Robert May, my counterpart at the Royal Society in London, has expressed not only the consensus of British scientists on the perils of a proposed U.N. convention to ban all human cloning research ["A Cloning Compromise That Works," op-ed, Oct. 20] but the consensus of the U.S. National Academies and more than 60 other science academies worldwide.
Under the auspices of the InterAcademy Panel -- a global network of science academies -- we have expressed our support for an international ban on human reproductive cloning. But the Costa Rican proposal being considered at the United Nations goes too far by also calling for a ban on "therapeutic cloning," a technique more accurately termed "nuclear transfer to produce stem cell lines." This promising research has important potential both for scientific research and future medical therapies, and it has nothing to do with attempts to clone a person.
In the United States, as elsewhere, this issue provokes a range of views, sometimes tied to a nation's cultural, scientific or religious traditions. A proper respect for such differences requires that each nation make its own decision on exactly how -- and whether -- this type of research should be carried out.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences joins its counterparts in other nations in urging that a ban on this form of stem cell research be excluded from a U.N. resolution to ban human reproductive cloning.
National Academy of Sciences
As a registered nurse, I feel compelled to point out that the Oct. 14 KidsPost article "How Far Should Research Go?" did not address a third type of stem cell that is saving lives today: umbilical cord blood, or newborn, stem cells. While I believe embryonic stem cell research is a valuable pursuit, it is widely held that embryonic stem cells will not save a single life for 15 or 20 years. Cord blood stem cells can treat more than 70 life-threatening diseases from leukemia to sickle cell anemia, and some 4,000 cord blood stem cell transplants have been performed to date.
However, I've become increasingly concerned that expectant mothers are not being informed of the option to save or bank their cord blood. The result is that nearly 4 million umbilical cords are thrown away every year.
Unlike embryonic stem cells, no controversy surrounds how cord blood stem cells are harvested: They are simply drawn from the umbilical cord, after birth, causing no harm or risk to the mother or the child. While this is a relatively new technology, the possibilities seem limitless.
SUSAN GRAY SELLERS