Human cloning for therapeutic purposes is winning governmental approval in Britain and Japan, among other countries. This new support contrasts with past debate that resulted in the ban of federal funding for such research in the United States. Despite this ban, researchers in the United States early this year reportedly cloned a human embryo and were able to obtain stem cells (the prized so-called “fountain of youth” cells from which most cells in the body differentiate). A team in South Korea also reported similar success.
Progress in stem cell research and cloning has accelerated in recent months, laying the foundation for a technology that could lead to new treatments and cures for many biological ills. This foundation could also lead to human cloning for reproductive purposes, leading to renewed calls for a ban of the technology. While ethical considerations should always be considered, it is doubtful that any such ban would be effective. As expertise and confidence grows, a new competitive atmosphere (among governments as well as researchers) will no doubt ensure continued progress, for good or ill.