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AAAS Urges United Nations to Endorse Cloning for Research Purposes

AAAS, the world’s largest general science society, has urged the United Nations to support embryonic cloning for research or “therapeutic” purposes, but ban all efforts to use cloning for human reproduction.

On Thursday, the United Nations’ member states will consider two resolutions: One resolution would ban all human cloning methods, including efforts to use cloned embryonic stem cells to try and generate healthy tissues, or to treat degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. The second resolution would ban only efforts to clone babies.

“AAAS, along with most of the world’s mainstream scientists, endorses a legally enforceable ban on any efforts to clone a human being,” said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of its journal, Science. “Our fear of reproductive cloning is understandable and appropriate. But, we must not allow those concerns to block medical advances that may someday be achieved through other kinds of research that involve cloned cells. AAAS urges the United Nations to support research cloning methods intended to alleviate human suffering caused by injuries and disease.”

The AAAS Board of Directors on 14 February 2002 endorsed a legally enforceable ban on reproductive cloning, citing “serious health risks.” But the Board supported research using nuclear transplantation methods under appropriate government oversight.

What is research cloning, and how is it different from reproductive cloning?

Both involve a technique called nuclear transplantation—replacing the nucleus of a donor’s egg with the DNA from an adult cell. Under certain conditions, the resulting entity will begin developing like a fertilized egg. In reproductive cloning, the entity is implanted into a uterus, where it has the potential to develop into a full organism; a clone of the donor of the adult cell. In research cloning, the entity is not implanted in a uterus. Instead, after several days, researchers harvest embryonic stem cells, which theoretically can develop into any type of cell and, according to many researchers, may someday be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases or other conditions.