The “holy grail” which scientists have “been after for years,” according to scientist John Gearhart, has finally been captured, as revealed in a report released on Wednesday which announced that, for the first time in history, scientists have succeeded at cloning a human embryo.
Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a scientist with Oregon Health and Science University, and a team of researchers harvested eggs from female participants and then removed the majority of DNA, replacing it with genetic material from the skin cells of third parties. It was after this stage that science had previously been halted – getting the eggs to then grow into embryos had been, until now, deemed almost impossible. Yet after seemingly endless attempts, Mitalipov and his team discovered the perfect combination of chemicals, electricity, freshness of eggs, and optimum stage of development to allow the cloned eggs to develop into human embryos. To date, the researchers have been able to cultivate the embryos to the stage where stem cells can, and have been, harvested (the blastocyst stage), and reportedly demonstrated the ability to turn these stem cells into the cells of any other organ, including heart cells, which rhythmically pulse in a petri dish.
Responses to the discovery ranged from ecstasy to sobering ethical concerns, as this breakthrough swings open the door to human cloning as a whole and significantly advances the push to create human life for the purpose of harvesting cells and tissue. Mitalipov and his team went so far as to note the possibility of creating “designer embryos” – embryos cloned with a patient’s own DNA, engineered to meet his or her exact specifications and needs. Remember that the discussion is about human life, which is essentially an exact genetic replica of another human being, merely at an earlier stage of development.
Pro-life advocates should be watching the fallout from this advance carefully. Given the fact that the medical and research industries are already covered in the blood of brokered body parts from aborted infants and have expressed a desire to harvest eggs from aborted baby girls, one is hard-pressed to imagine any real ethical limits being placed on the creation – and destruction – of life, made possible by the new “holy grail” of medical research.