Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Vatican's View on CLONING

Vatican Official Urges Halt to Cloning TechniqueBishop Sgreccia Responds to Reports From England and Korea VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2005 ( Reports of "therapeutic" cloning of embryos in England and South Korea highlight the need for international organizations and political authorities to halt this practice, says a Vatican official.Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, sounded that warning Saturday on Vatican Radio.Echoing a report in The Times newspaper the day before, Vatican Radio explained that a team at Newcastle University, headed by Alison Murdoch and Miodrag Stojkovic, created three blastocysts, namely, the clones of human embryos in the first stage.Last year, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority of Great Britain authorized the university's team to work on "therapeutic" cloning.The British scientists worked on 36 ovules donated by 11 women who underwent treatment for in vitro fertilization. The nucleus of each ovule was replaced by a skin stem cell. The ovules were then subjected to an electric discharge to initiate the growth process."Custom-made"From 10 ovules, the researchers were able to create three blastocysts. The attempt to extract stem cells had not yet been successful as clones had not lived for more than five days. According to the researchers, the experiment was carried out to prove that ovules taken from women who have undergone treatment for in vitro fertilization are adequate to produce clones.The news from Newcastle paralleled that of another research group of the University of Seoul and the University of Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, directed by Woo Suk Hwang.The research was published online on "Science-Express." Adult skin stem cells were extracted from 11 individuals -- men and women -- affected by various illnesses. Eleven human embryos were obtained from this.At the blastocyst stage, the embryos were then destroyed to obtain "custom-made" stem cells. The objective is to transplant them to the 11 patients, theoretically to replace their sick cells, such as in the case of diabetes, reported the Italian episcopate's newspaper Avvenire.Compared to a previous experiment, in this test the technique continues to be "the nuclear transference of somatic cells." The 11 stem groups were obtained from transferring the genetic material of the patients' skin cells into the ovules of the donor women. The ovules are deprived of their original nucleus.The novelty this time is that, having obtained the human embryos, once their cells were extracted, the embryos were destroyed, noted Avvenire.5 days of lifeThe newspaper continued: "The procedure of cloning by transfer of the nucleus of a somatic cell into a little ovule deprived of its own nucleus is identical to that which could lead to the birth of a child if the embryo were transferred to the uterus of a woman capable of carrying the pregnancy to its term."Instead, the embryo generated by nuclear cloning is cultivated only up to 5 days of life. ... On this point, the one conceived artificially -- similar in everything to an embryo originated by fertilization, as studies on animals show -- is destroyed to extract a number of cells from its interior -- embryonic stem cells."Without these cells the embryo "cannot live and develop," the Italian newspaper said.For his part, Bishop Sgreccia observed: "What they have done is something that the U.N. declared illicit some time ago and with great firmness. … Sadly it is only a declaration of principle."Commenting on the cloning of human embryos in Great Britain and Korea, the prelate added: "It seems that from the scientific point of view it is but the repetition and multiplication of a type of cloning carried out on man, to which flippancy and indifference are added.""I read a headline that stated: 'Is It a Hope or an Exaggeration?'" he said. "There are those who say that financial incentives underpin it all. The laboratories that make the greatest impact probably attract more funding for research."ManipulationThe Vatican official emphasized that "from the moral point of view, we well know that so-called therapeutic cloning by nucleus transfer is but a procedure -- the most artificial one imaginable -- to give life to a human being without roots even in the paternal and maternal gametes."It is "agamic and asexual fertilization, 'driven' only by the pride of reproducing a being in order to manipulate it, because afterward it is killed and eliminated," he said."Therefore, there is not only the transgression of reproducing artificially, but also the suppression and manipulation, perhaps even the commercialization, of the product," noted Bishop Sgreccia."It must be emphasized that here we see transgressed the meaning of the rights of man," he said. "Hence, an ever more robust awareness is needed, on the part of both international organizations as well as political authorities, to put an end to this, which is a bad sign of moral decay in the scientific terrain" and thus "also offends science." ZE05052420