The Czech republic has recently joined many nations in debates on the issues and implications of human cloning for research and medical purposes. As of October 1st , the Czech government has decided to ban human cloning on all fronts.
There seem to be no concrete global guideline on the use of cloning for medical and research purposes. Individual countries are left to decipher, on their own, all the possible cultural and ethical implications associated with cloning in order to draft laws to protect their citizens. In August of this year the US House of Representatives voted for a total ban on human cloning. The ban covers not only reproductive cloning, but also cloning human embryos for medical research as well as "therapeutic" cloning. Britain followed suit by passing laws which permit therapeutic, but not reproductive cloning of human embryos. This week Czech Republic will begin implementing the amended treaty drafted by the council of Europe regarding the protection of human right and dignity in connection with the application of biology and medicine. The treaty bans all human cloning, the use of embryos for research and the modification of human embryonic genomes for non-treatment reasons.
The discussions on this topic are difficult, for cloned embryos could provide a substantial source of embryonic stem cells, which show great promise in treating a variety of diseases from diabetes to Parkinson's. However, removing the stem cells destroys the embryo, which opponents find morally abhorrent.
I asked the Director of the Institute of Experimental Medicine here in Prague, Professor Eva Sykova if stem cell research is being conducted in the Czech Republic and with what results:
"Stem cell research is conducted in our institute. Our institute is also the centre for cell therapy and tissue repair. We have a national grant for cell therapy . So we of course also concentrate on stem cell research . So far we use experimental animals and embryonal stem cells for research. We don't use embryonal human stem cells but we are trying to develop the stem cells not from embryos but from bone marrow. Bone marrow has no ethical problems and we can cultivate and we are trying to differentiate from the bone marrow the stem cells which we can use in various organs including the brain."
How will the recent Czech law change the research trends in the Czech Republic and is it possible to continue this research in another way. I know you just mentioned bone-marrow.
"Yes, we are not limited to the use of embryonic stem cells from animal, this is our main research purpose. Of course we will be waiting for the future laws and whether we can use human stem cells for therapeutic purposes. "
So, at this moment you don't think that banning stem cell research in the Czech Republic would stop any future research developments.
"Yes, I hope that there will be some arrangement in the future with stated conditions under which would allow use of even human embryonal stem cells. But of course we don't think about any cloning of embryo's at the moment. But. We would probably like to establish human cell lines like there exist in many other countries such as the US and even India. So we would like to establish one if the law permits this."
I know that in the United States they are only allowed to use stem cell lines that are already established, they are not allowed to create new ones. Is that the same here in the Czech Republic?
"I don't think so, I don't think there is any law against establishing any human cell lines."
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