Harvard teams want OK to clone
Human-cell work would be first in nation
By Gareth Cook, Globe Staff | October 13, 2004
Two separate teams of Harvard scientists are preparing to produce cloned embryos for disease research, and one has officially applied for permission from the university’s ethical review board.
The team at Children’s Hospital, which includes Dr. George Q. Daley and Dr. Leonard Zon, is particularly interested in studying diseases of the blood, such as sickle cell anemia and immune deficiencies.
For example, researchers might be able to clone a cell from a sick child and then produce a line of embryonic stem cells that are genetically identical to the child. The genetic problem that causes the disease could be corrected, and the cells could be directed to grow into blood cells, providing a replacement for the patient’s faulty cells.
All of these steps have been shown to work in mice, in an experiment Daley’s team performed.
”This is a fresh approach,” Daley said. ”But obviously there are many steps between where we are and clinical applications.”
In scientific circles, cloning is called nuclear transfer. The nucleus of a donor cell, which contains its genetic material, is transferred into an egg cell that has had its own nucleus removed. Researchers then prompt the egg to grow for several days, until it forms a ball called a blastocyst, typically a few hundred cells. From this blastocyst, scientists can then extract embryonic stem cells, which have the ability to become any cell in the body.
To date, only a team in South Korea has successfully performed nuclear transfer with human cells. In the United Kingdom, one team of scientists has been granted permission to conduct the experiments, and another has applied for permission.
At Children’s, Zon and Daley said they are interested in doing nuclear transfer experiments, but have not yet worked out all the issues they need to in order to apply for permission, Zon said.
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