Cloning and stem cells

What is cloning?

Cloning is a set of laboratory methods and techniques that allows us to reproduce any biological material as many times as we want, specifically cells, DNA, etc.

We could say that cloning is the same as photocopying, that is, to make as many identical copies of something as we need.

And, in our case, what do we want to clone or photocopy?

Very easily, what we want to clone are very special cells called stem cells.

 

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are undifferentiated or unspecialized cells without a specific function because they have not yet changed into specific tissue cells. Stem cells are different to other body cells because during division they present the following characteristics:

    • They produce new copies of themselves indefinitely.
    • They produce new cells that under the right stimuli can develop into different tissues of which the human body is composed of.
    • They can colonise and repair sick tissues or organs, replacing sick cells with healthy cells.

Stem cells are cells from which each of us developed after the ovum is fertilized by the spermatozoon. Stem cells are the cells that gave rise to all the tissues and organs that make up our body when they were subjected to specific stimuli. All our organs and tissues maintain a “small reserve” of these cells that allow for the maintenance and repair of tissues and organs.

 

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Why is there so much interest in cloning stem cells?

There is so much interest because stem cells, aided by genetic engineering, are to become two fundamental pillars in medicine in the very near future.

Because when we achieve the appropriate combination of knowledge from genetics, medicine, physics, chemistry, molecular biology, cell and tissue engineering, biology, biochemistry, etc. from one or very few stem cells, we will be able to design and create cells and specific tissues to repair damaged organs or structures in our body and we will be able to produce therapeutic human proteins. This is known as regenerative medicine.

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For example in Parkinson’s disease, it will be possible to replace damaged cells for new nerve cells and the affected individual will heal.

For instance, it will be possible to replace cardiac cells that have been damaged by infarctions or cardiac insufficiency with new and healthy cells and the affected individual will heal.

We will be able to repair medullary lesions caused by tumours or accidents. It will be possible for people suffering from diabetes to have insulin-producing cells transplanted into the pancreas and as a result and the affected individual will heal.

 

The same will occur with many other diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, etc.

Where do we stand right now?

We know that during their specialization or transformation, the cells in our body undergo specific cellular organ programming,

 

but we don’t know what kind it is, nor at what moment it functions! Let’s remember that our body is formed by very different structures and organs: heart, liver, brain, lungs, bones, hair, stomach, etc.

 

And that all the cells in our body have developed from one single cell, “the egg or ovum fertilized by a sperm cell”, which is why all of them are identical, meaning they poses the same exact instructions, but, depending on the organ they belong to, they will use only some part or other of the information. This is known as cell specialization.

In other words, all human cells possess 46 chromosomes engraved with all our kitchen recipes or “building blocks” (genes). However, these recipes are not manifested in all cells at the same time. Instead, some of the recipes are used on certain cells, and other recipes are used on other cells.

Due to this, the lung is different to the eye because the recipes pertaining to the lung contain information for the formation of cells specialized in respiration, and the recipes in the eye give place to the formation of an organ that allows us to see.

In other words, from an undifferentiated cell a complete individual has developed with millions of differentiated cells that make up different body structures. This means that during the development process the cells specialised.

So, from the moment of fertilization to the birth of an individual and throughout his/her life, cells undergo a process of differentiation or cell specialization under the commands of specific cellular programming for each species.

These cells in their early stages of embryonic development have the ability to produce a complete living being, meaning they are able to give origin to all the tissues of the new individual, including the extra-embryonic membranes that form the placenta. That is why they are called totipotential stemcells. Then, as gestation takes it course, they lose part of that potential because they become more and more specialized, and according to their transformation or differentiation possibilities they receive different names:

    • Pluripotential stem cells are those capable of transforming themselves into all the tissues that compose a living being, except the extra-embryonic membranes (placenta).
    • Multipotential stem cells are those that can be differentiated or that can be transformed into some tissues, but not all.
    • Unipotential stem cells are those that can be transformed into just one type of cell tissue.

 

And, what does this all mean?

