Telegraph | Jan 18, 2008
By Nic Fleming
A scientist is believed to have become the first person to create a clone of himself.
Fertility doctor Samuel Wood and colleagues created three early-stage embryos by replacing the DNA of donated eggs with his own and another man’s genetic material from skin cells.
It is the first time cloned human embryos has been produced from adult cells, and raises the prospect that further embryos could be used to provide stem cells tailored to any patient.
Although the embryos only lived for five days, the breakthrough is seen as an important step towards new treatments for incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
In 2005 Prof Woo Suk Hwang at Seoul National University in South Korea claimed to have produced human embryonic stem cells, the research was later shown to be fraudulent.
The only confirmed cloned human embryo was created by a team at Newcastle University, however this was made by cloning human embryonic stem cells that are not routinely available from patients.
Dr Miodrag Stojkovic, a member of the Newcastle team and co-editor of the journal Stem Cells, which published the research yesterday, said: “These researchers have for the first time developed cloned embryos up to blastocyst [five-day-old embryo] stage using adult cells as donor cells.
“This is a key advance in the development of patient-specific stem cell lines for therapeutic and drug development purposes.
“Although these results are preliminary since no stem cell lines have been derived from the cloned embryos, this may now be attempted.”
The researchers from the Stemagen Corporation based in La Jolla, California, used 29 eggs donated by three women in their early twenties.
Using a technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer – involving hollowing out an egg and injecting it with the nucleus of a cell from a donor – they grew five early-stage embryos consisting of 40 and 72 cells. Three of these contained DNA from either Dr Wood or the other man who provided skin cells.
Asked whether it was true that Dr Wood was one of the men who gave skins cells to produce the clones, a spokesman for Stemagen, said: “Yes, that is true. It stands to reason, we had to use somebody’s skin cells and the review board said it should not be a patient who might be given false hope.”
Dr Stephen Minger, a stem cell expert at King’s College London, said: “This is academically interesting research that shows that another group have managed to create clone human embryos using nuclear transfer.
“Disappointingly the researchers did not go on to do the next step – to create embryonic stem cell lines from cloned embryos.
“The community is waiting to baited breath to see if anyone can do both steps together.”
However pro-life groups accused the scientists of reducing human embryos to nothing more than a factory of spare parts.
John Smeaton, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: “We have got scientists wandering around in an ethical wilderness, completely forgetting about matters of justice relating to our fellow human beings.”