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Germany

Cloning: the Human Dilemma

Critics spell out the nightmare, in which someone is trying to replicate humans in a dingy basement somewhere. Those in favour hail it as a step that could benefit thousands.

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Dolly was just the start

It was nothing short of a landmark decision when Britain's House of Lords voted to allow limited cloning of human embryos in December last year.

The biotech industry as well as the British Medical Association hailed the move as a step that could benefit thousands of patients.

The magic word that prompted the British government to be the first European country to permit research on human embryos is "therapeutic cloning."

Therapeutic cloning refers to the cloning of stem cells from human embryos. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells which develop into different type of body tissue. Once scientists are allowed to do research on embryonic stem cells they hope to be able to develop endogenic tissue.

This step could remove a problem making transplantation so dangerous: the fact that the body often rejects non-endogenic tissue. Ultimately, scientists hope that therapeutic cloning would make feasible radically new methods to help cure cancer or Alzheimer's disease.

However, opponents argue that therapeutic and reproductive cloning cannot be clearly separated, and that by allowing therapeutic cloning, the creation of entirely new human beings would be well underway.

Representatives of the Catholic church and pro-life organisations also object to therapeutic cloning. They argue that, since a human embryo invariably dies once stem cells are taken from it, cloning of these cells amounts to murder.

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