S. Congress that the prospects of stem cell research were so vast that it could touch all the realm of medicine (Connor 2000). An unlimited source of embryonic stem cells will solve the problem of shortage of transplants. Embryonic stem cells will save lives by curing generative diseases of the brain, hepatitis, diabetes, leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis and diseases of the heart and kidneys. But current laws restrict the use of stems cells on embryos less than 14 days old and for correcting fertility, reproduction or congenital disorders. The restriction is grounded in the belief that the embryo is a potential human being from the moment of conception. It thus possesses a soul and a dignity just like any other viable person (Connor). Previous scientific research presented evidence that genetically engineering cells could partly repair a defective immune system (Travis 2002). Two new studies bolstered this initial finding and revealed that therapeutic cloning could provide new, healthy and genetically matched cells, tissues and organs. A national advisory panel favored therapeutic cloning but rejected creating babies. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana introduced a bill to ban the cloning of human embryos to produce babies or tissues for transplantation. The House of Representatives had already passed a similar bill of this kind and President George W. Bush supported the legislation. The bill introduced by Senators Brownback and Landrieu thus outlawed human therapeutic cloning (Travis).
Therapeutic cloning involves taking a healthy cell from a patient needing a transplant, extracting the nucleus from the cell and swapping it with that an un-fertilized egg (Connor 2000). Through the use of the same cloning technology, which created Dolly the sheep, the un-fertilized egg could be stimulated to develop into an embryo with this implanted nucleus. At this stage, the embryo would consist of a solid, microscopic ball of undifferentiated cells. After many cell divisions, the embryo would become a blastocyst. The embryonic stem cells could be extracted at this stage from the "inner cell mass." From the 14th day, this inner cell mass would develop into what is termed as "primitive streak," a stage wherein the embryo proper could be identified. What science still has to know is whether an early embryo could be generated by fusing an un-fertilized human egg with a cell nucleus. Animal experiments have suggested the possibility. However, many practical obstacles have remained, such as the huge number of eggs necessary to create a single animal clone (Connor).
Promised benefits appeared to far outweigh the fears and prejudices surrounding therapeutic cloning (Connor 2000). Animal studies have shown how effective stems cells incorporate themselves into complex organs like the heart and brain and repair damaged tissues. Chief medical officer Liam Donaldson's report recommended the continued use of therapeutic cloning. But it declared the transplant of human clone into the womb as strictly illegal. The government delayed the announcement of its official position on the issue in consideration of the various ethical positions and oppositions from various sectors. Critics adhered to pro-life arguments on the sanctity of human life, which begins from the moment of conception. Therapeutic cloning would thus constitute murder. On the other hand, the paralytic, the stroke patient, victims of multiple sclerosis and the cripple with rheumatoid arthritis insisted that they had the right to use their own cells for their benefit (Connor).
Some scientists maintained that this research would simply proceed in countries with less prohibitive government policies and prejudices (Connor 2000). The Wall Street Journal reported on investigators in China, who cloned human embryos in order to extract stem cells. Therapeutic cloning theoretically offers laboratory-grown replacement cells, which the body's immune system would not reject. A person with diabetes, for example, could receive insulin-secreting cells cloned from her own body. These would be genetically identical to the rest of the body's cells and, therefore, would not be rejected. Moreover, the transfer would not need the intervention of immune-suppressing drugs (Connor).
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