Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Action! March 15 Deadline to say NO to human 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.

That was wrong and unnecessary then, and even more unnecessary now – since the magnificent breakthrough by Yamanaka in November 2007 of ‘direct reprogramming’ of adult skin cells into the exact equivalent of embryonic stem cells, without ever creating or destroying a human embryo. This revolution in stem cell science means that scientists now have an entirely ethical method to obtain the specialized stem cells that cloning hoped to obtain but never has obtained. Cloning is a failed science; the new Yamanaka method has proven both simple and effective.

Reading:To get the latest on why cloning is both wrong and redundant, read my review article from Viewpoint magazine, “An Obituary for Human Cloning”. And browse this blog for some highlights of the new world of entirely ethical stem cell science - where there is no need for cloning.

Then please write a submission, however short and simple, to the committee. All we need to convey is that:

· It is wrong to create human embryos solely for research and destruction.
· We understand that cloning (SCNT) is one method of creating a living human embryo, as was confirmed at the Senate hearings in 2006 – the same method used for creating Dolly the sheep.
· We know that, since the Yamanaka 'iPS cell' breakthrough in November 2007 (see my review article) we have an entirely ethical, and proven, method of obtaining the specialised stem cells that cloning hoped (but failed) to obtain, so there is no longer any serious justification for cloning.
· If our Senators had known in 2006 what we know since the Yamanaka breakthrough, cloning would never have been considered, and no laws would have been passed.
· We now want the Review Committee to acknowledge the dramatically changed scientific landscape, and recommend to Parliament that the provisions allowing cloning are no longer scientifically justified, and should be repealed.

As always, the committee is dominated by well-known supporters of cloning (see my December entry on 'Cloning review at last'). That is a disgraceful derailment of a supposedly 'independent' review. However, that is not our primary concern. We need to send lots of careful, thoughtful submissions - even a short summary statement is fine, and there is no need to provide responses in all sections of the review - so they know that the public is aware that the old arguments for cloning no longer apply, that it is now a redundant science supported by unjustifiable laws.

FURTHER COMMENTS by our WA Rep: In 2002 the Commonwealth passed laws permitting research on so called “left over” human embryos but banning the deliberate creation of human embryos for research by any means, including a comprehensive ban on the cloning of human embryos.

A 2005 review of that legislation proposed revoking the ban on cloning and allowing human embryos to be created for research by cloning or by the use of eggs derived from aborted baby girls. Legislation implementing the changes passed the Senate by just one vote. It was given Royal Assent on 12th December 2006.

All states except Western Australia subsequently passed mirror legislation allowing cloning. In WA note was taken of the revolutionary developments in science in November 2007 which allowed pluripotent stem cells to be derived from any body cell by a process which avoided any creation or destruction of a human embryo.

Only Sydney IVF has been issued with licenses to experiment on cloning. Since obtaining the licenses on 16 September 2008 Sydney IVF has used 389 “clinically unsuitable” human eggs (ova) in an attempt to create cloned human embryos. In only 32 attempts was there development to the two cell stage and in no case was the eight cell stage passed. This is well short of the point at which embryonic stem cells could be extracted. The official report on the experiments states: No reproducible method for SCNT [somatic cell nuclear transfer] using clinically unsuitable eggs for the efficient epigenetic reprogramming of human embryonic stem cells to the blastocyst stage has been established to date.

It seems futile to be trying to clone using eggs that are no good at being fertilised. This approach was tried and abandoned by British researchers at Newcastle some years ago. They switched to using fresh, good quality eggs obtained through an egg sharing arrangement with women undergoing IVF at half price rates – a form of payment for eggs.

This approach is currently banned in Australia.

In July 2009 review committee member Loane Skene called for Australia to follow the lead of New York State which broke ranks in the US by allowing payments to women for eggs for research. It seems likely Skene will seek to persuade the committee to recommend this change.
Inducing ovulation in women in order to harvest their eggs exposes them to a massive 239% increased risk of uterine cancer, 150% increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a 42% increased risk of breast cancer.

Up to 10 percent of patients undergoing induced ovulation experience severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) with symptoms including loss of future fertility, kidney or multiple organ failure, and death. Deaths from OHSS include 32 year old Irish woman Jacqueline Rushton, who died in Dublin on 14 January 2003. She suffered a gradual deterioration of her organs, virtually all of which were slowly destroyed. Temilola Akinbolagbe, a young woman who died in April 2005 in London, suffered a more sudden death from a massive heart attack linked directly to OHSS.

You are encouraged to make a brief submission to the legislative review:
- opposing any proposal to allow payment for human eggs for cloning research;
- calling on cloning to be banned because it is a failed approach to obtaining stem cells for therapy and it involves the unethical creation and destruction of human embryos.

Submissions can be made online at: https://legislationreview.nhmrc.gov.au/node/add/submission

Hard copy submissions may be mailed to: Legislation Review, National Health and Medical Research Council, GPO Box 1421 Canberra ACT 2601