiative will present Arizona voters with questions on speed cameras, medical marijuana and other issues, but legislators are poised to put still more issues on the November ballot.

A referendum addressing Republican frustrations with voter-approved spending mandates is a near-certainty. Others that have advanced in the legislative process involve establishing a constitutional right to hunt and fish and a ban in human cloning.

Additional possible measures would provide students attending failing public schools with taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private schools, and require the election of a lieutenant governor instead of a secretary of state.

With the legislative session expected to end by early May, the final culling of legislative referendums will occur well before the July 1 deadline to file qualifying signatures for petitions.

Measures to repeal the state speed-camera program and legalize medical marijuana are considered the most likely to qualify.

Some measures that were considered viable candidates for ballot spots fell by the wayside recently.

Separate House- and Senate-passed measures to repeal or modify legislative term limits failed to get required committee hearings in the other chamber.

And a Senate-passed measure to gut the state's Clean Elections public campaign finance system by diverting its funding failed in a House committee on Thursday. That apparently ended consideration of that priority for business groups critical of the system.

Anything the Legislature sends to the ballot in coming weeks would be in addition to three proposed constitutional amendments that lawmakers referred during their 2009 session.

Those include a constitutional ban on preferential treatment or discrimination based on race, sex and other criteria. Another would require secret ballots in union-representation elections. The third would enshrine rights to make choices on health care services.

Earlier this year, the Legislature sent voters two ballot measures to divert $450 million from two voter-mandated programs. One measure would repeal the First Things First early childhood development program. The other program would leave the Growing Smart land conservation program alive but take all of its current funding.

House Majority Leader John McComish, R-Phoenix, said GOP leaders haven't yet decided how many additional referendums to put on the ballot.

"It's an art, not a science," McComish said. "If you have too many, you have voter fatigue. And yet there are a number of important measures."

Proposals dealing with the current constitutional protection for voter-approved spending mandates are a favorite of majority Republicans.

The "Voter Protection Act" approved by voters in 1998 as that year's Proposition 105 has been a source of frustration for Republicans looking for ways to cut or redirect state spending, particularly during the current budget troubles.

Proposition 105-related measures include a House-passed resolution to ask voters to let lawmakers temporarily suspend voter-protected funding during hard times. Another measure would require periodic voter reconsideration of previously approved spending mandates.

"There will be something dealing with Prop 105," House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, predicted.

Criteria used by leaders to decide which ballot measures will make the final list include assessments of whether the proposals will improve the state and have enough appeal to win voter approval, McComish said.

Robert Dalager, a Republican lobbyist who participated in past ballot-measure strategy meetings while a senior legislative aide, said consideration also extends to whether certain measures will attract particular groups of voters.

"They tend to look at the whole picture," including what initiatives are being circulated, Dalager said. "And it's a political discussion. It's what do we want to accomplish and how can we frame the ballot that gives our things the best chance of happening." Gubernatorial candidates share personal st

At least two Republican gubernatorial candidates would axe funding to an Iowa City cloning research facility as well as to Planned Parenthood as part of their anti-abortion stance if elected to the state’s highest office.

Bob Vander Plaats and Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, announced such plans at a Saturday pro-life forum at Campus Baptist Church in Ames. They were joined by gubernatorial candidate Jon Narcisse, who is running as an independent.

“No tax dollars should be going toward Planned Parenthood,” said Roberts, a five-term state lawmaker. “Time and time again in the Legislature, I have stood up for the sanctity of human life. If governor, I will continue that by ceasing funding to Planned Parenthood and to human cloning research.”

Vander Plaats, a former Sioux City high school principal, echoed Roberts’ sentiments, saying he too would stop tax dollars from being used for either entity.

Both Republicans said their pro-life stances were drawn from personal experiences, rather than their party’s stance on abortion. Vander Plaats, a father of four, has a teenage son with a brain disorder resulting in physical disability. Roberts’ wife gave birth to a stillborn child.

Roberts said if elected governor, he would push for legislation legally identifying a fetus as a child. Vander Plaats would pass a similar human rights amendment.

Vander Plaats said he believes pro-life lawmakers have lost ground in prior sessions when it comes to advocating pro-life efforts. “There’s a time when leaders need to lead,” he said. “That time is now. I’ll be bold and courageous on marriage, on life and on the separation of powers (of the courts and the Legislature).”

