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The new Obama Administration is going to push full speed ahead pouring money into ESCR—and I worry, human cloning research. This concern is heightened by the appointment of Alta Charo to the transition team. I know Alta, and we get along fine personally. But we clash. (She once called me a leader of the “endarkenment.”) Charo, like so many academics, is very radical (from my perspective) on these and most other bioethical issues, and so—as I have said previously—we are entering very dark days. (I privately predicted Charo would head the Obama bioethics council—which will be a stacked deck without the protests in the bioethics industry and in the media about deck stacking that we saw with the Kass-led Council, even though it wasn’t one. However, this early appointment might mean a high post in the Department of Health and Human Services.)

Meanwhile, ethical stem cell research continues to advance exponentially. Now, scientists grew a new windpipe for a woman from her own stem cells, and successfully transplanted it into her body. From the story:

A 30-year-old Spanish woman has made medical history by becoming the first patient to receive a whole organ transplant grown using her own cells. Experts said the development opened a new era in surgery in which the repair of worn-out body parts would be carried out with personally customised replacements.

Claudia Castillo, who lives in Barcelona, underwent the operation to replace her windpipe after tuberculosis had left her with a collapsed lung and unable to breathe. The bioengineered organ was transplanted into her chest last June at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona. Four months later she was able to climb two flights of stairs, go dancing and look after her children – activities that had been impossible before the surgery. Ms Castillo has also crossed a second medical frontier by becoming the first person to receive a whole organ transplant without the need for powerful immunosuppressant drugs.

Doctors overcame the problem of rejection by taking her own stem cells to grow the replacement organ, using a donor trachea (lower windpipe) to provide the mechanical framework. Blood tests have shown no sign of rejection months after the surgery was complete.

Stopping human cloning in an Obama Administration may be difficult. But I think that the more stories like this come out, the more likely it will be for us to generate sufficient public opposition that maybe, just maybe, that agenda might stall.

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