Research breakthrough could reignite cloning debate

Lawmaker may reintroduce 2005 bill to ban procedure
Research breakthrough could reignite cloning debate

A breakthrough in the state of Oregon may reignite an old debate in the Wisconsin state Capitol.

Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University announced this week that they’d made a discovery 50 years in the making by using a cloning technique to create embryonic stem cells.

Researchers announced they successfully put DNA from a baby’s skin cells into a human egg, eventually creating an embryo with stem cells identical to the child.

“The implications are now that things such as therapeutic cloning can be done, that is, there will be stem cells matched identically to a patient and can be used to develop cells that may be useful for therapy,” said Tim Kamp, the co-director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center.

But the concept of cloning concerns some state lawmakers.

“The idea of creating human life for the sole purpose of destroying it raises some questions that need to be answered,” said Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake.

Kestell was the Assembly sponsor of a ban on reproductive and therapeutic cloning that passed the legislature in 2005, only to be vetoed by Gov. Jim Doyle.

“At that time, there was quite a bit of activity around human cloning nationally,” Kestell said. “The researchers in Wisconsin did not in any way condemn the practice, so there was obviously concern about the ethics behind human cloning.”

Kestell said he’s exploring whether or not to push for the bill again, but UW researchers said they hope not.

“I think an outright ban of all types of research like this would be detrimental to researchers here and elsewhere, as well,” Kamp said. “It is a conversation that needs to be had. An informative conversation about the science and ethical considerations.”

VIDEO: Breakthrough could reignite cloning debate

Kestell won’t say for sure that he’ll reintroduce the bill, instead saying he wants to learn more about this procedure.

Kamp said that UW researchers will likely need to know more about the technique before moving to that method, rather than using traditional embryonic or the newer induced pluripotent stem cells for their research.