Though Narcisse expressed distaste for the two-party system, he has made a very public pro-life stance, which he, like the two Republican candidates, said is deeply seeded in a personal experience. A former partner of Narcisse’s chose to abort a child he was the father of, he told attendees Saturday.

“I have wondered about my dead child, and what that child would have contributed to this world,” Narcisse, an adoptive father of two girls, said.

Narcisse said he wants Iowans to get back to their convictions, adding the political class has caused voters to compromise their principles.

“Americans, I have found, are pro-life. They are pro-family,” he said. “But the political class has betrayed us. They are more loyal to the parties, not their beliefs. I think we need to start healing the heart.”

A loyal to beliefs over party stance appealed to attendee Debi Zahn, of Stratford.

“I appreciated them getting up there and saying why they believe what they believe, and not just because it’s their party’s position,” Zahn said. “They can say, ‘Yes, I’m pro-life, and I’ve walked though (that experience.)”

The forum gave candidates, all of them Republican except for Narcisse, an opportunity to have one-and-one time with constituents. Forum turn-out was low at about 50 people but the attendees were enthusiastic and engaged with the candidates.

Also participating in Saturday's forum were local legislative candidates Chad Steenhoek and Tim Gartin. The frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor, former Gov. Terry Branstad, did not participate.

Court Hears Lawsuit to Overturn Obama's Embryonic Stem Cell

Washington, DC ( -- A federal appeals court held a hearing today in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the controversial guidelines the National Institutes of Health used to implement President Barack Obama's decision to force taxpayers to finance embryonic stem cell research.

The suit contends that the Obama administration’s embryonic stem cell research policy is in violation of a law which prohibits federal funds from being used to destroy human embryos for research purposes.

The Alliance Defense Fund is one of the plaintiffs and ADF senior legal counsel Steven Aden commented on the case.

“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless,” said Aden. “Innocent life should not be treated like a commodity. Although private-sector funding of embryonic stem cell research has been practically unlimited, it has failed to produce results."

"Furthermore, experimentation on embryonic stem cells isn’t even necessary because adult stem cell research has been enormously successful. In economic times like we are now, why should the federal government use precious taxpayer dollars for this illegal and unethical purpose?” he asked.

The lawsuit alleges that the guidelines governing destructive embryonic stem cell research implemented by the Obama administration in July “are contrary to law, were promulgated without observing the procedures required by law."

The lawsuit says the guidelines violate the Dickey-Wicker appropriations provision regarding embryo research that prohibits federal funding of creating human embryos by any method, explicitly including human cloning, or any "research in which" human embryos are harmed in any way.

In Mar. 9, 2009, President Obama rescinded via executive order former President Bush’s executive order that limited federally funded embryonic stem cell research.
On Oct. 27, 2009, a federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, which has now been appealed to the D.C. Circuit.

Advocates International filed suit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Francis Collins as head of the National Institute of Health.

According to Thomas G. Hungar, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, which includes the Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Medical Association, "the language of the [Dickey-Wicker] statute is clear" that it "bans public funding for any research that leads to the destruction of human embryos."

"NIH's attempt to avoid Congress's command by funding everything but the act of 'harvesting' is pure sophistry. The guidelines will result in the destruction of human embryos and are unlawful, unethical, and unnecessary," he told previously.

The plaintiffs contend that the NIH guidelines violate the congressional ban because they "necessarily condition funding on the destruction of human embryos."

In addition, the plaintiffs also allege that the NIH guidelines were invalidly implemented, because the decision to fund human embryonic stem cell research was made without the proper procedures required by law and without properly considering the more effective and less ethically problematic forms of adult and induced pluripotent stem cell research.

One of the expert stem cell researcher plaintiffs, Dr. James L. Sherley, a former MIT professor and scientist, explained that "the great irony of the guidelines is that research involving stem cells safely derived from human adults and other sources presents the same if not greater potential for medical breakthroughs, without any of the troubling legal and ethical issues related to embryonic stem- cell research."

He said clinical trials using adult stem cells have successfully reversed the effects of diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. David Stevens, the director of the Christian Medical Association also commented to previously on the case.

"We are opposed to this proposed illegal and unethical federal funding of destructive embryonic research that would compel every American to cooperate with such unlawful human experimentation," he said.

He said the Obama guidelines allow "the violation of our fundamental medical research ethic never to lethally experiment on one human being simply to benefit the interests of other human beings."

