- (Photo: AP Photo / Paul Sancya, File)
The National Right to Life Committee responded to news of a milestone breakthrough in human cloning by speaking out against the killing of human embryos for medical science.
"These researchers created many human embryos, male and female, and allowed them to grow for up to seven days, for the sole purpose of killing them and harvesting their stem cells," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.
"We will certainly continue to oppose attempts in Congress to provide federal funds to create human embryos for the purpose of harvesting their cells – which is a step towards human embryo farms."
On Tuesday, the online journal Cell posted a paper in which scientists at Oregon Health & Science University say they marked a "significant step" for medicine by using cloned embryos as a source for stem cells, which can be used to make heart muscle, bone and brain tissue.
A number of Christian denominations oppose the use and destruction of embryonic cells in science, arguing that it is sacrificing potential human life for the benefit of others. Many scientists, on the other hand, see cloned embryos as the way forward for many people in need of new organs to survive.
"A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells," explained Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov of the Oregon University, according to BBC News.
"While there is much work to be done in developing safe and effective stem cell treatments, we believe this is a significant step forward in developing the cells that could be used in regenerative medicine."
Dr. David King, the founder and Director of Human Genetics Alert, a British watchdog group on genetics issues, warned:
"Scientists have finally delivered the baby that would-be human cloners have been waiting for: a method for reliably creating cloned human embryos.
"This makes it imperative that we create an international legal ban on human cloning before any more research like this takes place. It is irresponsible in the extreme to have published this research."
NRLC reminded readers that current U.S. federal law prohibits the use of federal funds in researching human embryos, but bills to legalize the use of money for such purposes have been put up for consideration.
In a March 2009 letter to Congress, the NRLC warned that pro-cloning organizations are going to keep trying to draw federal funding for such research.
"The backers of the legislation will seek to rhetorically minimize the significance of the changes they are making, even as they seek your support for legislation that would greatly accelerate movement down the ethical slippery slope of exploitation of non-consenting members of the species Homo sapiens," the pro-life group warned.
Although federal law currently prohibits federal financing into research that destroys embryos, the New York Times noted that the Obama administration allows for federal support of embryos that have already been destroyed and were derived with private or state money.