A study published in the journal Cell shows a successful cloning of adult human embryos. This is a major break in the field of cloning and could lead to a new approach to surgeries and disease in the future. Fresh lab made organs with DNA matching the recipient’s own cells means less chance of the body rejecting it. The study made clear that cloning a human entirely from cloned cells isn’t close to possible – there has never been a successful clone produced for any primate – but the day does seem closer than it did before. Primates have proven tricky to replicate since their eggs are more delicate than other animals. That’s good news for opponents who question the ethics of cloning.
Although the experiment uses human embryo cells, it isn’t an attempt to ‘rebirth’ the subjects. Human embryos contain a certain kind of stem cell that’s crucial to making organ tissue. To be fair, cloning isn’t our only option. The same results could be made by harvesting an original human embryo’s cells. That method, though, enters the arena of is-it-or-is-it-not considered killing a potential human life. Some exciting research has come up offering a different method, one that transforms other stem cells into embryo stem cells. And though that might be the preferred choice it’s still in the development stage. Which leaves us with cloning.
Robert Lanza co-authored the study, which was conducted in California and partially funded by Korea. He and his team followed the same steps as an earlier experiment done by Shoukhrat Mitalipov. Mitalipov used an unfertilized egg and introduced DNA through a skin cell, then triggered the two cells to fuse through a chemical process. The result was a cell that divided into an embryo and a placenta. The difference is that Mitalipov introduced DNA from infants and fetal cells that are closer matches to the embryo cells. Lanza recreated the experiment using adult DNA from one 35-year-old and one 75-year-old man. Robert Lanza pointed out that “The proportion of diseases you can treat with [lab-made tissue] increases with age. So if you can’t do this with adult cells, it is of limited value.”
Because adults that have medical issues with organs tend to develop and cells get compromised by disease. Lanza was able to successfully turn the embryo stem cells into other organ cells which could potentially be transplanted into their ‘original’ owner. Insurance policies might be covering these types of procedures in the future… which is still a fairly distant future since the cost is high and experiments ongoing.