Political Science: Life, death and the Stem Cell debate. (7/25/01)
Me, Myself and I: Scientists prepare to make the first-ever human clone. (3/28/01)
Sweat, Sleep and Cheating: Teen Scientists Invent the Future (3/14/01)
The Inside is Out: Scientists reveal the complete human genome. (2/12/01)
The Big Question : How will mapping the Human Genome affect society?
Gift of Life: A 16-year-old loses and then gains a liver, pancreas, intestine and stomach.
Plan: The ethics of genetic research
NewsHour's Science Index
Cloning is in the news again. For the next few weeks, lawmakers will debate a bill that could ban all human cloning.
President Bush is pushing for a complete ban; he believes human cloning is morally wrong.
"Cloning would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics, that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another," said President Bush. "Life is a creation, not a commodity."
However, some lawmakers believe that human cloning is OK when it's done to advance medical science.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill sometime next month.
How would you vote? Here are some facts that could help you decide.
How to make a human clone...
A human clone is made by taking a nucleus or DNA from a cell, like a skin cell, and injecting it into a human egg cell stripped clean of its genetic material.
The human egg begins to divide and it soon becomes an embryo.
At this point the embryo is a mass of cells, and not technically a fetus. And because the original genetic material of the egg cell was stripped away, the resulting embryo is a genetic twin of the adult cell donor.
A few scientists and doctors want to clone humans primarily for therapeutic research or reproduction.
Scientists who do therapeutic research look for new ways of curing disease.
Therapeutic researchers make clones in order to get embryonic stem cells. Those stem cells are building blocks that change into all the different parts of the body: organs, bones, etc. However, extracting the stem cells kills the embryo.
Stem cells posses the ability to repair and replace damaged tissues and organs.
Many researchers believe stem cells will offer cures to diseases like Parkinson's that afflict people like Michael J. Fox, Mohammed Ali and Janet Reno.
Cloning for reproduction means that instead of extracting stem cells, the embryo would be instead transplanted into the uterus of a woman and the woman would give birth to the cloned human.
Scientists are a long way from perfecting reproduction technology and major birth defects have occurred in almost all cloned animals.
Opposition and uncertainty...
The possibility of wiping out some diseases is the chief reason many scientists and politicians argue that totally banning human cloning is wrong.
The leader of the U.S. Senate, Democrat Tom Daschle says that he is opposed to cloning humans, but he differs strongly with the president on the "need to allow science and research to cure disease."
Beyond government lawmakers, many have come out supporting cloning research. More than 40 Nobel Laureates issued a statement saying that a total ban, like what the president wants would have a chilling effect on scientific research.
However, the president and other scientists and ethicists argue that it is not clear whether there will be medical benefits from therapeutic human cloning.
"Allowing cloning would be taking a significant step toward a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts, and children are engineered to custom specifications, and that's not acceptable," said the president.
"Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense of human conscience," he said.
Even if the U.S. Congress bans human cloning, it cannot prevent other countries from doing so.
Last July, the House of Representatives banned all types of human cloning. President Bush now wants the U.S. Senate to do the same.
Senate members are expected to discuss and vote on the subject in late May, the same time George Lucas' Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is released.
--by Carl Ballard, NewsHour Extra
do you think?
Is human cloning right or wrong? If human cloning could help cure diseases,
should scientists be allowed to do it?
Lesson Plan with additional resources
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