The answer is simple!

    • THIS means that if we learn how to stimulate, programme and deprogramme these stem cells in a very near future we will be able to generate worldwide therapeutic tissues, new cells that will colonise and will repair damaged or sick tissues, replacement organs and new drugs and therapeutic proteins.
    • THIS means that if we are successful in developing new methods of genetic engineering to be used in gene therapy, we will be able to correct genetic abnormalities of stem cells before they undergo differentiation into tissues or specific tissues, thus preventing disorders or malformations.
    • Moreover, THIS means that if we are able to achieve this challenge with stem cells from the tissues of the actual individual, we will be able to repair and colonise all damaged organs or tissues with cells from the actual patient, thus resolving not only the important problem of immunological rejection to donor cells but also shortening long waiting lists for transplantation. Generation of stem cells will stop illegal organ trafficking in the black market.

 

Can you imagine if we could deprogramme with no side or collateral effects a cell that is already programmed and re-programme it again to our convenience? Wouldn’t it be great?

 

Are all cell the same or are there different types of cells?

There are three different types depending on the time they are obtained:

    • Embryonic stem cells.
    • Adult or somatic stem cells.
    • Induced pluripotent stem cells, also known as iPS cells

 

How do these stem cells differ from each other?

    • Their difference lies with the potential capacity (totipotential, pluripotential, unipotential) that each cell has to transform into different types of cells or tissues that compose our body.
    • Their different capacity to self-renew (to produce new copies of themselves)

Embryonic stem cells and adult or somatic stem cells originate naturally. Induced pluripotent cells are artificial or laboratory-grown.

Let´s see:

Embryonic stem cells and adult or somatic stem cells occur naturally, in terms of their origin, that is, they are the same stem cells that receive different names depending on the evolution/maturation state they are in, may that be: in an embryonic stage, fetus, child, adult, cadaver. The cells are not altered or manipulated in a lab setting. In simple terms, they follow their natural course.

When these cells are part of the same embryo, they are called embryonic cells.

When stem cells are part of the tissues of fetuses, children, adults, umbilical cords, placentas and cadavers, they  are called adult or somatic stem cells. Each tissue or organ in our adult body (postnatal), has a cell reservoir  of these cells and these cells replace  our sick or dead cells and repair damaged organs naturally, for example when a bone is broken it becomes fused again;  when the skin or a muscle is injured, they heal and regenerate …… and this happends over and over again.

Induced pluripotent stem cells are manipulated (artificial) cells, as they were obtained at the laboratory by deprogramming adult stem cells.

And, what can we do in the mean time?

We must do research and learn to identify all the sings a cell yields to form a specific organ.

 

Where can we obtain stem cells to investigate and achieve our objectives?

It’s simple. They can be obtained from:

 

Embryos are the source of EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS. To obtain embryonic stem cells, we first need to produce embryos and allow them to grow for 5 to 7 days in the laboratory so that they start developing and transform into a blastocyst.

Once this has been achieved, THE EMBRYO IS DESTROYED, and cells inside of it known as internal cell mass are removed to be grown in the lab. Stem cells originate from these newly obtained cells.

And, how can embryos be produced?

It is not difficult. Embryos can be produced in the laboratory employing any of the following techniques:

Obtained by means of sexual reproduction

Sexual reproduction (fertilisation of an ovum by a spermatozoon or sperm cell) is used by humans, either in a natural, or in an induced manner by employing assisted reproduction techniques.

Assisted reproduction techniques that enable us to produce embryos in the laboratory include:

    • In vitro fertilisation: a technique consisting in the fertilisation of an ovum by a spermatozoon or sperm cell.
    • ICSI: a technique consisting in the fertilisation of an ovum using intracytoplasmatic sperm injection with just one single sperm cell.

Sexual reproduction requires the DNA from the TWO PROGENITORS. In other words, the sperm cell needs to enter the ovum. Thus, the embryo receives half of his or her genes or “recipes” from the father and the other half from the mother, as follows:

23 chromosomes or cook books from the father + 23 chromosomes or cook books from the mother = 46 chromosomes

 

laclonacion01a.en View animation 

At present, some countries have legalised the procurement of stem cells from embryos.