Co-counsel for the plaintiffs, Sam Casey, General Counsel of Advocates International's Law of Life Project, a public interest legal project specializing in cutting-edge bio-ethical issues, also weighed in on the case.

He pointed out how NIH officials have admitted they violated the public comment process by ignoring the majority of comments coming from pro-life advocates opposed to destroying unborn children for their stem cells.

"The majority of the almost 50,000 comments that the NIH received were opposed to funding this research, and by its own admission, NIH totally ignored these comments.

"The so-called spare human embryos being stored in IVF clinics around the United States are not 'in excess of need,' as the NIH in its guidelines callously assert. They are human beings in need of biological or adoptive parents," he said.

Dr. Theresa Deisher, the founder, managing member, and research and development director of AVM Biotechnology; Nightlight Christian Adoptions, a non-profit, licensed adoption agency dedicated to protecting and finding adoptive parents for human embryos conceived through in vitro fertilization, are also involved in the lawsuit.

The research has yet to help a single patient, unlike adult stem cell research -- which has helped patients with more than 100 diseases and medical conditions and which President Bush supported with hundreds of millions in federal funding.

The NIH rules say fertility clinics need only provide couples with the options available at that clinic, which likely do not include the possibility of adopting the human embryo to a couple wanting to allow the baby to grow to birth.

The guidelines also suggest that IVF doctors and human embryonic stem cell research scientists “should be” different people, but there is no requirement. That could result in the purposeful creation and destruction of human life rather than merely using "leftover" human embryos.

While the Obama-NIH guidelines prohibit NIH funds from funding cloning research they also re-state that the NIH can fund embryo-destructive research in spite of the Dickey-Wicker federal provision against funding research in which a human embryo is harmed.

The NIH guidelines also say the NIH plans to allow federal funding on embryonic stem cell lines created prior to July 7, 2009 even though some of those lines were created under circumstances that would not satisfy the new NIH requirements.

With the guidelines having been released, pro-life groups including the National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are worried Congress will adopt a bill that would overturn the Dickey-Wicker amendment.

Council of Federation back up ban on human cloning in Russia

Moscow, March 17, Interfax - The Council of Federation at its Wednesday session approved of the changes to acting law temporarily banning human cloning.

The law sets forth an order of using cloning technologies aimed at human cloning and introduces the ban on human cloning, importing to Russia and exporting cloned human embryos.

As was mentioned in the explanatory note to the document, the law regulates questions of protecting human rights and freedoms and enters into force in 70 days after its official publication.

On March 10, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament adopted legislative amendments prolonging the country's ban on human cloning.

Russia's five-year human cloning ban expired on June 23, 2007.

The Russian authorities plan to continue using a temporary ban on human cloning until they enact a federal law that would "regulate the application of human cloning technologies."

The aforementioned amendments, however, do not prohibit the cloning of organisms and cells, including human cells, for scientific purposes.

Health reform a hot topic in bioethics circles

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Bioethicists are often associated with exotic, scary-sounding scenarios such as human cloning, but it turns out they spend a lot of time weighing something far more familiar: Health-care reform.

Bioethicists make up a hodgepodge of doctors, nurses, legal scholars, philosophers, theologians and academics. Most hold advanced degrees and publish regularly.

Testing for ovarian cancerVermillion's Dr. Eric Fung discusses the first FDA-approved blood test to help determine if women's ovarian masses are cancerous before they have surgery.
They can be secular or religious and don't speak with one voice. But when it comes to the proposed health-care overhaul, many agree that extending coverage to the uninsured is essential.

"It's a fundamental ethical issue of the highest order," said Eric Meslin, director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics in Indianapolis. "This is why many of us went into bioethics in the first place -- because we were concerned about fairness and access and the role of medicine in caring for patients."

Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, agreed.

"We can't afford to wait. The access problems are ridiculous," he said. "That you have 50 million uninsured people is the worst kind of rationing."

Health care is a right, Caplan said, but not an open-ended one. Americans should agree that everyone won't get everything they want from an overhaul, he said. Lower-income people shouldn't expect to get extras such as private hospital rooms and breast implants covered by insurance, for example, but reform should provide a floor beneath which they can't sink.

"Morally, the issue should be what's a decent minimum?" he said.

Putting the onus on Americans to rein in unhealthful habits such as overeating and smoking instead of passing a package of new insurance regulations and coverage extensions would miss the mark, Caplan said, calling some critics' focus on personal responsibility "a complete red herring."

