A Stem Cell "Makeover"

We asked readers and experts in the field whether terminology in nuclear transfer and stem cell research needed to be updated. We found a range of opinions. Here are some selections from comments posted to our website:

"What is wrong with the current terminology other than it makes people uncomfortable? The terminology is accurate. Keep it. If we change it to suit political winds then science is surely corrupted." -Rebecca Taylor

"Unfortunately, any technical substitute for "therapeutic cloning" such as "somatic nuclear transfer" is likely to be tuned out by the public and not widely used in the popular media. If there is a more media and public friendly term than cloning, I am not sure what...

"I think therapeutic/research cloning is apt; also, the laypeople won't get confused." -Patrick Foong

"I would use the term "nuclear reprogramming" and abolish the word "cloning" from this area of research. Leave it for cell biology and molecular biology." -Evan Snyder

"To call cloning cell nuclear transfer instead has not improved levels of acceptance. However, the differentiation of cloning into research and reproductive cloning (if I recall correctly in the late 90's) was very powerful. " -"UK life"

"Products of nuclear transfer are genetically unique (e.g., they contain a unique combination of nuclear and mitochondrial genes) and therefore are not clones, and they are only created to produce stem cell lines rather being used for reproductive purposes. Clearly, what we need to do is continue to inform the public about what stem cell research and nuclear transfer is all about." -Leonard Zon, Thorsten Schlaeger, and Heather Rooke

"The move away from the term "cloning" is correct but SCNT is the wrong name. Addressing the nomenclature is a key issue. People think of cloning and think of creating another person and there's no debate about that." -Deepak Srivastava

"Those of us old enough remember Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging which was renamed MRI, dropping the Nuclear, because of public perceptions. Similarly, "Totipotent Progenitor Cells" derived from nuclear transplantation, fusion with "ES" cells (now called Totipotent Progenitor Cells) or by specific gene transfer, will be more acceptable to the general public." -Richard Gronostajski

"Considering how many names there are for the usual method of creating embryos, what's wrong with having a few names for this method too? I do think some of them should be more sporty and mysterious, like, "shoosting", or "crunking" or something." -John Howard

"I definitely think that finding new words to describe what has been called 'stem cell research' is wise because I believe that term has way too much emotional baggage associated with it for some people." -Kent H. Blacklidge

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?