However, the embryos must come from couples that have undergone assisted reproduction techniques to achieve a pregnancy and have no interest in the remaining embryos.

There are other countries that allow the creation of this type of embryos for research purposes.

Given that the law regarding this subject is always changing, if you need to find out about the specific regulations of a particular country, it is better seek the information when you need it in real time.

Obtained by means of nuclear transfer

Nuclear transfer is an asexuated form of reproduction still under research. In this case, the embryo is not formed from the union between ovum and spermatozoon, is formed from any body nucleated cell (or somatic cell) from an individual, whether male or female.

In this technique the nucleus of this cell is taken out and implanted in an unfertilised ovum from which the nucleus, which contains all its chromosomes or “recipe books” (DNA), has also been taken out.

laclonacion01b.en View animation 

Since cells follow only commands deriving from their chromosomes or recipe books, whatever its origin may be, the reconstructed ovum is stimulated to start developing as an embryo.

Please, note that in this case, all the “recipe books” of the embryo, with all the different recipes or genes, will come from ONE single cell from ONE single individual.

Thus, what we are doing in reality is cloning the actual individual that has donated his or her cell. In other words, we will obtain a cloned embryo (genetically identical) of the patient or individual that has donated his or her body cell.

Research in this field is legal in some countries such as the United Kingdom and Singapore. It is “tolerated” in some other countries such as Belgium, the United Status or France, but it is totally prohibited in Germany, Norway and Spain. However, the laws on this subject are constantly being changed; and therefore, if you need to learn about the law of a specific country, you should seek such information at the time when you need it and in real time.

Obtanained by means of Parthenogenesis

Partenogenesis is a way of asexuated reproduction still under research, that permits to create embryos from DNA of one single progenitor, which in this case, is the ovum of a woman.

The non fertilised ovum is subjected to a series of electrical, thermal or chemical stimulus, after which it behaves as if it had been fertilised, thus the embryo is formed ONLY from the maternal ovum.

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Once we get the embryo and depending on its final usage, we can choose between two types of cloning:

Reproductive cloning

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The purpose of reproductive cloning is to implant the cloned embryo in the uterus of a woman with the intention of creating an individual (human being).

Reproductive cloning or duplication of a human being is ABSOLUTELY PROHIBITED, regardless of the process used to obtain the embryo: sexual reproduction, nuclear transfer or parthenogenesis.

Reproductive cloning is NOT currently applicable in human embryos obtained by nuclear transfer or parthenogenesis, since these techniques are under investigation and there are many countries where their use if prohibited.

 

 

Nuclear transfer
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Parthenogenesis
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In any case, there are a number of groups who claim to have cloned a human using nuclear transfer. Animal cloning by means of nuclear transfer of somatic or body cells has been a reality since the birth of Dolly, the sheep, in 1997 (in Dolly’s case the somatic or body cells came from the mammary gland of a sheep that was six years older than her).  Subsequently, other animals have been obtained through reproductive cloning: cows, monkeys, mice, etc. 


Therapeutic cloning

In this case, instead of implanting into the uterus, the embryo is grown for a few days in the laboratory under special conditions until it reaches the sufficient degree of development. It is when the embryo has reached this stage that cells inside of it (known as internal cell mass) can be grown. The stem cells that originate from this internal cell mass are capable -by using the right technology- of transforming into transplantable therapeutic cells to treat diseases and generate replacement organs.

laclonacion01e.en View sexual reproduction animation   View nuclear transfer animation   View parthenogenesis animation

Therapeutic cloning using nuclear transfer enables the procurement of stem cells genetically identical to those of the individual that donated the body cell.

In other words, the future recipient of the transplant becomes his own donor.

For the affected individual this would mean the procurement of a virtually unlimited histocompatible source of tissue suitable for transplantation, thus bypassing the possibility of immunological rejection.

