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Christian Medical Association Rejects Change to Human Cloning Nomenclature

What’s in a name? Apparently a lot according to Christians doctors who disapprove of stem cell researchers using the phrase ‘nuclear transfer’ to cover negative connotations of the ‘therapeutic clonin
( [email protected] ) Oct 01, 2004 08:58 PM EDT

A clone is a clone and calling it anything else would mislead the public, according to the head of the 2,000-member Christian Medical Association.

CMA Executive Director David Stevens, M.D, is urging the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) to trying to cover negative connotations associated with the phrase “therapeutic cloning” by calling it “nuclear transfer.” Stevens’ challenge to the ISSCR to stop changing human cloning nomenclature comes days after Leonard Zon, president of ISSCR sent a memo on the topic.

"A number of researchers have been trying to leverage public funds by obscuring the fact that they want to clone human embryos to get embryonic stem cells," said Dr. Stevens. "History has shown that verbal engineering facilitates social engineering. When scientists want to do something the public abhors, they simply change the terminology. They either deploy a euphemism or use technical jargon that nobody understands."

In a September 28 memo, Zon wrote, "Nuclear transfer (NT) should be used instead of 'therapeutic cloning'. Cells created by nuclear transfer should be described as 'NT stem cells' or 'NTSC'. If an acronym is used for human embryonic stem cells, "hESC" should be used. If we use these terms consistently, the public, journals, newspapers and magazines will follow our lead and use adequate terminology. The negative connotation of the commercial term 'therapeutic cloning', make a change in terminology necessary. The term 'cloning' does not accurately describe this biological process. Cells generated by nuclear transfer are by no definition a clone of the donor of the transferred nucleus."

Dr. Stevens disagreed. "Last time I checked, Dolly the sheep was considered a true clone of the sheep from which the nucleus was obtained,” he said. “Are we now supposed to say Dolly the 'nuclear transfer' sheep? Did Dolly's cloning process simply create 'cells', or did it create a sheep embryo that was later born?”

He concluded, "If researchers truly want--as ISSCR claims to want--'frank scientific, ethical and public debate on stem cells', wouldn't it be better to simply call cloning, cloning? And wouldn't it be better to call the cells that comprise the human embryo, a human embryo? And while we're at it, wouldn't it be better to call the absence of any therapeutic applications from human embryonic stem cell research 'disappointing' and the numerous successful therapies for patients from adult stem cell research 'encouraging'?"