The Nationals Senate Leader, Senator Ron Boswell, has welcomed reports that todays COAG outcome does not alter the existing Commonwealth legislative ban on embryo cloning.
A national arrangement is seen as the best option but some states may try to go it alone using their own constitutional powers. The Prime Minister is not disposed to accept the states request to amend legislation.
Victoria and Queensland governments may pursue embryo cloning on an individual basis, but they will find out that it is much cheaper, more efficient and more practical to use adult stem cells, said Senator Boswell.
Queensland researchers are already using adult stem cells to study diseases from patients with diseases such as Parkinsons and Motor Neurone Disease. Theres no need to clone embryos to do the same thing.
Senator Boswell said that the main reason for embryo cloning given to the Lockhart Committee (whose review was discussed at COAG), was to enable researchers to study diseases.
Scientists have moved on worldwide to realise that the breakthroughs are coming from adult stem cell technology. The federal government recognised the importance of this by giving a $22m grant to the Griffith University researchers who are using stem cells from the nose to study diseases.
They have shown that adult stem cells can grow into heart, lung, kidney and nerve tissue. They take cells from a patients nose in minutes, grow them in days not months and have a stable, known basis from which to study and test drugs and eventually provide patient specific treatment.
It is a big step to go from using excess IVF embryos to creating embryos and cloning them and mixing them with animal matter for research purposes. If we had gone along with Lockhart on this, there was the risk of animal viruses spreading to the human genome.
If embryo clones are ever to provide patient specific therapy, where are the hundreds of eggs per patient to come from? Either risky hyperovulation of women, or from rabbits as suggested by the Australian Stem Cell Centres Alan Trounson.
Senator Boswell warned that the Victorian and Qld governments were not that interested in the science. Its more about the state hatched research empires built on promises, but not fact.
Some famous scientists came out yesterday to call for cloning but they are not at the cutting edge of stem cell science. I wonder even if they know about the animal/human hybrids involved in the Lockhart proposals.
Senator Boswell said it was a shame that the Lockhart Committee never took up the invitation from Griffith to see their work firsthand. It was also a pity that the Nobel laureate Barry Marshall couldnt accompany the committee to Brisbane to hear from Griffith Universitys chief scientist on adult stem cells.
The only way Australia stands to lose brains and investment and international prestige is if we dont recognise the good science in adult stem cells when we see it.
Most importantly, for patients suffering terrible diseases, embryonic answers for them are decades away according to leading embryo research supporters. Adult stem cells are their only realistic hope and thats based on fact, not promise.
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