Moreover, if this cell had any genetic alteration, the condition could be cured before it was cloned by using gene therapy techniques and healthy tissues procured from the original “repaired” cell.

Let’s remember that all these technologies are still under under research.

The use of all this technology poses several ethical and moral dilemmas.

For further information, please visit related links on this topic.

Foetal tissues or organs are obtained from miscarried babies (foetuses). These tissues or organs can provide TWO types of stem cells: germinal embryonic stem cells (with characteristics of embryonic stem cells) and adult or somatic stem cells.

    • GERMINAL EMBRYONIC CELLS are obtained from embryos-foetuses aged between 5-10 weeks, from an anatomical structure known as gonadal crest. Under normal conditions these cells would give raise to the ova and the spermatozoa during the fertile life of the individual.
    • ADULT OR SOMATIC STEM CELLS are those obtained from the remains of foetal tissues in foetuses of any age. Adult stem cells obtained from foetal tissues have less potentiality than embryonic stem cells for they are in a more advance stage of differentiation. However, the results obtained so far with these cells are encouraging.

Some experiments report that transplanting neuronal cells obtained from human foetuses has a therapeutic effect in patients suffering from Parkinson´s disease, with a noticeable reduction of the symptoms in treated patients. However, the procurement of foetal neuronal tissue or foetal tissues in general are very limited so there are several antiabortion groups that are totally against obtaining this type of cells in order to prevent many women from being induced to have an abortion of healthy foetuses just for the sake of obtaining and then selling these tissues in the illegal black market.

It has recently been shown that the amniotic fluid contains fetal mesenchymal stem cells, similar to embryonic stem cells. That is, pluripotent stem cells, which under appropriate stimuli,  could become future repair cells of various body tissues.

At this moment in time, the potential in this research field is immense, as pointed out below:

    • These cells are very similar to embryonic stem cells in terms of their potential for growth and differentiation; with the added advantage that once developed they do not create tumors.
    • If necessary, if a sick fetus were to be detected during pregnancy, these cells could be extracted from the amniotic fluid, reprogrammed and be used during gestation to prevent the advance of the disease and if this is was not possible, they would already be prepared and ready for when the baby is born.
    • In addition, these cells would  present no  immunological risk for the baby born from this pregnancy, as these cells come from the fetus’s  own placenta and amniotic fluid.
    • These cells could also be stored in cell banks, same as stem cells originating from the umbilical cord, constituting a reserve of immunologically compatible tissues for use by the world population.
    • Nor would there be an issue from an ethical point of view, as their use does not involve the destruction of the embryo and there are studies showing that these cells can also be obtained from the placenta after delivery, besides the amniotic fluid.

Early experiments with these cells have already been conducted in mice.

View related links 

Blood from the umbilical cord is a source of ADULT OR SOMATIC STEM CELLS.

The procurement of these cells does not pose any legal or ethical dilemma and good results are being obtained through their use.

Adult or somatic stem cells are obtained by puncturing the vein of the umbilical cord during the first 15 minutes following the birth of the baby.

Given the great therapeutic potential of these cells for the world population as well as for the donor and his or her family, we invite you to visit the related web pages by clicking on their links so that you can assess.

View related links 

 

 

Cells from the umbilical cord are a source of ADULT OR SOMATIC STEM CELLS.

This tissue is made up by different types of cells that might have different potential uses, all of which are at an investigational phase.

View related links 

 

 

 

 

 

Cells originating from placental tissue are a source of ADULT OR SOMATIC STEM CELL. 

All these cells are at an investigational phase.

