We had not witnessed a similar media hype since Dolly’s birth —the first mammal cloned from and adult cell in 1997. A North American research team has obtained embryonic stem cells using a nuclear transference technique —the one used with Dolly— and this news has stirred old fears regarding the possibility of human cloning.
The thing is that the article published the last May 15 by the prestigious journal Cell and written by a research group form the University of Oregon avoids mentioning the word cloning. One should only pay attention to the title chosen for the article «Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer». In spite of the authors’ intention of shunning the possible implications of this success meant for future and hypothetical human cloning, the debate was reopened.
On that same day, mass media from all over the world spread the news.
This commotion could be positve if it helps clarify concepts and promotes thinking about this issue from different points of view. The problem is whether a quiet debate is possible given all the fuzz made about the issue, although it has also enabled the publication of articles on stem cells, like this one signed by Cristina Eguizabal published by Materia.
In the article published by Cell the authors mention nuclear transference of somatic cells, but not cloning. The director of the research team, Shoukrat Mitalipov, admits that the concept was deliberately avoided (El País, 20/5/2013): «The truth is that we have never mentioned cloning because cells cannot be cloned, beings are, and we have never considered cloning humans». A few lines later, he adds: «…if you read the article carefully, the word cloning does not appear in the whole text, we only talk about reprogramming». That shows that the debate is so present that there is no need to use the word cloning. The adjective used for these stem cells, «embryonic», is enough to stir controversy.
A comparative study would be needed to analyse the effect of these news in other countries and the scope of the debate. In Spain, the research has had an added interest: the embryologist Nuria Martí, who joined Mitalipov’s team after being fired from the Principe Felipe Research Center in 2011. The young scientist has become a paradigm of the situation created by the continuous cutbacks on science that has contributed to the flight of highly qualified young scientists to foreign teams of research, a scientific issue that may also need to be dealt with from an ethical point of view.
* The original source.