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Special Feature: Participate in our stem cell cloning discussion

The deadline for contributing your comments on how to shape our next feature on stem cell research is fast approaching, we need to hear from you by May 1st

By | March 27, 2007

Deriving a stem cell line from a cloned human embryo still represents one of the most formidable scientific barriers in biology. Challenged with deep ethical questions, misled by high-profile research fraud, and obfuscated in the eyes of the public, it's fair to say that in the race to overcome this hurdle no one's close to being at the starting blocks. At a recent high-level meeting on reproduction, several experts in the stem cell field said it is time we rethought our approach to cloning. But for a challenge of this scale, success requires input from a broad section of the scientific community and the public at large. This is where you can help. In the June issue of The Scientist, we will be publishing a special feature that re-casts the scientific approach and public image for the process that has become known under several guises, including "stem cell cloning" "somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)," "research cloning," or "therapeutic cloning." Taking a page from groundbreaking social media experiments like Wikipedia and OhMyNews, we want to hear your thoughts on the questions we pose below, any questions you have, and your ideas for what you think should appear in this feature. Post them as comments to this page or Email your thoughts to experiment@the-scientist.com. Also, take part in the opinion polls that we will be running on The Scientist Web site over the next few weeks. We'll be inviting leading experts in the field to provide their thoughts, and we'll be regularly updating this page with their answers. We especially welcome novel ideas from scientists outside of the fields generally associated with this kind of work. And for a topic of this weight and importance, feedback from the public is critical. Everyone is invited to share in sculpting the discussion. Here are three questions that we hope will get the conversation started. Please join in the discussions, offer your thoughts, and add questions of your own here. Is the nuclear transfer challenge one of understanding or technique? It would seem that the scientific community presumes successful stem cell cloning is a matter of resources and technical skill. Put enough technicians on a problem and eventually it will be overcome. This isn't the way we normally perceive scientific challenges and there seem to be too many gaps in our understanding to proceed this way. How might we approach the situation as a scientific, rather than a technical, challenge and who has ideas for new approaches? Click here and let us know your thoughts. Is it time to reevaluate the ethics of stem cell cloning? The ethical quandaries about reproductive cloning have evolved from discussions that took groups like the Raelians seriously. Nevertheless, the idea that cloning for reproductive purposes might at some point be possible warrants discussion, and the debate about the status of an embryo is not something to take lightly. Moreover, the rights of egg donors need to be considered. What are the most pressing ethical concerns about proceeding with a nuclear transfer research program and who has novel ideas on how to address them? Click here and let us know your thoughts. Does stem cell cloning need new terminology? The terminology for stem cell cloning has become so obtuse that it strains public understanding and may also obscure the best scientific approaches. The avoidance or attenuation of the word cloning has left us with names that describe a technique, not the study of a phenomena that includes such fascinating biological puzzles as nuclear programming, development, and pluripotency. Is there a better name for this type of research program? Click here and let us know your thoughts. We hope the questions above spark discussions and debate here, on other Web sites, and in labs and universities around the world. That's enough from us for now, over to you. By The editors of The Scientist mail@the-scientist.com
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Comments

Avatar of: Esther Alexander

Esther Alexander

Posts: 1

April 27, 2007

It is not a matter of technical skill and resources these will always be available but the border line is misusing the right thus leading to a lot of complications and in turn handicapping the growth of this field. Work on the available resources and get the maximum out of it.\n\nI feel the ethical concerns should not be shoved off as it arises only when considering the embryonic stem cells. If abortion is an ethical issue so would reproductive cloning. Even if eggs were to be donated there is always a limit as to how much. Most of the scientific community are in demand for resource and results and tend to overlook the rights of egg donors.The advancement of this technolgy is of great therapeutic importance but there must be other methods of solving the problem. Why not work on what you already have and tackle the difficulties of the present adult stem cells. Why not put more into cordal stem cells and amniotic fluid stem cells, these would have a lesser ethical concern. \n\n"stem cell cloning" now that term isn't appropriate when looking at embryonic point of view. Whatever said and done even a change in name will not change the source of the stem cell and as long as it revolves around an embryo there will always be ethical issues to block the progress. \n\nSo instead look for other means, develop what you have and tackle the present problems \n\nThank you.

April 28, 2007

We need morality, ethical rules are made to control society and are unnecessary if society forbids actions that harm other persons. A living molecule is not intrinsically different from whatever other molecule, and in principle it may be syntesized with a chemical reaction.
Avatar of: Alexander Swärd

Alexander Swärd

Posts: 1

October 3, 2007

Most definitely.\nThe majority considers stem cell cloning to be unethical, because the cells need to be gathered from a "person" somewhere.\nThis leads us to the discussion about what is and what isn't to be considered human, and the "value" of human life. The problems lies not with whether or not we have the technology to gather stem cells without having to kill a fetus, but with human nature and its double standards. We need to realize that we're all the same, and that stem cell research is the gateway to prevent many unneccessary illnesses and ailments.\n"Modern science will save the world, or kill us all" is a common quote amongst doubters. \n\nThe way I see it, I'd prefer furthering research to improve the life of future generations, instead of greedily reproducing for no reason at all.\nA harvested fetus is a small price to pay for the cure to many "uncurable" illnesses.\nAfter all, the world is overpopulated and because of this the life quality for each person degrades over time (I don't want to go economical anmd political here, so I'll leave that to the numbercrunchers) \n\nI'm apologize in advance for any misspellings, English isn't my first language.
Avatar of: kaikade pankaj

kaikade pankaj

Posts: 1

October 22, 2007

Sir can i do a project on stem cells which can be curable to heart or may be act as heart in place of it
Avatar of: Nick Henriquez

Nick Henriquez

Posts: 1

November 20, 2007

There is no scientific evidence that there is anything for which no adequate adult stem cell exists.\n\nThere is plenty of evidence that NT "cloning" causes all sorts of problems when maturing into tissues.\n\nIgnoring the problems in obtaining the necessary starting material, i.e. eggs, there are many hurdles in understanding as well as technique and many more potential ethical hurdles on top of those in using NT transfer/cloning.\n\nWhy bother?
Avatar of: BRIAN SMITH

BRIAN SMITH

Posts: 1

March 13, 2009

I believe the term 'embryo' is incorrectly applied to this discussion. The correct terms are \n 'Zygote stem cell' or 'Blastula stem cell'. \nThe term 'embryo' describes the cell mass from implantation in the womb to the 8th week, \nafter the 8th week it is called a fetus. The opposition uses the term 'embryo' for increased \nemotional appeal for their position. From my superficial observation, the scientific community \n has allowed the opposition to frame the discussion in this unfavorable light.

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