View related links 

 

 

 

 

 

ADULT OR SOMATIC STEM CELLS can be obtained from the tissues and organs of adult individuals. We know that these undifferentiated stem cells are found as part of totally differentiated tissues and organs and that furthermore:

    • They are present in many adult tissues (bone marrow, blood, cornea and retina, brain, skeletal muscle, gums, liver, skin epithelium, epithelium from the digestive system, pancreas and adipose tissue) and that new ones are constantly being discovered.
    • They are responsible for the variability of tissues subjected to stress and constant regeneration, such as the skin, blood (bone marrow), intestinal mucosa, brain and adipose tissue, etc.
    • They play a part in the regeneration of damaged tissues.
    • They have more properties than initially thought, among these, plasticity, an ability to produce different types of tissues when they are isolated from the tissue which they form part of and are subjected to the right stimuli.
Their procurement does not pose any ethical or legal dilemma. They can be procured from the appropriate tissue, both from living as well as from dead bodies. In the first case, the cells are donated and in the latter, through the autopsy. For further information, please click on related links.

What are induced pluripotent cells?

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) are adult cells that have undergone genetic reprogramming to bring them back in time to earlier stages of development and convert them to a state similar to what they were in when they were embryonic stem cells, thus forcing them to express the same genes and the same factors that they expressed at that time.

What does it mean that they  have been reprogrammed or dedifferentiated to a similar state to that what they were in when they were embryonic stem cells?

The answer is easy, let´s review and update our knowledge:

1) We know that at the time of fertilization when the egg and sperm unite, an egg is formed and it begins to divide until a complete individual is formed.

LET’S SEE HOW IT WORKS:

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2) We know that cells arising from the first cell divisions that occur in the embryo have the potential to be converted into any body tissue. Then,  gradually, as they start to differentiate  into  a particular tissue, they begin lose this property.

 

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So, you will agree with me that THE CELL HAS SPECIALISED OR PROGRAMMED, correct?

 

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Well, now, let´s do this inversely: 

Let´s deprogram an ADULT cell that has become already specialized in a particular tissue, bringing it back in time to the EMBRYONIC STEM CELL stage in which it had the potential to become any tissue in the human body. Did you get it?

celulas-madre-desprogramacion_en

 

Well, there it is! This cell that we have deprorammed at will is what we call induced pluripotent cell (iPSC).

And, why are we interested in obtaining these cells?

Well, because we will be able to practice “ a la carte” reparative or regenerative medicine, that is “personalized and customized” medicine.

Imagine an individual who has suffered a heart attack. Well, from any of the individual´s adult cells (skin, muscle, etc.), and by employing the appropriate techniques, these cells can be retroceded in time to get them in the development stage where they were capable of producing cardiac cells. Once this goal is achieved, we will be able to get as many spare cells as needed to repair the said individual´s heart.

And, we will be able to do the same with all organs and tissues that make up the human body.

In other words, from the adult cells of a given individual, we will be able to deprogram and reprogram the individual’s own cells, thereby obtaining cells with the ability to  become the specific tissues we are interested in or need to help cure such individual´s pathological condition.

And what advantages do these cells over other existing stem cells?

Because these cells are cells from the actual individual, there will be no immunological rejection. And most importantly, the origin of these cells does not bring up any ethical issues, as in order to obtain embryonic stem cell, the embryos are destroyed.

What is the clinical applicability of these cells at present?

There is no clinical applicability currently as they are still in investigational phase. Before these cells are used in patients, we must be completely sure that they meet all the necessary safety criteria, such as that they do not cause cancer or other diseases caused by changes or mutations that might have occurred during this process.

Who else can benefit from working or doing research with these cells?

Laboratories, as then they will be able to test the efficacy of the drugs directly on living cells from cell cultures.

Cell and molecular researchers,  since all these strategies open up new doors for learning how to program, deprogram and reprogram cells to repair damaged body tissues of the body or introduce new features in the cells so that they express the characteristics that we might be interested in.

Since when do these cells exist?

iPSC induced in mice were first reported in 2006.
iPSC induced in humans were first reported in 2007.


 

If we were to ask ourselves the question “which stem cells from all the currently existing stem cells are the best for our purposes?” the answer at this moment in time would have to be NONE EXIST.