"The same Republicans who killed helmet laws, who fight for their right not to wear seatbelts, who want to disconnect the airbag are talking about personal responsibility?" he said. "It's complete ideological hooey."

Upside to higher costs?
Still, the overhaul may not have enough cost-containment provisions to work as planned, said Haavi Morreim, a bioethics professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.

"I've long thought we are not likely to get health reform that sticks until and unless we get a handle on costs," she said. "Our system is fundamentally inherently highly inflationary because it involves fee for service with third-party payment."

"If we simply open the doors under the current system to another several tens of millions, it is difficult to envision that anywhere in the near term we will have anything but a substantial escalation in how much we're spending," she said.

But that unintended outcome, should it happen, may have an upside, Morreim said. See related story on estimated cost savings under current health-care overhaul bills.

"If we do see costs rising very quickly, which we saw in creating Medicare and Medicaid, maybe that will finally be the trigger to get some of the kinds of changes in how we deliver and finance care that we've needed for along time."

Extending coverage and eliminating preexisting condition exclusions is critical for improving access to care and cutting down on the amount of uncompensated care that hospitals face, said Marie Hilliard, director of bioethics and public policy for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

"People are using Catholic ERs for their general practitioner," she said.

Chasm opens among Catholics
While she acknowledges "an obligation for a society to assure that all persons have access to affordable health care," Hilliard objects to various provisions such as the Senate bill's less-restrictive language on abortion funding and a requirement that everyone have coverage, known as the individual mandate.

ELCA Draws Up Social Statement on Stem Cells, Cloning

The statement, which will be considered by leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America next year, is intended to provide a framework for discussing such topics as stem cell research, cloning, and other advances of genetics.

"We recognize that contemporary power presents human beings with choices and responsibilities for which we are accountable to God," the draft statement reads. "What is the appropriate human role in God’s creation with regard to genetic knowledge and technology?"

The 63-page draft statement was drawn up by the ELCA Task Force on Genetics and is designed to assist the church and its members to "reach informed judgments on social issues from a perspective of faith." Though a theological and teaching document, the social statement is not intended to serve as "a list of specific decisions on particular genetic issues," Janet Williams, co-chair of the task force, told the denomination's news service.

The word "genetics" is never used in Scripture, the statement points out, but the task force notes that "God's word in Scripture illuminates the challenges and issues posed by genetic knowledge and its application."

The statement acknowledges both the promise and peril of the developments of genetic research. And it makes clear: "This church believes that the greatest danger in genetic developments lies in the sinful exercise of radically extended human power and not in any specific scientific or technological development per se."

On the issue of human cloning, the task force rejects the practice as "unacceptable experimentation."

"No individual should be brought into life for the sake of repeating another individual’s genotype," says the statement.

But it adds, "Should reproductive cloning progress, this church would honor the God-given dignity of cloned individuals and would welcome each to the baptismal font like any other child of God."

In regards to the contested issue of embryonic stem cell research, the ELCA panel says "embryo farming" is incompatible with the church's understanding of the value of life.

"The ELCA has maintained that 'human life in all its phases of development is God-given and, therefore, has intrinsic value, worth, and dignity,'" the statement reads. "This church’s respect for the 'value, worth, and dignity' of human embryonic life precludes the creation of embryos expressly for research purposes."

While supportive of finding alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells that do not involve the use of embryonic human life, the panel says the church "accepts the use of surplus frozen embryos that were created for infertility treatment but are no longer needed."

"Since they are unlikely to be implanted and will ultimately be discarded, it seems preferable that they be used in research that may be beneficial to millions of humans and future generations."

Other issues addressed in the social statement include agricultural biotechnology and genetic research on animals.

Though appreciative of the developments of genetic research and technology, the church places its trust "not in human achievements, but in the Triune God who creates, redeems and will finish making all things new," the statement reads.

ELCA social statements set policy for the church, guide its advocacy and aid its life as a public church. They are developed through an extensive process of deliberation involving the whole church and are adopted by a two-thirds majority of a churchwide assembly. The final text of the statement on genetics is scheduled to be presented at the next assembly in August 2011.

