- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, says the Senate has to act now on his bill to ban all human cloning in the United States, because South Korean researchers have successfully cloned a human embryo and extracted master stem cells for potential use in medical treatments.

The research by scientists from Seoul National University “underscores the need for complete national and international bans on all human cloning,” because “human cloning is wrong,” Mr. Brownback said in a news briefing late yesterday.

He went on to say there is “precious little evidence that embryonic stem cells can be used to treat patients” and that the technology “devalues all human life,” because an embryo must be killed order to obtain the stem cells.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brownback said, patients’ lives are being saved with adult stem cells and blood from umbilical cords, and that’s where the research community should be focusing its interest.

David Prentice, a professor of medical and molecular genetics at Indiana University School of Medicine, who also attended the briefing, said it’s important to recognize that the cloned embryo the Seoul researchers developed was old enough to be implanted into a woman’s womb.

That would mean making a baby that is biologically identical to someone else, which is abhorrent to most people, he said.

President Bush strongly supports a ban on all human cloning — including the so-called “therapeutic” cloning announced by the South Koreans — and is eager for Congress to enact such legislation, spokesman Trent Duffy reiterated yesterday.

The House of Representatives twice has passed a bill to outlaw all human cloning, whether its purpose is to make babies or do research. But the Brownback bill has stalled in the Senate, where there has been strong support for therapeutic cloning

“It’s time to move that legislation. We need to pass it through the Senate,” said Mr. Brownback, who said he will urge Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, to bring the measure to the floor for a vote.

Mr. Frist supports such a ban, but it’s uncertain whether he will bring it to the floor, as neither side in the debate is sure it can get the 60 votes necessary to end discussion.

The senator said it’s crucial for both Congress and the United Nations to make legal determinations as to whether the “youngest of human beings” are people or “pieces of property.”

Wendy Wright, spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, which opposes all human cloning, said this being an election year “could work in our benefit with senators this year.”

In stem cell research, embryos “are being treated as disposable objects,” Miss Wright said in an interview.

The achievement by scientists from Seoul National University, presented yesterday at a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle and reported in the journal Science, marks the first published report of cloned human stem cells.

The research team said it struggled with moral issues.

“We continually agonized over whether there was an alternative to this research but decided to go ahead to give hope to suffering patients and open a new epoch in science and technology,” Dr. Moon Shin-yong, an author of the Science report, told the Associated Press.

Embryonic stem cells have the potential to become any kind of cell or tissue in the body. The goal is to take a piece of skin and grow some brain tissue for an Alzheimer’s patient suffering memory loss or create pancreatic cells for a diabetic whose pancreas is not producing insulin.

But ethical questions are involved in such stem cell research, because the embryo must be destroyed in order to obtain the medically important stem cells.

Richard Doerflinger, spokes- man for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the South Korean research “irresponsible.”

“Scientists who have been trying for six years finally made a human embryo, who lived long enough to be killed for stem cells and also to be transferred to a womb for reproductive cloning,” said Mr. Doerflinger, whose group opposes cloning and embryonic stem cell research.

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