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Yamanaka, gentle slayer of cloning, takes the nobel prize for Medicine

Your scribe was giving a talk to a group of doctors in Sydney last night on “Ethical stem cell science & the Death of Cloning”, and on entering the warm and welcoming Irish pub I was informed of the grand news that Shinya Yamanaka had been awarded the Nobel prize for medicine.

ARTICLE: “Cloning – the blighted science”

If your weekend reading does not already include a rollicking obituary for the brief and unlamented era of human cloning, I have a full review in the new Quadrant magazine which is available online HERE.

The article arises from the Legislative Review earlier this year into Australia’s cloning laws – that Review was an opportunity for us to rethink (re-pent) the abuses formerly legislated, even on the pragmatic grounds that newer science renders cloning redundant. As expected, however, the majority of the committee members argued for the status quo – the “yes, cloning has been a dud so far and yes, Yamanaka’s method seems to have achieved what cloning could never achieve – but let’s just research everything anyway ” approach – and thereby the Review recommendations save face for those scientists and social progressives who invested so much energy in this battle of the culture wars back in 2006.

MEDIA RELEASE: Cloning left on futile life-support

“The Legislative Review into our cloning laws, tabled yesterday (July 7th), is a lame attempt by the majority of this (outrageously stacked) committee to keep the blighted science of SCNT/cloning on its futile life-support” said Dr David van Gend, national director of Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research.

“Section 5.3 showcases the shriveled case for cloning, with only ardent supporters of cloning (Muncie, Williamson, Elefanty) being quoted in the section and no critics quoted at all. As expected, this one-sided chorus culminates in the stale old slogan of the ethically indifferent: “let’s just research everything”.

Cloning Review to report 27th May

The phase of public submissions to the Cloning Review has closed, and again the large majority of submissions argued against cloning, in light of the new, ethical alternative.  Read all the submissions HERE.  

Subsequently, the Committee heard direct testimony over two days. I traveled to Canberra to speak with the committee, and later made some comments HERE in an online interview, concerning the Review and the meeting.

These were the concluding remarks in the submission by Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research:

Action alert: March 15th deadline to say NO to cloning

We only have until March 15th to tell the federal Cloning Review that we want this inhuman and unjustifiable science banned once again. Please see https://legislationreview.nhmrc.gov.au/2010-legislation-review for ‘how to make a submission’.

Background:In 2006, by just one vote in the Senate, a law was passed allowing human cloning – the creation of living human embryos solely for the purpose of research and destruction. The law bans the cloned embryo from being implanted in a woman’s womb, and decrees that the embryo must be destroyed before 14 days of age, but still permits the creation of embryonic human life solely for exploitation in stem cell experiments and IVF research.

Nice in Mice: skin cells straight to heart cells (forget embryos)

I can’t improve on my comrade David Prentice’s coverage of this latest bit of Direct Reprogramming Wizardry. I wonder if this new way of obtaining perfectly-matched stem cells (with no need for embryos or cloning, and apparently minimising the risks inherent even in iPS cells) will generate the sort of science-media interest that the futile tinkering at Geron generated…

Changing Skin Directly to Beating Heart Cells
by David PrenticeJanuary 30, 2011 http://www.frcblog.com/2011/01/changing-skin-directly-to-beating-heart-cells/

Cloning Review at last! But if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry…

This is part disgrace, part farce. A Review that is only announced a few days after the final date at which the statutory report was meant to be completed and tabled (i.e. within four years of the date of Royal Assent which was 12th December 2006); a Government Minister who does not appear to know the effect or subsequent history of the legislation to be reviewed; a new Committee of Review featuring the architect and chief activist of the last Review! What a display of government amateurishness, and what a despicably cynical process for conducting a new Review on such a contentious matter.

Giving the two-dad-mice a miss

Just a bit of idle mutilation by scientists who were once little boys pulling wings off butterflies. This creepy step is not coming anytime soon (or distant) to a gay couple near you, for the same pesky reasons of human complexity that have foiled the cloners of men rather than mice.

Try the Wall St Journal for an outline of this “weird” experiment (to use the word of the principal mutilator); or get as much explanation as you would ever need from Dr David Prentice at his FRC blog.

My review article: the Death of Cloning

For a glossy summary of why cloning is a blighted science, and why our Parliaments can and must remove the legislation that underpins cloning, HERE is a link to my peer-reviewed article in the latest edition of ‘Viewpoint’. This is a public-issues journal put out by the Australian Christian Lobby, and features a pair of opposing opinions – in this case the other side was put by Professor Loane Skene, former Chair of the Lockhart Review Committee which recommended cloning to the Federal Government back in 2005.

Ah yes – the other ‘ESC’ treatment!!

After Geron Corp and the non-ESC non-treatment trial in spine inury, I see that Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) has made its own bid for five minutes of fame, this time with a rare form of macular degeneration (Stargardt’s macular dystrophy). Five minutes is all it takes for intelligent people to ask the same questions I posed re Geron:

1. Given that we can do all this with adult stem cells (for example, see HERE) why mess with embryos (with their inherent problems of tumours, and immune supression, let alone the ethical ugliness)?
2. Even if you really really really want to use tumorigenic pluripotent stem cells, why not spare the patient the need for immune suppressant drugs and use iPS cells (for example, see HERE) as a source of the transplatable cells – because they at least match the patient?

Turn skin cells to buckets of blood cells – and forget embryos

A funny thing happened on the way to reprogramming a patient’s skin cell to an iPS cell. An astute observer at McMaster’s University, Canada, noticed that some of the cells did not fully reprogram, and the half-baked cell had that donut-look of a red blood cell. Now they have learned to control this partial reprogramming, and the McMaster’s news release yesterday tells the story:

Time to con the pollies again: a cutting-edge cloning project!

And then there is the other story in the SMH today – License sought to make cloned human embryos

Passing strange that the chaps in Melbourne should wait until a month before the next federal legislative review is due, and then make their exciting announcement of a cloning trial. Just too caught up with other things since 2006? Bit busy; perhaps discouraged that their colleages in Sydney (and the rest of the word, for that matter) have not been able to get a single stem cell from their cloned embryos? Obviously nothing to do with fabricating a sense of significance around this redundant science in time to dupe the MPs yet again.

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