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    Human cloning is one huge step closer to reality today
    By Paul Knoepfler | May 16th 2013 01:52 PM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Paul

    Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy at UC Davis School of Medicine. Long-time stem cell and cancer scientist. Cancer survivor...

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    Yesterday a paper (“Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer” in Cell) came out that reported for the first time the production of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) by the method of early embryo cloning via somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).

    This approach, technically called "therapeutic cloning" means that in theory hESC could be made from any of us and be given back to us as a self or autologous transplant.

    Powerful stuff!

    However, this advance is also (despite the talking points being advanced by some of my colleagues to the contrary) a real big step toward the other kind of human cloning: reproductive cloning.

     See a nifty diagram here explaining the two kinds of cloning visually.

    This other kind of cloning is the type in Star Wars. But today human cloning seems to be getting closer to reality and less constrained just to sci-fi.

    Remarkably, while the US FDA has indicated that it has the regulatory authority to oversee human reproductive cloning (should it ever be possible), the process is not technically illegal in the US. So if someone cloned you or Einstein or Justin Bieber or Sheldon Cooper (if he were real), I do not believe they would be thrown in jail. The FDA would tell them to stop it, but wouldn't it be a little too late at that point?

    The paper that came out in Cell makes reproductive cloning a whole lot more likely. While the lead author has stated that cloning monkeys hasn't worked out, it is possible that it may work in humans and the "monkey wrenches" in monkey cloning will certainly be resolved as well.

    On the positive side, the clinical potential of therapeutic cloning is a big deal and exciting. And to be clear I support the work reported in the paper, but let's just be clear and honest that this finding does bear on human reproductive cloning too.


    Thank you for your honesty.  Obviously their monkey-argument against reproduction draws support mainly from fear about repercussions on future funding.

    Did they introduce also the spindle of the somatic cell rather than only the somatic nucleus? I am unsure now - some reports tell that the whole somatic cell was introduced and that this was vital ("All oocytes survived spindle removal and successfully fused with nuclear donor cells.") but the paper also tells us that the somatic spindle grew if just the egg's spindle was removed in the presence of caffeine (so the somatic spindle grew later and was not also introduced?). Apparently two different experiments - if the one with the fusion (i.e. somatic spindle) is the vital one, your nifty diagram may be wrong.

    Seems to me to be further evidence for the importance of microtubules (here via the spindle apparatus) either way. What do you think?