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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog

We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.

 

San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, January 18, 2008 --Scientists at a California company reported Thursday that they have 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 La Jolla 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.

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 Wood, chief executive of Stemagen, whose skin cells were cloned and who led the study with Andrew French, the firm's 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."

"All our efforts are being directed toward personalized medicine and diseases," said Wood, adding that the scientists did not try to extract stem cells from the first embryos they made because they were focused on proving they could make the clones.

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