Scientists at the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology have crossed the rubicon by creating synthetic “human” embryos—reprogramming embryonic stem cells and therefore sidestepping the need for eggs or sperm. This work raises SERIOUS ethical and legal questions.
What is the end game? Scientists claim to be aiding research into genetics issues and the biological cause of miscarriages. But this research can be used for much more sinister reasons. In April, China created embryos from monkey cells and implanted them in adult monkeys. They did not develop beyond a few days, but we know China will stop at nothing to find success.
This research highlights how rapidly developing science outpaces the law. It is paramount that the U.S. Congress stays ahead of the science and puts laws in place to ensure the unknown potential of this research does not cross any ethical barriers.
There are currently no federal laws on the books prohibiting embryonic research or even imposing a 14-day limit or restriction, as is the case with at least 12 other countries, including China. The Dickey-Wicker Amendment prohibits federally funded research that creates or destroys a human embryo, but that doesn’t go far enough.
We are calling on Congress to act now to pass a law creating legal and ethical accountability for scientists, universities, and companies involved in embryonic research.