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Cloning people?
A California biotech company has cloned human embryos using donated eggs and skin cells. "Here we go again," said Ronald Bailey in a Reason blog. "The stem cell wars are about to heat up again." What is the big deal here? said Brandon
W
hat happened
Scientists from a small California biotech company said this week that they had cloned human embryos using donated eggs and skin cells from two men. Officials at the company, Stemagen, said they would never create babies—only stem cells to be used in research. (The New York Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
“Here we go again,” said Ronald Bailey in a Reason magazine blog. Stemagen’s news got a mixed reaction from scientists, and the presidential candidates are bound to be the next ones to throw in their two cents. It looks like “the stem cell wars may be about to heat up again.”

President Bush’s claim that the stem cell wars were over was definitely premature, said Arthur Caplan in MSNBC.com. Bush’s hope was that “new scientific tricks” to get adult stem cells as embryonic ones in creating new tissue would make it unnecessary to destroy embryos for medical research. But not everyone thinks that will work, and many scientists think cloning your own healthy cells is the way to go “if you want to build your own repair kit to fix damaged heart muscle, torn nerves, severed spinal cords or worn-out joints.”

“Not to be cynical, but what’s the big deal?” said Brandon Keim in a Wired magazine blog. The procedure Stemagen used—removing nuclei from adult cells and putting them inside a fertilized, hollowed-out egg—is “already known to scientists and the public.” The “scientifically tricky” part is making “viable embryonic stem cells from a clone” to allow “personalized stem cell treatments, with new limbs and disease cures promised to anyone with a few spare skin flakes and enough money to foot the bill.”

Stemagen’s achievement may prove to be “a real step forward,” said Michael D. Lemonick in Time.com, or it may not. “The problem, as with every recent stem-cell advance so far, is that the principle and the practice are still awfully far apart.”

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