Testimony Before Committee on Science, Technology and Space, Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, on Human Cloning
Statement by James Kelly
Mr. Chairman: I respectfully request that this written submission be accepted as testimony for today’s hearing on human cloning.
Due to a 1997 cervical spinal cord injury,
I am among millions of Americans whose hope for living a healthy,
normal life lies in the effective, successful use of medical research
resources. For the past five years I've devoted my life entirely
to understanding my medical condition, learning key issues that
neuroscience believes stand in the way of its improvement, and identifying
clinicians and researchers whose work safely, efficiently, and
effectively addresses these concerns. I then contact and encourage
these researchers to communicate, cooperate, and collaborate towards
bringing promising medical research from the bench to the bedside.
Based on solid, peer-reviewed animal studies, the results of human clinical trials, and factual comments by leading scientists, my actions and viewpoints are formed purely with the practical development of medical research for the sake of cures in mind. I do not promote research for the sake of scientific, commercial, religious, or political interests.
Quite literally, the cloning issue stands to mean the difference between life or death for tens of millions of Americans, while millions more face life-long impairment should valuable resources be inefficiently squandered to possibly overcome the colossal safety and technical hurdles inherent in cloning. Therefore, in choosing its course on cloning, I respectfully ask the U.S. Senate to consider the following perspectives as though every American whose fate lies with medical science is a beloved friend or family member.
Cloning is being promoted primarily for two applications: 1) to produce genetically matched embryonic stem cells (or their derivatives) for transplantation purposes; 2) to study cells derived from cloning to better understand the genetic defects involved in inherited disease.
Regarding direct "therapeutic" applications, cloning is hoped to create genetically matched cells able to avoid immune rejection. However, in a recent study, an adult mouse twice rejected its own cloned embryonic stem cells (1). In reporting this finding, M.I.T. researcher Rudolf Jaenisch says:
“Our results raise the provocative possibility that even genetically matched cells derived by therapeutic cloning may still face barriers to effective transplantation for some disorders.”
Comments made by leading pro-cloning scientists reveal that these results weren’t wholly unexpected. In speaking to the President’s Council on Bioethics, Dr. John Gearhart of John Hopkins University said there was “no question” in his mind that embryonic stem cells derived from cloning “could be rejected. Absolutely.”
Dr. Irving Weissman of Stanford University went a step further by telling the council:
“I should say that when you put the nucleus in from a somatic cell, the mitochondria still come from the host (the egg).” He concluded, “And in mouse studies it is clear that those genetic differences can lead to a mild but certainly effective transplant rejection and so immunosuppression, mild though it is, will be required for that.”
It is important to note that fetal cells have been used in human clinical trials without rejection and without immune suppression. (The central nervous system is considered "immune privileged.") It's also true these studies have led to inconclusive and even negative results (2). Yet their failure had nothing to do with rejection. Therefore, despite Drs. Gearhart and Weissman's admission that cells derived from cloning do not perfectly match the donor, the fact is that cells derived from cloning may indeed not be rejected for certain applications (as the Chinese and A.C.T.'s Dr. Lanza have recently claimed). However, from a pro-cures perspective, the key question is not what cells derived from cloning may or may not be able to do, but rather what are they undeniably, inescapably known to do.
Also, if the goal of therapeutic cloning for
transplantation purposes is to provide genetically matched embryonic stem
cells, which apparently it is not reliably able to do, and the goal of
embryonic stem cell therapeutic research is to mature ESCs to fetal
stages compatible with adult organs – but such fetal tissue has already
produced failures that had nothing to do with rejection – then someone
seeking a cure can’t help asking, “What’s the point?”
Also, if the goal of therapeutic cloning for transplantation purposes is to provide genetically matched embryonic stem cells, which apparently it is not reliably able to do, and the goal of embryonic stem cell therapeutic research is to mature ESCs to fetal stages compatible with adult organs – but such fetal tissue has already produced failures that had nothing to do with rejection – then someone seeking a cure can’t help asking, “What’s the point?”