Stupak feels arrows from his own side

If there were two words Bart Stupak never expected to hear, those were the two. Shouted at him. In front of Congress. In front of the world.
"Baby killer."
Bart Stupak had been an Eagle Scout from the Upper Peninsula, a law school grad, a police officer, a small-town Democratic congressman with strong Christian ties and an intractable anti-abortion record who had voted to ban partial-birth abortions, to forbid human cloning and to stop embryonic stem cell research.
"Baby killer."
The person shouting this ugliness was a Texas Republican named Randy Neugebauer. His reason? Stupak had just announced he was supporting the health care bill, but only after President Barack Obama committed to an executive order barring any federal money from paying for abortions.
"Baby killer," Neugebauer yelled.
Forget, for a moment, your personal views on health care. Forget, for a moment, your political side. Imagine a life largely dedicated to discouraging abortion in any way, shape or form, then standing before Congress and being called that.
"Baby killer."
How does it feel?
A sad, sad series of voice mails
"It's a sad day for the Congress when we resort to that," Stupak, 58, told me this past week. "I mean, disagree with me if you will, but we don't need personal attacks. ...
"If we can't conduct ourselves any better on the House floor, how do you expect people in society to behave?"
Don't worry. People in society already are behaving worse. After Stupak's vote (one of 219 votes in favor; he was hardly alone) some of the voice mails left for him were stunning.
"You are one big piece of human (excrement)," said one. Another began, "Stupak, you lowlife baby-murdering scumbag pile of steaming crap. ... You ought to fill your pockets with lead and jump in the Potomac." And then there was this one: "You baby-killing (expletive). I hope you ... get cancer and die."
These death wishes, we assume, are from people who call themselves pro-lifers.
Now, remember. It's not as if Stupak suddenly turned pro-abortion. He is -- and always has been -- adamant on the subject. He was cosponsor of the amendment that insisted no federal money be spent on such procedures. He was vilified plenty from the other side for that.

Medvedev Extends Russian Ban On Human Cloning

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed into law a bill to extend a ban on human cloning, the Kremlin press service reported on Monday.

The bill was approved by the lower and upper houses of the Russian parliament on March 10 and 17, respectively.

It says that the ban on human cloning will continue in Russia until new legislation is adopted regulating the cloning process.

Human cloning has been a subject of debate since the 1960s. Although technology for human cloning remains incomplete, its advocates have already faced a number of legal, ethical and religious challenges.

Human cloning is formally permitted in the United States and Britain, which became the first country to legalize the cloning of human embryos for stem cell research in 2001.

Therapeutic cloning, which involves the production of stem cells from embryos, was permitted in the United States a few days after Barack Obama's inauguration as president. The law on this type of cloning requires embryos to be destroyed within 14 days. Obama, however, ruled out reproductive cloning, which he called "dangerous" and "profoundly wrong." It "has no place in our society or any society," he said.

Russia's moratorium on human cloning expired on June 23, 2007.

Should We Clone Neanderthals?

If Neanderthals ever walk the earth again, the primordial ooze from which they will rise is an emulsion of oil, water, and DNA capture beads engineered in the laboratory of 454 Life Sciences in Branford, Connecticut. Over the past 4 years those beads have been gathering tiny fragments of DNA from samples of dissolved organic materials, including pieces of Neanderthal bone. Genetic sequences have given paleoanthropologists a new line of evidence for testing ideas about the biology of our closest extinct relative.

The first studies of Neanderthal DNA focused on the genetic sequences of mitochondria, the microscopic organelles that convert food to energy within cells. In 2005, however, 454 began a collaborative project with the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, to sequence the full genetic code of a Neanderthal woman who died in Croatia's Vindija cave 30,000 years ago. As the Neanderthal genome is painstakingly sequenced, the archaeologists and biologists who study it will be faced with an opportunity that seemed like science fiction just 10 years ago. They will be able to look at the genetic blueprint of humankind's nearest relative and understand its biology as intimately as our own.

In addition to giving scientists the ability to answer questions about Neanderthals' relationship to our own species--did we interbreed, are we separate species, who was smarter--the Neanderthal genome may be useful in researching medical treatments. Newly developed techniques could make cloning Neanderthal cells or body parts a reality within a few years. The ability to use the genes of extinct hominins is going to force the field of paleoanthropology into some unfamiliar ethical territory. There are still technical obstacles, but soon it could be possible to use that long-extinct genome to safely create a healthy, living Neanderthal clone. Should it be done?

