US cloning gets mixed reception

Greek geneticists yesterday hailed as positive the creation of cloned human embryos by American researchers to develop new medical therapies, but the government said it would not allow such experiments to take place in Greece. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said the state Bioethics committee had strict guidelines that would preclude private or state researchers from conducting such work. Naturally, under no circumstances will we allow such problems to emerge, he said. Not in the sense that we are against scientific progress, but because the code of ethics and the general principles must ensure that this progress is used for the benefit of mankind and human society. On Sunday, scientists at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts, said they had created the first cloned human embryos. This could lead to stem cells – which have the capacity to grow into all kinds of human tissues – being isolated in order to cultivate tissues or organs that could be used for transplants. These developments point to positive prospects for the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and kidney ailments, as well as burns, stated Nikos Moschonas, a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Crete. In the future, we might see the creation of tissues and organs that are compatible with individual patients, or for groups of patients with common genetic traits. These could lead to organ banks. Genetics professor Stavros Alachiotis agreed that the prospects look good, but added that work on stem cells could take decades. We do not know under what circumstances such cells could create specific types of tissues, he said.