The technical issue that lies at the heart of cloning involves its inherent genetic “imprinting errors” (3,4,5). Simply put, creating embryos without both male and female genetic contributions leads to widespread, unpredictable genetic flaws in the permanent genetic code of every resulting cell, be it embryonic, fetal, or adult. In cloned animals these defects lead to high rates of fetal death, birth defects, stunted development, premature aging, disease, deformity, and early death. Comments by leading scientists in the cloning field bring home the sobering import of this crucial point:
Which leads to two questions regarding the actual "promise" of therapeutic cloning:
For transplantation purposes, cells derived from cloning will have to incorporate into or "patch" the patient's body. Cells introduced in immature stages (stem cells) will multiply and spread. Indeed, for some applications, such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, and others, therapies designed to correct the condition’s cause will need to completely replace defective bodily systems with cells derived from cloning (assuming the genetic defect causing the condition can be fixed in cloning-derived stem cells) (10, 11, 12, 13, 14). In reproductive cloning, genetically defective embryonic stem cells multiply and mature into genetically defective organs, as evidenced by the above-cited rates of deformity, retardation, and premature death in cloned animals. Yet cloning advocates would have us believe that the cells they freely acknowledge are unsafe for development into babies (reproductive cloning) will be somehow safe for repairing diseased or damaged organs (“therapeutic” cloning).
Regarding the testing of cloned cells for inherited conditions: University of Pennsylvania researcher Hans Schöler reports a key gene to early embryonic development (called Oct4) is missing or misexpressed in over 90% of embryos derived from cloning (8). According to New Scientist, Dr. Schöler sees proper Oct4 expression as only one of the first barriers most cloned embryos must cross. In a commentary on Scholer's work (15), Davor Solter of the Max-Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg explains: "Misreprogrammed genes are like cockroaches. Where you see one there are likely to be many more under the surface." Yet, as in its purported therapeutic "promise," cells derived from cloning subject to random genetic defects and abnormal development are being presented as a reliable means for studying inherited genetic disease. In studying such cells, how would researchers be able to tell which developmental problems come from the patient’s original condition and which come from the cloning process?
Promises broken and misplaced trust...
Senators Hatch, Specter, Feinstein, and others tell us they support therapeutic cloning in the interests of America's sick and disabled. Similar claims by pro-cloning scientists and commercial concerns induce desperate Americans to misplace their hope and trust. In fact, others afflicted by my condition (spinal cord injury) have come before you to ask that therapeutic cloning be permitted in the U.S. or, as Senate witness Christopher Reeve testified last March, "I'm out of luck."
The sad truth is that Mr. Reeve is already out of luck, for according to his testimony (which he repeated at a recent cloning debate at the New York Academy of Sciences) he is basing his support of cloning on misinformation allegedly provided by embryonic stem cell researcher John McDonald of the University of Washington at St. Louis (16,17). In fact, Reeve's testimony last March contained numerous false or misleading statements (18).
To illustrate the inappropriateness of those with spinal cord injury using their condition to justify cloning, please consider:
those paralyzed by SCI, including Christopher Reeve, are encouraged
to believe their brightest and possibly only hope for regaining lost lives
lies in cloning, when in fact their medical condition and the facts of
cloning suggest they should demand that cloning be banned,
restricting resources allotted for cures to avenues that offer more than
In therapeutic cloning, the
Biotech, pharmaceutical, and basic research industries are exploiting
the paralysis of three-hundred thousand Americans to serve institutional
and commercial ends under the guise of looking for
cures. Millions afflicted by heart disease, diabetes, cancer,
stroke, and other catastrophic, life-threatening conditions are likewise
encouraged to pin their hopes on hype. I therefore respectfully
ask the U.S. Senate to send the message loud and clear that it's no
longer acceptable for researchers and politicians linked to Biotech to
simply claim that speculative, highly problematic research
is supposedly conducted for the sake of cures, when in fact political,
commercial, professional, or institutional motives may lie at the root of
their plans. I respectfully ask the U.S. Senate to support Senator Sam
Brownback in totally banning all forms of human cloning in
America and slamming the door on a colossal, needless waste.
Copyright 2002 by Americans to Ban Cloning;
Permission to reprint granted as long as this web site is referenced.