At the 454 Life Sciences offices, Gerald Irzyk, Jason Affourtit, and Thomas Jarvie explain the process they use to read the chemicals that made up Neanderthal DNA and the genes that determined a large part of their biology. DNA has a shape, called a double helix, that makes it look like a twisted ladder. Each rung on the ladder is called a base-pair. The rungs are made up of a pair of chemicals called nucleotides--adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine, which are usually referred to by their first initials. The sequence of the nucleotides in the DNA determines what genes an organism has and how they function.

Although most of the Neanderthal genome sequencing is now being done by the San Diego-based company Illumina, the Max Planck Institute initially chose 454 because it had come up with a way to read hundreds of thousands of DNA sequences at a time. Genome-sequencing technology is advancing at a rate comparable to computer processing power. "Six years ago if you wanted to sequence E. coli [a species of bacteria], which is about 4 million base-pairs in length, it would have taken one or maybe two million dollars, and it would have taken a year and 150 people," says Jarvie. "Nowadays, one person can do it in two days and it would cost a few hundred dollars."

Putting the fragments themselves in order can be a little tricky. "At first glance, it's just this completely random assemblage of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs," says Irzyk. "But it turns out there are patterns and motifs, and sometimes these are very specific to a group of organisms." For the Neanderthal sample, the human and chimpanzee genomes were used as references for checking the sequence.

Working with ancient DNA can be much more problematic than sequencing genetic material from living species. Within hours of death, cells begin to break down in a process called apoptosis. The dying cells release enzymes that chop up DNA into tiny pieces. In a human cell, this means that the entire three-billion-base-pair genome is reduced to fragments a few hundred base-pairs long or shorter. The DNA also goes through chemical changes that alter the nucleotides as it ages--C changes into T, and G turns into A--which can cause the gene sequence to be interpreted incorrectly. In the case of the Neanderthal sample, somewhere between 90 and 99 percent of the DNA came from bacteria and other contaminants that had found their way into the bone as it sat in the ground and in storage. The contaminant DNA has to be identified and eliminated. Given the similarity between Neanderthal and modern human DNA, this can be especially difficult when the contamination comes from the people who excavated or analyzed the bone.

South Dakota Senate Rejects Effort to Undermine Embryonic

South Dakota Senate Rejects Effort to Undermine Embryonic Stem Cell Ban

PIERRE, South Dakota, February 4, 2010 ( – The South Dakota Senate voted down a bill Tuesday that would have sabotaged the state’s ban on embryonic stem-cell research.

The Senate rejected S.B. 74 by a 21 - 12 margin, after the bill was substantially revised to permit South Dakotans to access embryonic stem cell treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The original bill intended to throw out South Dakota’s ban on embryonic stem cell research and treatments entirely and replace it with a set of “ethical guidelines” by which research and treatments could be carried out.

The proposed legal restrictions included a ban on human cloning, but defined “human cloning” mainly in reproductive terms, leaving some ambiguity over whether scientists could perform human cloning for therapeutic purposes.

The bill also forbade the purchase or sale of “human blastocysts or eggs for stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures,” prohibited the creation of human embryos “by fertilization” for the sole purpose of ESCR, and required documented written informed consent.

However, the penalties for violating the law were criticized for being exceptionally light, especially considering the millions of dollars researchers have at their disposal. The bill stated that violators of the law would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. In South Dakota, a Class 1 misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of “one year imprisonment in a county jail or two thousand dollars fine, or both.”

The original bill also erroneously defined “stem-cell research” to apply only to stem-cell research derived from human embryos, to the exclusion of adult stem-cells or stem-cells derived from umbilical cord blood. The latter two forms of stem-cell research are considered free of the ethical problems that dog ESCR, and unlike ESCR have delivered a host of scientifically proven therapies and cures.

But after enduring blistering testimony on the failure of ESCR to provide any practical results, especially in comparison to proven therapies that do not have ESCR’s ethical baggage, the Senate Health and Human services gutted the bill.

Bob Ellis, a writer for the conservative Dakota Voice explained that "the original bill had been a direct assault on the ban on ESCR. However, it became apparent from the damning scientific testimony before the Health and Human Services Committee against embryonic stem cell research and for adult stem cell research that the bill was about to go down in total flames."

"The prime sponsor Senator Ben Nesslhuff then offered to gut the bill and replace the outright attack on the ban with a much weaker measure which might serve as a 'foot in the door' to get the results of ESCR into the state,” he explained.

The amended bill instead read only that “nothing in this chapter prohibits the use of any Food and Drug Administration approved treatments derived from or involving human embryonic stem cells."

