Whether or not embryos should be cloned and then and destroyed for their stem cells has been one of the hottest issues in science this year. MercatorNet asked James Sherley, an associate professor of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to give his views.
MercatorNet: Professor Sherley, you have been outspoken in your opposition to therapeutic cloning. What’s wrong with destroying a human embryo, especially if this research might benefit people with terrible diseases?
James Sherley: Despite the confusion that some like to create on the questions of “are embryos human beings?” and “when does a human life begin?”, both scientists and physicians know very well that human embryos are alive and human. A human life begins when a diploid complement of human DNA is initiated to begin human development. Therefore, a life can be initiated by the fusion of sperm and egg or by the introduction of a diploid nucleus into an enucleated egg (ie, “cloning”).
Given that embryos are human beings, they have a right to self and a right to life. Exploiting their parts (ie, cells) or killing them for research is moral trespass that society should not allow. Even if the research might, and let’s be clear, might benefit others, this trespass is not justified.
MercatorNet: But can you distinguish between a human life and a human being?
Sherley: A human life is the experience of a human being until its death. It begins with a single cell that has a diploid complement of human DNA, programmed for human development.
MercatorNet: What are the scientific drawbacks of using human embryonic stem cells in clinical applications and in research?
Sherley: The most profound drawback, which has not been adequately disclosed, is that they cannot be used directly to treat mature tissues and organs. The tissues and organs of the body undergo constant cell turnover. Cells are born by cell division, they turn into functional cells (ie,...