Thursday, September 21, 2006

What Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is and what it isn't

From my experience, proponents of human cloning for research (also referred to as "therapeutic cloning") are often not 100% accurate in describing what somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is. SCNT is, as the President's Council on Bioethics says, "the technique by which cloning is accomplished."

Many groups, such as the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures (MCSCRC), try to assert that somatic cell nuclear transfer (which they often falsely equate with therapeutic cloning) does something like: "creates a line of stem cells genetically identical to the originating cell for use in research" or something similar.

But somatic cell nuclear transfer does no such thing. Somatic cell nuclear transfer is the technical name for a cloning procedure used to created a cloned embryo. It's true that stem cells would be inside the embryo but somatic cell nuclear transfer doesn't create a stem cell line anymore than shooting a deer creates a venison steak. Instead of just admitting that SCNT is cloning (regardless of the intent of the researchers), proponents of human cloning for research try to put the intent of the researchers on a procedure which has no such intent.

Yet look at this definition at MCSCRC's web page which describes SCNT:
"Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a laboratory procedure that creates embryos for use in stem cell research; sometimes referred to as "therapeutic cloning." In SCNT, nuclear transfer is used for medical treatment or research. For example, nuclear transfer could be used to create a line of embryonic stem cells genetically identical to the donor."

Now look at how they put a goal on SCNT that doesn't really exist. The goal of SCNT isn't to create embryos for use in stem cell research. The goal is to create embryos. Period. The goal of the scientist doing SCNT might be to eventually create stem cell lines from the cloned embryo but after the embryo is cloned, there is no more SCNT. SCNT doesn't create stem cell lines and isn't necessarily designed for stem cell research. This becomes evident if you ask a proponent of human cloning for research which technique rogue scientists would use to create cloned human embryos to implant in the womb of a woman or if you ask what technique cloned Dolly the sheep.

Further deception can be seen when the MCSCRC tries to answer:Can SCNT be used to clones humans?

They answer:
No. The purpose of SCNT is to find cures and therapies to treat human disease. SCNT awakens the natural capacity for self-repair that resides in a person's genes. While SCNT has been the technique used to clone animals like "Dolly" the sheep, there is no evidence that it could also successfully clone a human due to the increased complexity of the human organism.

I need a shovel to remove all this horse manure. Again the purpose of SCNT isn't to treat disease, it's to create cloned embryos and proponents of human cloning for research hope to create cloned humans at the embryonic stage of development. SCNT doesn't "awaken the natural capacity for self-repair" (kind of reminds me of the disingenuous talking points of William Neaves), it creates a cloned human embryo. Scientists might hope to create a stem cell from this cloned human embryo by removing the stem cells and killing the embryo but there is nothing "natural" about this procedure.

The last sentence is probably one of the most hilarious sentences I've ever read. They admit that SCNT can be used to create animals which eventually get born (odd considering the "purpose of SCNT is to find cures," huh?) yet say it couldn't create a human organism even though that is the exact thing they're hoping to do (even though they probably wouldn't admit that a cloned human embryo is an organism). It's true there is no evidence SCNT will be able to create a human embryo (Woo-suk Hwang failed with more 2,000 human eggs from 129 women ) but then that also proves there is no evidence that SCNT could be used with the hope of finding cures. That sword cuts both ways.

Somatic cell nuclear transfer is a technique to clone organisms. It is not a technique to create stem cells and it's purpose isn't to cure people.

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