    • At present there are more questions than answers. We must remember that development biology and tissue engineering are sciences that have just been started to be studied and much remains to be learned.
    • No one knows with total certainty what the potential of stem cells will be when they are subjected to the appropriate stimuli.
    • Advocating any specific cell type is full of private interests on the part of those who defend it regardless of the means or system used.
    • These cells can be very useful in many research lines. Perhaps specific stem cells for specific research?

In view of the above, it would seem more prudent at this time to listen, assess and respect all opinions and to continue to perform research in all fields in search of the truth. And once we know where we are, then determine which direction to take. In doing this, we should not forget that the application of the available scientific techniques must always be correct from an ethical point of view. Making sure that this ethic code is complied with is the responsibility of all of US.

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As it is already being done with stem cells from umbilical cord, all these cells may be stored in cell banks created for this end, constituting a worldwide reserve of immunologically compatible tissues for the general population.

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At present, the utilisation of embryos is the subject of debate among different religious, scientific, and political communities, for from a moral point of view “the use of embryos leads to its destruction” and the use of foetal tissues may induce many women to have abortions of healthy foetuses with the intention to procure this type of material.

What must remain clear is that during this learning period we must take great care when facing the enormous potential of these technologies. The “trial-error, trial-success, corrective measures” trilogy, can have unpredictable consequences for humanity, affecting us in many ways.

 

The limits of these techniques and their use must be strictly regulated by the law, under the consent of a general population, that must be well informed and aware of the matter 

 

 

Summarizing …….

 

Related questions

What does the term cloning mean?

Cloning is a laboratory technique employed to obtain a set of identical cells from an initial cell.

Cloning can occur in a natural or in an induced way. An example of natural cloning in human reproduction is identical twins. This occurs when a fertilised egg is divided into two, and then, an embryo is derived from each of the two halves.

An example of induced cloning is when the process previously described is provoked externally in a laboratory setting. This technique has long been employed by veterinarians for many years to obtain stronger and more productive animal clones.

In 1997, a system to obtain animal clones derived from somatic cells of adult animals was developed. This was the first time that a sheep was born without a paternal contribution. This method renow as nuclear transfer consists in taking the nucleus of a cell from a live animal, which is then implanted into an ovum which has been depleted of its own nucleus and the DNA it contained.

Since cells only follow the orders given by their nuclear DNA without taking into account their precedence, the final result was a sheep called Dolly, identical sheep of a sheep six years her older. This technology is very new and in experimental phase.

More recently, other animals have also been developed using this method of reproductive cloning: caws, monkeys, and murine.

What is therapeutic cloning?

Therapeutic cloning means employing the knowledge gained from all these cloning techniques to obtain stem cells (that is, totipotent cells) that are converted into transplantable therapeutic cells to treat diseases by regenerating tissues and deteriorated organs.

Of all these cells, which are in an investigational phase and which can already be used for therapeutic purposes?

All cells are in an investigational phase. Many of them are actually in clinical trials, but they cannot yet be used for curative purposes in humans. The cells that cannot yet be used for that end include:

    • Embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. At present, these cells are difficult to obtain and their versatility –i.e. the possibility that they could one day become different tissues without producing tumors or diseases secondary to mutations that they may have acquired during the manipulative process to which they were subjected- is still under investigation. One thing is these cells in their natural state inside the human body as part of a maturation process, and another different thing is to see how they behave when they leave their natural habitat, are man manipulated by researchers in the laboratory, re-introduced in the human body.
    • Cells from adult stem cells from: postnatal tissues, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord tissue and placental tissue.

Cells that can be used therapeutically in humans already, despite the fact that research studies are still ongoing, are adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood, since these cells, once they arrive at the cord blood bank, are almost ready to be transplanted fairly quickly. Currently, these cells are being used to treat over 80 diseases relating to different types of cancer, blood diseases, immunological and metabolic disorders. There are many research studies underway to study such diseases.

