Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cloning used to treat brain disease, not just make organs

It is happing; cloned neurons grown from skin cells are being used on mice to reverse a disease similar to Parkinson’s. I knew it was only a matter of time before we started using cloning to try and cure things. I cannot say that I am against the idea. If it can save my life or improve the quality of my life, and possibly extend it how can I not support it? It is not harming anyone. It is not like they are cloning little me’s to put my brain in when my current body wears out. They are already trying to slow down the damage and deterioration of my body by replacing organs that were grown or cloned in a lab. Now they are looking at reducing the damage to my brain or even being able to repair it. Therapeutic cloning used to treat brain disease.

So they take some of my skin cells and an egg and then create an embryo out of it. Then the stem cells are extracted and then made into dopamine-secreting neurons. These neurons are then transplanted or grafted onto my brain. Tests show that the mice that lived through this process improved and regained some of what they had lost. I wonder if the mice are the same as they were before the graft. Would a person become someone else with this process? I guess we will not know until someone actually gets this done. Wait did I say create an embryo, ok now I actually do have a problem. That’s a little me. We may not be growing it and then scooping out its brains to put mine in or using it for its organs as in some of the Sci-fi horror books and movies I have read but how different is creating an embryo and using it or parts of it?

What I do have to question is what do they do with the embryos? Do they end the process once they have removed the stem cells they need? Does removing stem cells from the embryo harm the embryo? Can the embryo become a living creature or are they made, used to extract stem cells and then no longer able to become a viable being? Now I start questioning how I feel about creating an embryo of myself. Once is it made into an embryo is it a life? The use of human eggs also makes me uncomfortable. It is just not the same as making a body part from cells. This is using our reproductive process to get stem cells. I cannot help but feel that if we create an embryo for the purpose to extract its stem cells it should have a chance to live and become its own person. I am glad that another process is being developed, by Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, to make human embryonic-like cells from skin cells. This takes out the need to create an embryo. I am ok with using some of my skin cells and using genetic reprogramming to change them into the cells into what is needed.

This study using Therapeutic cloning to treat brain disease has shown it to be a very expensive process. Human eggs are needed. That means someone has to donate them or sell them. Then the actual process is expensive. Only the rich would be able to afford this. It does open the door to several moral issues. Not just the creation and use of embryos but also the fact that someone would have to give or sell their eggs for this process. This bothers me. I cannot help but think of the poor that are already selling organs like kidneys. This makes me think of people harvesting human eggs from the poor to keep the rich healthy. It is to complex of an issue with many moral ramifications as well as social for it to become a reality. I do hope Shinya Yamanaka is able to resolve the problems with his process of genetic reprogramming cells. I guess what it comes down to is, if it was yourself or a loved one that needed the cells to live, you would have to ask yourself what can you live with to keep yourself or your loved one alive and healthy?

No comments: