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Human Reproductive Cloning v. Cloning of Human Cells


April 5, 2001

TO: Editors and reporters covering biotechnology

FROM: Dan Eramian, Vice President Communications RE: Cloning

The issue of cloning is back in the news and a subject for debate in Congress. The following background paper highlights BIO’s perspective on the difference between using cloning technology to theoretically clone a human being and the beneficial uses of cloning technology in medicine and agriculture.

Human Reproductive Cloning v. Cloning of Human Cells

BIO has opposed human reproductive cloning – using cloning technology to create a human being. It is too dangerous technically and raises far too many ethical and social questions. Reproductive cloning would involve taking the nucleus of a somatic cell (a non-germ line cell; a cell other than the egg or sperm) of an existing or previously existing person and inserting it into an oocyte (the egg) from which the nucleus has been removed. This product is then implanted into a woman’s uterus. In theory, this would lead to the development of a human being after a gestation period.

But using cloning technology to clone human cells does not create a new human being. It simply means creating genetic copies of individual cells. These are not cells or products that could ever develop into a human being, even if implanted in a uterus.

Cloning of human cells has numerous applications in medical research that may lead to cures and treatments for diseases and disabilities such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, various types of cancer, heart disease, and spinal cord injury. Three examples of how cloning of human cells can improve the lives of millions of citizens are: regenerative medicine; predictive toxicology; and agriculture:

Regenerative medicine – This technology holds the potential to cause an individual's currently malfunctioning cells to begin to function properly again or even to replace dead or irreparably damaged cells with fresh healthy ones, thereby restoring organ function. Cloning technology is used to create pure populations of functional new cells that can replace damaged cells in the body. Thus far, these human replacement cells appear to function normally in vitro, raising the possibility for their application in the treatment of devastating chronic diseases affecting these tissue types. This would, for instance, allow patients with heart disease to receive new heart muscle cells that would improve cardiac function. Treatments of other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and Parkinson's disease are also possible.

Predictive Toxicology – Cloning of cells is also used as a research tool to facilitate the safe development of new drugs. The use of normal, cloned human liver cells to test new drugs under development for certain toxic metabolites, for example, would reduce the danger of human clinical trials by eliminating such compounds before human testing. This process could streamline and make safer the drug development process, thereby reducing by several years drug development time, bringing drugs to patients sooner and with greater safety, and reduce the reliance upon animal testing.

Agriculture – Cloning is used for applications in agriculture.These include producing animals with desirable qualities such as disease resistance, longevity, or improved traits. Animals can also be cloned to produce proteins for human therapeutic use such as human antibodies, allowing for large-scale production of human vaccines.