Thursday, February 7, 2008

gene therapy and human cloning

Human Cloning Masquerades as Gene Therapy: Killing two birds With One Stone

A controversial human cloning experiment masquerading as a “gene therapy” experiment was performed at Newcastle University where human clones were created from embryos that had a mitochondrial genetic disorder. Scientists claim that they are experimenting with this method as a possible future cure for congenital mitochondrial disease.

“The fact is that this research study is more of a human cloning experiment than a gene therapy experiment. Basically, this is human cloning experimentation with a twist of gene therapy” says spokesperson from WATCHDOG ON SCIENCE. “All the cloning techniques used in this experiment are the exact procedures used to clone a human being. The only difference is that they are using the nuclear DNA from an early staged embryo instead of from an adult. This embryonic DNA is then inserted into an enucleated human donor egg to form a human clone. The human clone is grown to six days old and then destroyed.’

The driving force behind using this technology does not appear to be linked to gene therapy per se. Despite the fact that there are about 40 different mitochondrial disorders, the incidence of children borne with mitochondrial disorders is about 0.0003% per year in the US. “With that low level of incidence, I rather doubt that this disease constitutes a top priority in the gene therapy world; rather it gives the scientific community an excuse to meddle with human cloning techniques while touting the gene therapy. This is how scientists confuse the public and get away with doing controversial experimentation.”

The claim that they formed a human embryo from three parents is nothing out of the ordinary. Any human clone that is generated using an enucleated donor egg would contain DNA from three parents unless the donor egg, of course, was donated from the natural birth mother.

This type of research is not only controversial because it entails human cloning, but also because it destroys human embryos through experimentation. “In essence, I guess you could say that they are killing two birds with one stone: the first being the 2 parent-embryo that supposedly has a mitochondrial disorder and secondly, the 3 parent-embryo that was formed from the human cloning technique".

Key words: human cloning; gene therapy; mitochondrial disease; human rights; human experimentation; bioethics; destruction of human embryos for research purposes


THREE PARENT BABIES11:59:54 06/02/2008Gene therapy could cure hereditary diseasesScientists at Newcastle University have succeeded in creating human embryos with DNA from three different parents – two women and one man. The achievement, they say, could potentially prevent a whole host of hereditary diseases. The project has been aimed at preventing the transfer of defective mitochondrial DNA onto children, which comes exclusively from the mother. Mitochondria are the power-houses within a cell and faulty mitochondrial DNA can lead to around 50 known hereditary diseases, including epilepsy and diabetes.In their research, the scientists used normal embryos with the genetic material from one woman and one man that contained defective mitochondrial DNA from the mother. In the embryo, the mitochondrial DNA is the only genetic material not contained within the nucleus, meaning that the team could extract the nucleus from the fertilized embryo and deposit it into an emptied donor egg. The new embryo then develops with the genetic material from its original mother and father almost completely intact, but with the healthy mitochondrial DNA of a different woman. Experiments in mice have shown that the DNA that controls an individual’s appearance is not contained in the mitochondria, so the offspring would only inherit the characteristics of two people – the man and the woman who are the source of the nucleic DNA.The Newcastle team only had permission to carry out lab experiments and the embryos were destroyed after within six days. But it’s hoped a ‘mitochondria transplant’ could be offered as a genetic treatment sometime in the future.


  1. I think it is very sad that man is trying to play God. Science is making things more and more convoluted. All we need to do to prevent much of hereditary disease, is to go back to living and eating the way healthy indigenous societies lived and ate.

    Many of our modern diseases have been created through maternal malnutrition and each successive generation which eats the so-called improved modernized diet inherits the poor bone structure and other deformities from the previous generation. This is because the proper building blocks are not present during gestation.

    If one wants to learn more about how absolutely crucial diet is in creating and maintaining health, please go to The Price Pottenger Nutrition

  2. I think before anyone has a opinion on this you better understand what it is like to have a loved one be affected with a mitochondrial disease. Also, you should do a little more research on the actual numbers of affected individuals of mitochondrial before you say this research is not needed. It is actually 1 out of 4,000 births. As a mother with a daughter affected, I am deeply disturbed that you would talk about this as if it is no big deal and the likelyhood of it affecting anyone is so low that there should not be research. Nice try blaming it on nutrition. Ignorance is not the best route to take, I think a little reading might do you some good. Why don't you actually look up mitochondrail disease you can go to if you want some more information and then make an actual intelligent opinon. It makes me sad that there are people that would judge something they know nothing about or have no experience with, just their "opinions"

  3. watchdogonscienceJuly 19, 2008 at 7:12 AM

    Dear Anonymous #2,

    Watch Dog On Science’s opinion has nothing to do with discounting the serious illness endured by those with mitochondrial disorders. The issue is about how the scientific community promotes and justifies research in a way that is questionably unethical and having alternative motives.

    This mitochondrial research project involves two controversial issues: the development of human cloning techniques and the destruction of embryos.

    Up and above the ethical issues surrounding the use and destruction of embryos, the use and development of human cloning can lead to devastating social and cultural effects and consequences. Most scientists find human cloning unethical.

    There are other avenues of research that can be pursued to study mitochondrial disorders instead of engaging into human cloning techniques and destruction of embryos. In addition, parents who know they might pass on an inherited mitochondrial disorder have other options available to having a child other than engaging in human cloning.

    Please see which asserts that the frequency of mtDNA-related disorders is 6 to 17 per 100,000 population. I have not been able to verify your frequency of 1:4000 mitochondrial disorders you state.

    I sympathize with your plight in suffering with a mitochondrial disorder. These disorders can be a very severe and debilitating. My assumption is that many of you have little hope for a cure and most likely are not even being provided quality medical care. Raising concerns, however, regarding the promotion of a type of research that many find ethically objectionable and socially and culturally dangerous has nothing to do with discounting the pain that you suffer or the need for better research into mitochondrial disorders. This is about the scientific community pushing science forward and their lack of concern for bioethical issues that can negatively impact our culture and our society causing in the long run more harm than good.

  4. Yes i have agreed with the above commenter that its true that man is trying to play God.I think the development of sciences are one side is best for the human life and the other side its worst for them.