Human Genetics Alert

Unit 112 Aberdeen House 22-24 Highbury Grove, London N5 2EA
Phone: 020 7704 6100 fax: 020 7359 8423


For immediate release February 12 2004

HGA criticises cloning researchers’ irresponsibility

  Responding to today’s news of the cloning of human embryos, HGA’s Director, Dr David King said: “So-called therapeutic cloning will never be possible in medical practice, because it requires hundreds of eggs per patient, which are not available. Serious scientists, and the companies involved in commercialising embryonic stem cell research, have repeatedly acknowledged this.”

“But by publishing this technique, what the Korean researchers have done is to give a big boost to those who want to make cloned babies. Before there is a global ban on reproductive cloning, people like Professor Zavos and the Raelians will be able to copy the technique to clone babies. The Koreans have been irresponsible in the extreme. The international community must now act immediately to ban reproductive cloning. There should be an international moratorium on any further embryo cloning research until this is in place.”

For further information, contact David King on 020 7704 6100.

Notes for editors

1. Human Genetics Alert is an independent watchdog group funded by a leading British Charity. It is not a pro-life group and supports women’s right to choose abortion.

2. There are a number of reasons why therapeutic cloning is very unlikely to be feasible in medical practice:

  •   it requires hundreds of eggs per patient, which are simply not available;
  • even for research purposes, these eggs can only be obtained by hormone treatment, which carries significant risks. If there were any attempt to apply this technique on a large scale, it would entail massive exploitation of women;
  • such a scenario would be absurdly expensive, and would immediately bankrupt health care systems. It is completely irrelevant to developing countries;
  • as Dr Ian Wilmut has recently acknowledged, stem cells from cloned embryos are likely to have the same abnormalities in gene expression which are responsible for the problems with cloned animals.

It is important to note that the cloning aspect of ‘therapeutic cloning’ is purely to circumvent the problem of immune rejection of tissue. However, there are alternative approaches to this problem, which are of much more interest to biotechnology companies. The US company, Geron, which is leading research in this field has stated that it is not interested in ‘therapeutic cloning’: instead, it is developing genetically engineered ‘universal donor’ stem cells, which could be transplanted into any patient.