For further information, you can check the following links:

March of Dimes. Umbilical cord blood.
http://nacersano.marchofdimes.org/parto-y-nacimiento/la-sangre-del-cordon-umbilical.aspx

Cbr. Cord blood bank.
http://www.cordblood.com/benefits-cord-blood/cord-tissue

Why is it so important to keep stem cells from umbilical cord blood, umbilical tissue and placental tissue in cell banks?

    • Due to the easiness to collect these cells.
    • Due to their characteristics in terms of their potentiality. These cells are halfway between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. They do not pose any ethical issues, and when we have ascertained how they work, they will become a reservoir of histocompatible tissues for the heritage of mankind.

 

Stem cells from umbilical cord blood that are deposited in public cell banks are already being used in that way. Those found in private banks are used for the particular family they belong to, with the possibility of also being useful for the closest blood-related relatives.

For further information, you can check the following links:

Joint Report from the Bioethics Committee of Spain and the National Ethics Committee in Life Sciences of Portugal
http://www.comitedebioetica.es/documentacion/docs/bancos-de-sangre-tejido-cordon-umbilical-cbe-cnecv.pdf

What is mitochondrial nuclear transfer?

It is a form of nuclear transfer that has nothing to do with cloning that allows women suffering from diseases due to mitochondrial disorders to to have healthy children.

Mitochondria are small structures that are in the cytoplasm of the cell outside the nucleus that produce energy.

At the time of fertilization, all mitochondria we inherit come from our mother. The father´s sperm does not provide any.

When mitochondria are abnormal (mutated), women pass them on to their offspring causing liver, kidney and brain diseases.

To keep this from happening, a team from the University of Newcastle is developing a method in which a donor´s ovum, the affected woman´s ovum and the partner´s semen are used.

The procedure consists in:
Transferring the nucleus of the affected woman´s ovum to the nucleus of the donor´s ovum, whose mitochondria are normal and from which its nucleus has previously been removed.

Will it be possible to recreate someday Aldous Huxley´s novel “Brave New World” using cloning and regenerative medicine techniques?

When there is injustice, there is no happy world and anything that is misapplied generates injustice.

A “Brave New World” will only be possible when we all freely take responsibility for our actions and make a common front to reach total global wellness. When we consider the good and bad of each situation and each advance. When we assess and debate from many different points of view (the more multidisciplinary, the better) which risks or benefits can be brought to us and what suits us the best, not individually but globally.

This theme has been widely debated in many writings and movies, including:

Books:

A “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley – 1932 (rather than to eugenics, the author referred to the horrors of an extremist social conditioning). At present, the reading of this book is interesting from the perspective of cloning techniques and DNA.

Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, Bill McKibben – 2003

50 genetics ideas you really need to know, Mark Henderson – 2010

Related movies:

New Brave World.
GATTACA.
Jurasick Park.
The Sixth Day.
The Island. Multiplicity.
Star Wars: The attack of the Clones
The Boys from Brazil.

The evolution and progress in a free and fair world cannot be stopped unless a global catastrophe occurred.

What we can DO is to take responsibility for our actions by being properly informed and keeping our eyes wide open”(not closed, just because not looking is more comfortable). In this way, when the time comes, we will be well prepared to express freely the direction we want to take and the world we want to leave in our wake, without being manipulated by anyone.

Forgetting our individual responsibility as integral parts of the general whole may lead us to make big errors.

The manifestation of the “stop thinking error” is well documented in the film by the philosopher Hannah Arendt, 2013, an excellent reflection on the banality of evil, based on her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. The conclusions of this German philosopher in her wonderful final speech do not leave anyone indifferent as they are excellent for the subject we are raising, ignorance and manipulation are unacceptable with the means currently available to investigate, reflect and debate. We must use this wonderful gift that has been given to us “to learn to think for ourselves,” the time of the absence or anesthesia of thinking is currently unacceptable. Our future walks hand in hand with our present.

And, never forget “what might be technically possible might not be ethically aceptable”.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are the cells from which we have formed and are subsequently become reserve cells that are part of our tissues and help us maintain and repair our body.

Look! It´s quite easy!