The committee then approved the bill 4-2 before handing it off to the South Dakota legislature where it was handily rejected.

The Associated Press reports that former state Treasurer David Volk of Sioux Falls had suspended a petition drive to put the state ban on the November ballot for public vote, while the legislature debated the issue. However, he may now revive those efforts.

But South Dakota appears likely to benefit from steering clear of ESCR, if the experience of the near-bankrupt State of California offers any lesson. Back in 2004, California’s government pumped $3 billion into research at California's Institute for Regenerative Medicine, seeking some medical use for stem cells harvested from human embryos, which are killed in the process.

However after years of fruitless work and facing the prospect of total failure, the Institute has now quietly diverted funds away from ESCR to adult stem cell research – which has already produced at least 73 documented therapies and cures for maladies ranging from spinal cord injury, to Alzheimer's, to Type I diabetes.

Guv adds embryonic stem-cell research to agenda

Gov. Bill Richardson has added embryonic stem cell research to an already-packed agenda for this year’s 30-day legislative session.

The governor’s message came down last week, and Richardson told lawmakers that he wanted legislation to permit “biomedical research on limited categories of human embryonic stem cells” while prohibiting human cloning.
Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, has introduced such legislation, but it hasn’t gone before a committee yet, judging by the Legislature’s bill locator and House committee schedules.

With little more than two weeks to go in the session, that would lead some to believe the bill’s chances aren’t great–especially in a 30-day session that’s supposed to be focused on the budget.

Mississippi Pro-Lifers File Lawsuit to Get Personhood Amendm

Washington, DC ( -- A Mississippi pro-life group has filed a lawsuit against state officials in order to be able to get a personhood amendment on the state ballot. Such an amendment would declare that unborn children are persons starting at conception and could overturn laws allowing abortion or human cloning.

Personhood Mississippi filed suit against Attorney General Jim Hood and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in their official capacities.

The group has been working since February of last year to collect signatures for a ballot access initiative that would put an amendment before state voters in 2011.

The amendment states: "The term 'person' or 'persons' shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof."

The lawsuit, which will be filed by attorney Stephen Crampton today, attempts to clarify the intent of the amendment and give volunteers the full twelve months to circulate petitions as outlined by statutes and the County Clerk the time needed to correctly validate the signatures.

"We are confident that we are well on our way to putting Personhood on the ballot," Personhood Mississippi sponsor Les Riley told today. "This lawsuit is simply to ensure that the valid signatures are recognized by the state. Our volunteers have worked hard to submit so many valid signatures, and we want to ensure that every voice is heard."

Riley said the need for a lawsuit arose when a large portion of valid signatures were wrongly discounted by some County Circuit Clerk's offices.

"I noticed that my father's signature was marked as invalid, yet he is a registered voter and his information was correct," amendment supporter Buddy Hariston told

"This prompted me to obtain my county's voter database, and I was shocked to see that about three out of every four discounted signatures were actually legitimate. It seems that the County Circuit Clerk's office has too short a timeframe to complete the verification process with precision," he added.

Personhood Mississippi has until February 12, 2010 to get 89,285 valid signatures.

But not every pro-life advocate is on board with the strategy and one attorney worries the entire effort will be struck down in courts.

Paul Linton, a prominent pro-life attorney, tells he doesn't think the amendment will ever get before Mississippi voters.

He explains that the under the express terms of the Mississippi Constitution, the Bill of Rights cannot be amended by the initiative mechanism.

"Thus, even if the necessary signatures are obtained by the February 12th deadline, which is doubtful, Measure 26 will never appear on the ballot," he says.

As such, Linton predicts that "even if the proponents of Measure 26 gather enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, it will be struck from the ballot by the Mississippi Supreme Court because the subject of the initiative lies outside the scope of the permitted uses of the initiative mechanism."

Linton says it 'would be exceptionally embarrassing to the pro-life movement in Mississippi to continue with the signature gathering process. What is the point in collecting signatures for an initiative that cannot ever appear on the ballot?"

The court may even strike down the amendment process under the lawsuit Personhood Mississippi filed, using Linton's logic.

"It could happen after the signatures have been gathered and before it is placed on the ballot. Or it could happen after it is voted on," he writes. "But one thing is certain–Initiative Measure No. 26 will never become part of the Mississippi Constitution. The Bill of Rights cannot be amended via the initiative process."