Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Controversy about Michigan website on stem cell research

Right-to-Life person Barbara Listing states: "The Michigan Citizen for Stem Cell Research and Cures’ web site exposes them as a misleading advocacy organization which is so uninformed of current events they weren't aware the South Korean cloning experiments were fraudulent."

You can evaluate this assertion by looking at the website,

The Michigan website contains the following text:

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a laboratory procedure that creates embryos for use in stem cell research; sometimes referred to as “therapeutic cloning.” In SCNT, nuclear transfer is used for medical treatment or research. For example, nuclear transfer could be used to create a line of embryonic stem cells genetically identical to the donor. These embryonic stem cells could then be used to generate specialized cells that are transplanted into the patient to replace cells lost to injury or disease. When used in a medical treatment, this would ensure that the new cells would not face rejection by the patient's immune system. Nuclear transfer also gives researchers the ability to create stem cell lines that carry genetic defects that cause inherited human diseases, allowing them to study the origin of these diseases and potentially to develop new treatments.
[IPBiz notes: Hwang Woo Suk claimed to use SCNT on human cells to create human stem cell lines. This never happened. The only remaining claim for human SCNT (which did not create stem cell lines) is that of Newcastle from 2005, and Newcastle has published no further work on this claim. Various people may wish to debate the "could be used" language of the Michigan website.]

SCNT substitutes the nucleus of a somatic cell (which contains all the genetic information of the patient) for the nucleus of a donated egg that has not been fertilized. In cell culture, this customized egg is then coaxed with an electronic or chemical catalyst to develop into a zygote as if it had been fertilized. The zygote begins cell division and develops into a ball of cells called the morula and then into the blastocyst at approximately five days. The inner cell mass of the blastocyst is then removed to generate a pluripotent stem cell line. After the inner cell mass is removed, the blastocyst is no longer capable of further development. [IPBiz note: of course, no has created a stem cell line via human SCNT, so that this paragraph is hypothetical.]

The SCNT methodology is still in its infancy. Researchers hypothesize that when the genetic information from the cells of a patient is used, the pluripotent stem cells will be able to make customized tissue that will not be rejected by the patient. SCNT researchers contend that the knowledge gained about developmental biology via the SCNT methodology will allow future researchers to create individualized pluripotent stem cell lines without needing fertilized eggs as sources.


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