Monday, August 08, 2005

Dr. William Hurlbut and Altered Nuclear Transfer

This entry is sort of an appendix to the entry entitled "Hurlbut, Bioethics and Hypocrisy." If you are unfamiliar with somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), you might want to read SCNT 101 (below) before you read this.

Dr. Hurlbut’s idea would use a slightly modified version of SCNT (which they give a different name, altered nuclear transfer, or ANT) to create what the PCBE calls a “biological artifact.”

Hurlbut theorizes that it might be possible to make genetic alterations in the somatic cell before it is transferred into the egg such that the resulting entity would not have the ability to form past a certain point, and therefore would never have had the potential to become a fully formed human being. For example, “the altered nucleus might be engineered to lack a gene or genes that are crucial for the cell-to-cell signaling and integrated organization essential for (normal) embryogenesis” PCBE White Paper, May 2005.

The resulting “biological artifact” would never have been a living organism, says the PCBE, and therefore its destruction by the extraction of stem cells would be perfectly acceptable. The genetic alteration would then have to be reversed in the extracted cells, but after that, they would be normal, pluripotent stem cells – or so says Hurlbut’s hypothesis.

For a full description of this idea, along with three others, along with analysis of the ethical questions surrounding each idea, please read the PCBE’s May 2005 White Paper entitled Alternative Sources of Pluripotent Stem Cells.

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