Home' Technology Review : May June 2006 Contents 64 FEATURE STORY
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Other countries have much more supportive environ-
ments for embryonic-stem-cell research, which may give
them the lead in the new race to perfect nuclear transfer.
In the United Kingdom, for example, stem cell research is
more intensely regulated but also much more open. Scien-
tists apply to a central government authority for per mission
to do research involving human embryos. Summaries of
research proposals under review---including those involv-
ing nuclear transfer---are posted online for public evaluation,
along with an explanation of the criteria for approval. "In
the U.K., we have enor mous gover nment support, from the
prime minister on down," says Minger, an American scien-
tist who migrated to the U.K. "There s a stigma associated
with stem cells in the U.S. that s not tr ue here."
This openness contrasts with the situation at Harvard,
where several scientists applied for per mission to do nuclear-
transfer research more than two years ago. According to
Massachusetts state law, the researchers must get their experi-
ments approved by institutional review boards. But whereas
the British approval procedure is largely transparent, neither
Har vard o cials nor scientists proposing experiments would
discuss with Technology Review their research plans or the
details of the review process until after it is completed.
Across the Atlantic, government support has helped two
U.K. groups charge to the forefront of therapeutic-cloning
research. Alison Murdoch, Miodrag Stojkovic, and col-
laborators at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne have
probably made more progress in nuclear transfer than any
other researchers. Murdoch s team received permission
from the U.K. authority to start experiments in August 2004
and announced that it had cloned an early-stage embryo (it
hasn t yet isolated stem cells) soon after Hwang published
his now retracted paper announcing an e cient cloning
technology. At the University of Edinburgh, Wilmut also
intends to do nuclear transfer. He put his plans on hold
after the Hwang scandal, but he is now seeking per mis-
sion to start a new set of experiments, using animal eggs
rather than human eggs.
California s Haven
In a lab high on a hill overlooking the San Francisco Bay,
Renee Reijo Pera sits at her desk listening to the sounds of
construction. The space next to her lab has been entirely gut-
ted; ladders and scattered extension cords have replaced the
orderly rows of microscopes and freezers. Upon completion
in August, the space will become the home of UCSF s new
therapeutic-cloning research program. It will e ectively be
a replica of Reijo Pera s current lab, stocked with the same
sort of equipment, but purchased with private funds.
UCSF hopes the new facility will help it become a front-
runner in therapeutic cloning. The university was the rst in
the United States to attempt nuclear transfer, albeit unsuc-
cessfully, in the 1990s. "Now we hope to start again where
those studies left o ," says Arnold Kriegstein, director of the
university s Institute for Stem Cell and Tissue Biology.
Reijo Pera and colleagues started cloning experiments
at another o -site facility in April, possibly the rst U.S.
group to try human nuclear transfer since Lanza s team
halted its work in 2004. In the UCSF lab, they will use "fail
to fertilize" eggs from an in vitro fertilization clinic, which
are much easier to get than donor human eggs. When they
have optimized the experimental conditions, they will start
using human eggs donated speci cally for research.
UCSF s new program is just one sign of California s bid
to become a haven for therapeutic cloning. The $3 billion in
state funding for stem cell research that voters approved in
2004 has been held up in legal disputes; but in the interim,
the oversight agency is issuing bonds to raise money for
stem cell programs. Many universities that hope to receive
some of that money say that nuclear transfer will be a major
part of their research agendas.
Two teams of scientists at Har vard with an impressive
dossier also plan to start nuclear-transfer experiments.
George Daley at Children s Hospital Boston wants to cre-
ate patient-matched stem cells for bone mar row transplants
for children with blood diseases, such as leukemia. Cur-
rently, many of these children cannot nd donors whose
bone marrow is a close enough match to be suitable for
transplant. And sometimes even matched bone marrow
transplants can trigger a severe immune reaction. Eggan,
an expert in mouse cloning, and Doug Melton, a molecu-
lar and cellular biologist at Har vard, want to use cloning to
create new models of neurodegenerative disease and dia-
betes. The Har vard scientists hope to get nal approval for
their respective projects this year.
Reprogramming the Debate
Tobias Brambrink sits at a microscope, staring at a plate
coated with millions of specialized skin cells known as bro-
blasts. He hopes to nd a clump of cells that glow green,
or even better, some cells that have the rounded shape of
stem cells, rather than the elongated shape of broblasts.
"In the U.K., we have enormous government support, from the
prime minister on down," says Stephen Minger. "There's a stigma
associated with stem cells in the U.S. that's not true here."
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