Monkey embryo cloning called foreboding

WASHINGTON (BP)--The newly reported cloning of monkey embryos signals lethal consequences for tiny human beings and increased chances for the birth of a human clone, pro-life bioethicists say.

Researchers in Oregon cloned for the first time embryos from primates in experiments with a 10-year-old rhesus macaque monkey, according to a Nov. 12 report in The Independent. The scientists, whose work is to be published in a future issue of the journal Nature, also were able to extract stem cells from the clones and to stimulate their development into brain neurons and heart cells, the British newspaper reported.

The team at the Oregon National Primate Research Center reportedly has attempted to bring a cloned monkey to birth but has been unsuccessful so far. In a joint effort between the Oregon team and a Chinese group, about 100 cloned embryos have been implanted into about 50 female adult monkeys, but none has produced a birth, according to The Independent.

While pro-cloning scientists applauded the cloning of primate embryos, it was ominous news for pro-life observers of the work.

"The successful cloning of monkeys means, first, that more human embryos will die in an effort to harvest embryonic stem cells. This success will only fuel efforts to do so," said C. Ben Mitchell, director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and a consultant for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Will a cloned, take-home baby be far behind? Only the omniscient God really knows. But we are certainly closer.

"Not only will human carnage mark the path to cloning a human being, but a cloned human child will have to endure grave social suffering," Mitchell said.

Wesley Smith said on the weblog Bioethics.com, "This could not only mean an increase in the ability to clone human embryos for use and destruction in research, but might make the day of the first cloned baby nearer.... [T]here is no question that this primate breakthrough makes the specter of human cloning closer to fruition."


Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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