X-Message-Number: 10763
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 17:21:12 -0500
From: Jan Coetzee <>
Subject: Cow humans cloning
References: <>

Human Cells ``Cloned'' Using Cow Eggs

Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists said Thursday they had used cloning
technology to fuse
human and cow cells in an attempt to grow organs for transplant in a
laboratory dish.

The team at tiny biotech company Advanced Cell Technology said the cells
had grown as an
embryo for a few days, then reverted to a primordial state known as stem
cells, which are
capable of growing into any kind of cell in the body.

Although they used the same method they used to clone cows, the
scientists at the privately held
company, based in Worcester, Massachusetts, say they have no intention
of trying to create a
human clone.

Instead, they want to try to grow organs and tissues in the lab for use
in transplantation therapy.

``We will not use this technology to clone human beings,'' Michael West,
president and chief
executive officer of Advanced Cell Technology, vowed in a statement.

The company has not submitted its research for the standard scientific
``peer review'' process,
when other experts check to make sure it is legitimate work.

First, they want to assess the public response, said James Robl, a
professor of animal science at
the University of Massachusetts who helped found the company, which has
licensed and patented
the technology.

Otherwise, the company may end up sinking a lot of money into a project
that the public will not

Reaction was fast and pronounced. ``This is the most extraordinary
single development in the
history of biotechnology because it now suggests that we can create new
human-animal species,''
Jeremy Rifkin, a writer on biotechnology issues, said in a telephone

``I don't think we should go ahead with research, around the world,
until we take some time to
think about it.'' Calling the idea ``dangerous and chilling,'' Rifkin
said he would lobby Congress
to pass a law against such experiments.

But Robl thinks the potential benefits outweigh any initial distaste
people might have for the idea
of mixing human and animal cells.

``Embryonic stem cells hold the promise of providing an unlimited supply
of cells that may be
grown in the laboratory into virtually any type of tissue for transplant
use,'' he said.

He foresees taking a few cells from a patient and growing them perhaps
into heart cells, for use
in repairing a damaged heart, or brain cells for injection into the
damaged brains of Parkinson's
patients, or even into growing a whole organ such as a liver.

Because the genetic material comes from the donor, there would be no
problem of rejection.

Robl's team took a human cell -- in this case a skin fibroblast cell --
and fused it using an
electrical current to a cow's egg that had its nucleus removed.

The human nucleus, which contains all the genes that carry the ``road
map'' for building a
functioning body, crossed into the hollowed-out cow egg. This process
started the egg growing
and dividing almost as if it had been fertilized by a sperm.

Although it started out looking like an embryo, it later became a mass
of stem cells.

Earlier this month a team at the University of Wisconsin at Madison said
they grew human stem
cells from human embryos donated by infertile couples after fertility

On their own the cells differentiated into cartilage, bone, muscle and
other kinds of cells and are
still growing in laboratory dishes.

Their study, funded by Geron Corp (Nasdaq:GERN - news), is farther down
the road than Robl's.
But their cells would be foreign to the patient receiving them, since
they contain the human
genetic material from someone else. There would be the problem of
rejection just as there is now
with donated organs.

Not so with cells cloned from the patient.

Robl says his human-cow hybrid cells -- made from cells donated by Jose
Cibelli, one of the
scientists on the team -- died after a couple of weeks.

``If the cells get past this initial hump, then they theoretically would
be like normal human
embryonic stem cells and can be used just as other human embryonic stem
cells can be used,''
Robl said. He said eventually the human genes would take over and only a
very small amount of
cow DNA would remain.

He thinks this approach might be more ethically acceptable than using
human embryos. Currently
U.S. federal funds cannot be used to pay for such research.


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