We will go from 1 to 100:

The “1” means the starting point, i.e when the ovum and sperm unite and the “first cell” arises. Now, pay close attention, this first cell will begin to divide millions of times to form a complete organism, i.e. the first cell has ALL the potential for the development of the future individual and to generate all the different cell types that subsequently become part of the individual´s body.

The “100” is the culmination of this process, i.e., it is the time when we are born, a formed, SPECIALIZED, developed and complete organism.

Moreover, how is it possible that an individual with about 220 different cell types ends up developing from a single cell?

Quite easily indeed! For a cell at point “1” to reach point “100”, it has to go through a series of sequential stages providing “limiting” stimuli in terms of its potentiality (possibility to turn into multiple tissues) to help them change into a specific tissue.

How can we get stem cells for use in regenerative medicine?

By collecting them as they are produced. We therefore have stem cells from embryos, amniotic fluid, blood or tissue from the umbilical cord, placenta, adult tissues or cadavers.

Or by generating them from any cell in our body, using a reverse process, opposite to what was described in the previous question. That is going backwards from 100 to 1, and by using genetic and tissue engineering that enable us to “DEPROGRAMME” them until a level that suits us -based on the purpose for which the process is being used- is achieved. These are the so called iPS or “induced pluripotent stem cells”.

Is it ethical to enter the world of regenerative medicine?

From the point of view of disease and human suffering, the answer is YES.

The aim of regenerative medicine is to repair tissues that are malfunctioning (accidents that have me us tretraplegic, genetic errors that contribute to the development of cancer, curing muscular diseases that restrict us to a wheelchair, etc.) or aging (degenerative diseases: Parkinson, Alzheimer, very painful and immobilizing bone lesions of the spine, loss of central vision such as macular degeneration, etc.) so that we can maintain a decent and healthy life until the end of our days.

Can the knowledge acquired from cloning and regenerative medicine be misused?

YES. Of course, it can.

Genetics, as with everything else in life, is both an opportunity and a threat, it all depends on how we use it.

Fire makes you warm, but it can also burn you.

Genetic techniques are morally justified when they are used to fight diseases and suffering, because they will allow an extended life expectancy.

Progress is unstoppable, “we know where research starts but never where it ends or where it may lead us”. Many of the legacies of Einstein are still in full development and many others are already part of our lives: the theory of relativity and GPS, regardless of whether or not we understand their mathematical formulas and concepts of space, light and time. In the field of nuclear physics, cleavage of uranium 235 by slow neutron bombardment can be used both to produce electrical current as well as to produce an atomic bomb.

Nevertheless, this is unstoppable, society cannot function based on prohibitions and ignorance but based on clear and consensual knowledge accessible to all through planetary governments and fair and wise social laws that value stability, balance and world peace as a whole.

Most everyone is looking for the same thing: peace, stability, dignity and happiness.

Without basic science there is no innovation or later development, our hospitals are filled with people in suffering and the prevalence of severe disease in the general population is very high.

If we have or are developing the methods to achieve this development, it would be ridiculous not to use this technology.

Let´s wake up and be responsible. Humanity has long moved with patterns that are already obsolete and this must come to an end. We are not eternal; our planetary journey has a day of arrival and day of departure. Under this perspective, it is worth asking ourselves “why do we keep having wrong patterns that no longer work and generate suffering? Is it necessary to continue engaging in wars? What lies beneath them? Why do we allow the interests of a minority destroy a majority? What about human migration and concentration camps? Is so much suffering necessary? Is this the legacy and the education we want to leave for our successors?

Moreover, let’s start to ask ourselves “How can we make our planet a haven of peace and harmony?” Why not start, once and for all, to build this brave new world longed and described in the history of humanity by all cultures that we know, where mankind, possessor of the knowledge and power that is generated, finally decides to make good use of it and chooses to live in peace and harmony with all everything that surrounds us.

 

Here you will find several links that might help you to understand the magnitud of the problem here presented.

Next topic: Genetics and cancer

Reviewed: 23rd of February 2016