Scientific American Magazine Stem Cell Panel Highlights Divisions Over Cloning Underlying Debate On Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Published: Oct 01, 2004

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- A vigorous debate yesterday among leading research and policy players presented by Scientific American magazine highlighted the connection between the controversies over stem cell research and human cloning.

Therapeutic cloning can be used to create new embryonic stem cells, undifferentiated cells that hold the promise for therapies ranging from organ regeneration to Alzheimer's.

Critics of embryonic stem cell research argue that the work is unethical if it involves destroying human embryos. They object to envisioned therapies that might employ "therapeutic cloning" to create embryos solely for the purpose of obtaining stem cells. Advocates of the research argue that the ethical status of the 4-day-old embryos from which stem cells are taken is open to debate, and that developing treatments for serious ailments is an ethical priority. They also point out that many unused embryos are already destroyed annually in fertilization clinics.

"What we see. . .are people that are pro-life and pro-choice on both sides of this debate," said panelist David A. Prentice, Ph.D., Senior Fellow for Life Sciences, Center for Human Life and Bioethics, Family Research Council and an embryonic stem cell research opponent.

On the Scientific American panel, policy makers asserted support for differing proposals to ban cloning. U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), is a sponsor of S.245, a bill to prohibit all forms of human cloning. Opponents of his bill say that its ban on therapeutic cloning would stifle research. U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), meanwhile, is a co-sponsor of S.303, which would prohibit human "reproductive cloning" for making new cloned individuals but would protect therapeutic cloning.

On Thursday's panel, Durbin called for a "Federal standard, backed up with federal laws banning human cloning" that would draw research parameters while allowing research to be shared "in an ethical and scientific way with the rest of the world."

"I believe in therapeutic cloning. I'm opposed to human reproductive cloning," said California State Senator Deborah Ortiz. Ortiz played a key role in drafting Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative on the November 2 statewide ballot that would authorize $3 billion in bonds to support stem cell research.

In a heated exchange, William B. Hurlbut, M.D. of The Program in Human Biology at Stanford University, who opposes some of the methods of embryonic stem cell research, questioned whether the Prop. 71 Initiative would end up funding the creation of human embryos to be used for research purposes.

Hurlbut and Prentice asserted that new alternatives were just around the corner that would create embryonic stem cells without creating or harming an embryo.

John Rennie, Editor in Chief of Scientific American, moderated the discussion at the Willard InterContinental Hotel. Titled "Stem Cells: The Best Way Forward," the event was hosted by Gretchen Teichgraeber, President and CEO, Scientific American Inc.

Also on the Scientific American panel were Robert Lanza, M.D., Vice President of Medical & Scientific Development, Advanced Cell Technology, Inc., a pioneer in stem cell research and regenerative medicine; and Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation's medical research agency.

Scientific American, America's first science and technology magazine, is distinct among the nation's publications for its far-reaching coverage of innovation and scientific discovery. Editorial contributors have included over 100 Nobel laureates, including Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Francis Crick, Linus Pauling and others.

Scientific American Magazine

CONTACT: Elizabeth Ames of BOLDE Communications & Public Relations,+1-212-727-1680,, for Scientific American Magazine

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