U.S. Company Says It Cloned Human Embryo for Cells

Denies That Life Is Involved

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WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 25, 2001 (Zenit.org).- A U.S. company said it had cloned a human embryo in order to mine it for stem cells, which in turn would be used to treat disease.

The company also explicitly denied that the embryo was a human life — despite long scientific evidence to the contrary.

It is the first time anyone has reported successfully cloning a human embryo, and biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology Inc., based in Worcester, Massachusetts, said it hopes the experiment will lead to tailored treatments for diseases ranging from Parkinson´s to juvenile diabetes, Reuters reported.

«Our intention is not to create cloned human beings, but rather to make lifesaving therapies for a wide range of human disease conditions,´´ Dr. Robert Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific development at ACT, said in a statement.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last summer to prohibit all forms of human cloning, a decision hailed by a Vatican aide. The Senate is now considering similar legislation.

In an August interview, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, talked about a related topic: stem cell research involving human embryos.

«In recent times,» he told Vatican Radio, «research has made it clear that in order to use ´mother´ or stem cells, it is neither necessary nor opportune to produce embryos. In fact, stem cells found in adults are valid and safer than those taken from embryos.»

Therefore, he explained, «the pseudoscientific reason that justified the use of frozen or cloned embryos to extract stem cells has collapsed.»

He added: «All this demonstrates that ethical reasons, namely, that the human being can never be used as an instrument, or as medication, or produced for this end through cloning, always end by helping science, because where the ethical truth is found, the scientific truth is also found.»

In the United States, the ACT announcement drew immediate criticism from those fearing the step would lead to human cloning.

Federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer money for the cloning of human beings but ACT is a privately funded company and can do as it pleases.

ACT Vice President Joe Cibelli, who led the research, said his team had used classic cloning technology using a human egg and a human skin cell. They scraped the DNA out of the egg cell and replaced it with DNA from the nucleus of the adult cell.

The company did not say whether it had successfully removed embryonic stem cells from the cloned embryo.

President George W. Bush decided earlier this year that federal funds could be used for research on embryonic stem cells, but only on those that had been created before August, found at 11 different academic and private laboratories.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he did not yet quite understand what ACT had done. «But it´s disconcerting, frankly,´´ Daschle said on Fox News. «I think it´s going in the wrong direction.´´

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