18 years ago, Dolly the sheep was the first major achievement for scientists involved with cloning. Now, credit is going in large part to Young Gie Chung of the CHA Stem Cell Institute in South Korea, who’s the first in her field to have published new, successful developments in the field of human cloning.
Recently, the South Korean scientist was able to clone two viable embryonic stem cells out of 77 attempts. This amazing development for science was done by extracting DNA from an adult male’s skin, harvesting a woman’s unfertilized egg and removing the nucleus before inserting the harvested skin cells. While the steep ratio of success versus failure demonstrates this technique is still in need of improvement, the fact remains that it’s been proven effective.
So what good is this breakthrough? Firstly, it takes a chunk of the controversy surrounding stem cell research out of the equation. If we can now create new stem cells from consenting adult donors, we’ve made a huge step in regulating the harvesting — much like with the process of blood donation. Additionally, with the ability to clone stem cells, the resource becomes more plentiful, thus leading to a better chance of it being more effective to a wider audience.
Embryonic stem cells are used in medical treatments for any number of diseases. They can be used to grow entirely new organs for those in need of transplants. Already, the work has been used to assist burn victims who are in need of new skin. There are also a number of diseases (such as cancer) that we currently don’t have reliable means of curing, or even a clear understanding of, which can be better understood through the use of stem cell research.
While we may not be aiming to create a perfect copy of a whole human right now, the potential benefits of cloning are innumerable. We could therefore see the improvement of healthcare expand exponentially through further tweaking of Chung’s process. Although not all the controversy has been removed from the stem cell debate, this usage of consenting adult donors is sure to improve the ability of researchers to make further strides in the field.