The ACT EAB has been kept fully informed of the research to be reported in the July edition of Nature Biotechnology on the generation of immunologically compatible tissues using nuclear transplantation. We believe that this research represents an important milestone in demonstrating the feasibility of new therapies of tissue and organ repair that could benefit millions of people.
We wish to emphasize that this research, which was done under the supervision and ethical review of a separate Animal Care and Use Committee, differs in one important respect from the kind of human therapeutic cloning research undertaken by ACT and approved by the EAB. It uses cloned bovine fetuses of 5-6 weeks' gestational age. The ethical rules for humans and livestock animals are different. While the reported research is appropriate in animal studies, it should never be done in human beings. Strict guidelines established by the EAB in conformity with international standards for human embryo research prohibit the culturing of any human embryo in vitro for more than 14 days of development and prohibit any attempt to implant an embryo resulting from nuclear transplantation into a uterus. The longer period of development allowed in the bovine experiments was needed because bovine embryonic stem (ES) cells capable of differentiating into specified tissue have not yet been isolated. However, human and primate ES cells taken from blastocysts have been successfully differentiated in vitro into derivatives of all cell types.
The members of the ACT EAB support legislation proposed by Senators Specter, Feinstein, Hatch, Kennedy, Harkin and other co-sponsors (S. 2439) that would permit human therapeutic cloning research within strict guidelines but that would effectively prevent any attempt to implant an embryo resulting from nuclear transplantation into a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus. Advanced Cell Technology has implemented EAB recommendations for the highest level of security for human nuclear transplantation research to ensure that no embryos are diverted into attempts at implantation or reproductive cloning.
The ACT EAB has also established a rigorous program of informed consent for women who donate eggs for human therapeutic cloning research. The health of donors is protected by careful medical oversight and drug stimulation regimens that err on the side of safety. Although egg donors are compensated for the time and effort they put into the donation process, most report that a principal motivation for their donation is the wish to assist scientific researchers in combating degenerative disorders like diabetes or Parkinson's disease. Members of the EAB have concluded that it lies within the scope of women's autonomy to make their own decisions about the use of their reproductive tissues, so long as they are fully informed as to the risks and benefits of egg donation and the purposes for which their eggs will be used.
Ronald M. Green, Ph.D., Chair
Director, Ethics Institute and Professor of Religion
Judith Bernstein, RNC, MSN, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health
Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine, School of Medicine
Kier Olsen DeVries, MA
Doctoral Candidate, Dept. of Philosophy
Research and Editorial Assistant, Ethics Institute
Kenneth Goodman, Ph.D.
Director, Bioethics Program
University of Miami
Jeremy B.A. Green, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
Robert Kaufmann, MD
Southeastern Fertility Center
Ann A. Kiessling, Ph.D.
Director, Laboratory of Reproductive Biology
Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center
Associate Professor of Surgery
Harvard Medical School
Susan L. Moss J.D., Ph.D
San Diego State University
Carol A. Tauer, Ph.D.
College of St. Catherine