Advanced Cell Technologies in Worcester, Mass. recently announced that they have, by successfully implanting human DNA into an egg, cloned a human being in order to develop embryonic stem cells, which have the capability to develop into any kind of cell in the human body.

We congratulate CEO Michael West and the employees of ACT for their accomplishment, which has the potential to substantially improve medicine in the future.

Cloning has been met with criticism in the political arena from both Republicans and Democrats, including House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. President Bush issued a statement declaring that “the use of embryos to clone is wrong.”

However, such objections are unjustified. There is a substantial difference between therapeutic cloning ? which occurs only on the cellular level ? and reproductive cloning. Using a person’s DNA to produce stem cells which are genetically identical to the donor for the purpose of treating disease does not produce a fetus.

In fact, therapeutic cloning is a way to avoid precisely what Bush has stated he wishes to avoid ? the abortion of fertilized embryos for the purpose of acquiring stem cell lines. Using therapeutic cloning, stem cells specific to an individual can be created, obviating the need for other sources of stem cells.

We believe that the benefits of therapeutic cloning ? which could include treatments for a very broad range of diseases, from leukemia and cancer to age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease ? outweigh any possibilities for misuse of the technology.

While the debate over cloning for reproductive purposes, resulting in living persons, is complex and muddled, the debate over therapeutic cloning is not.

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