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Journal says human cloning research ban would be 'misguided'

NEJofM logo March 26, 1998
Web posted at: 5:06 a.m. EST (1006 GMT)

BOSTON (CNN) -- A ban imposed by Congress against research in human cloning would be a mistake, according to article published in Thursday's edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The weekly has joined the American Medical Association and other organizations in opposition to Republican legislation to ban all cloning in human embryo research.

"Like many others, we believe that any plan to ban research on cloning human cells is seriously misguided," Journal editor-in-chief Dr. Jerome Kassirer and consultant Nadia Rosenthal wrote in the editorial.

Advocates of cloning research are not talking about producing duplicate humans as spare parts factories. But experiments with animals suggest that by turning on and off the right genes, specific tissues might be grown.

Kassirer
Kassirer says it is "seriously misguided" to ban research on cloning human cells   

If similar experiments in human cells are successful, it could lead to dramatic new treatments for chronic diseases.

Examples include growing new pancreas cells for those with diabetes and blood cells for those with leukemia. And the editorial said studies using the cloning of embryonic stem cells "could provide valuable information about the mechanism of aging or the causes of cancer."

Kassirer sees great potential for easing the suffering from a host of chronic diseases if the research is allowed to move forward.

"I'm willing to hold off completely on any kind of plan to clone a human, but I'm not willing to hold off on research that could yield enormous therapeutic benefit," Kassirer said.

Journal backs Kennedy-Feinstein plan

Lawmakers have proposed several plans for restricting human cloning research or banning it altogether. Missouri Republican Sen. Kit Bond supports a total ban on cloning and considers any cloned embroyo research immoral.

Bond
Bond   

"I think that an overwhelming majority of American citizens today would say that you shouldn't create human beings to experiment on them or for spare parts," Bond said.

The journal supports a plan by Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Dianne Feinstein of California that would place a 10-year ban on human cloning but allow the cloning of human cells and tissues for research.

Current law bans federally funded research on human embroyos, but not private work. The Feinstein-Kennedy proposal would allow such research up to the point of transferring cloned cells to a woman's uterus.

The Republican and Democratic plans have stalled in the Senate because of a lack of common ground between the two proposed bills.

The journal also urged scientists to engage in an honest debate with the general public on the use of human cloning.

"We need to think about what, if any, circumstances might warrant cloning, as well as the circumstances under which it should never be allowed," the editorial said.

Senior Medical Correspondent Dan Rutz and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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