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Debate about stem cell cloning

"Stem cell cloning needs you"

"In a unique experiment we're inviting you to participate in a discussion that will help shape our next feature on stem cell research"

"Deriving a stem cell line from a cloned human embryo still represents one of the most formidable scientific barriers in biology. Challenged with deep ethical questions, misled by high-profile research fraud, and obfuscated in the eyes of the public, it's fair to say that in the race to overcome this hurdle no one's close to being at the starting blocks.

At a recent high-level meeting on reproduction, several experts in the stem cell field said it is time we rethought our approach to cloning. But for a challenge of this scale, success requires input from a broad section of the scientific community and the public at large.

This is where you can help.

In the June issue of The Scientist, we will be publishing a special feature that re-casts the scientific approach and public image for the process that has become known under several guises, including 'stem cell cloning', 'somatic cell nuclear transfer' (SCNT)," 'research cloning,' or 'therapeutic cloning.'

Taking a page from groundbreaking social media experiments like Wikipedia and OhMyNews, we want to hear your thoughts on the questions we pose below, any questions you have, and your ideas for what you think should appear in this feature. Post them as comments to this page or Email your thoughts to

Also, take part in the opinion polls that we will be running on The Scientist Web site over the next few weeks.

We'll be inviting leading experts in the field to provide their thoughts, and we'll be regularly updating this page with their answers. We especially welcome novel ideas from scientists outside of the fields generally associated with this kind of work. And for a topic of this weight and importance, feedback from the public is critical. Everyone is invited to share in sculpting the discussion.

Here are three questions that we hope will get the conversation started. Please join in the discussions, offer your thoughts, and add questions of your own here.

Is the nuclear transfer challenge one of understanding or technique?
It would seem that the scientific community presumes successful stem cell cloning is a matter of resources and technical skill. Put enough technicians on a problem and eventually it will be overcome. This isn't the way we normally perceive scientific challenges and there seem to be too many gaps in our understanding to proceed this way. How might we approach the situation as a scientific, rather than a technical, challenge and who has ideas for new approaches? Click here and let us know your thoughts.

Is it time to reevaluate the ethics of stem cell cloning?
The ethical quandaries about reproductive cloning have evolved from discussions that took groups like the Raelians seriously. Nevertheless, the idea that cloning for reproductive purposes might at some point be possible warrants discussion, and the debate about the status of an embryo is not something to take lightly. Moreover, the rights of egg donors need to be considered. What are the most pressing ethical concerns about proceeding with a nuclear transfer research program and who has novel ideas on how to address them? Click here and let us know your thoughts.

Does stem cell cloning need new terminology?
The terminology for stem cell cloning has become so obtuse that it strains public understanding and may also obscure the best scientific approaches. The avoidance or attenuation of the word cloning has left us with names that describe a technique, not the study of a phenomena that includes such fascinating biological puzzles as nuclear programming, development, and pluripotency. Is there a better name for this type of research program? Click here and let us know your thoughts.

We hope the questions above spark discussions and debate here, on other Web sites, and in labs and universities around the world.

That's enough from us for now, over to you."

By The editors of The Scientist

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