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2006-07-28 17:52 U.S. News & World Report

  In the spring of 1999, ACT's new troika sat down to discuss just how to venture into what's arguably the most controversial area in medicine today." We knew that we would have to fend off attacks," recalls Lanza." But we never imagined all the insanity that would come." Over the course of the next two years, the men would be called" mad scientists," " baby killers," and " monsters" ;their names would be added to antiabortion " assassination" lists on the Web; the FBI would warn them of threats on their lives, and conservatives would push a bill through the House of Representatives declaring them federal criminals deserving of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

  1999 年春天,先进细胞技术公司的新三巨头开始讨论如何开展现代医学界最有争议的研究。兰扎回忆说:"我们料到肯定会有非议,但没想到会有那么激烈的反应。"接下来的两年中,他们被称作"疯狂科学家"、"婴儿杀手"、"怪物";他们被列入网上反堕胎组织的"暗杀"名单;联邦调查局警告他们会有生命危险;保守派要求众议院通过法案,宣布他们是联邦罪犯,可判10年徒刑和处以100万美元罚款。

  The source of the hysteria is a widespread misunderstanding of just what an early embryo is, according to West, Cibelli, and Lanza. " If you ask the average person, they will tell you it's a tiny little person with buggy eyes," says West. " But, in fact, these are just a few reproductive cells, not much different than eggs or sperm. They are the raw materials of life, but they are not a person."


  All three men are adamant that they are following the most moral path. " Three thousand Americans die every day of diseases that therapeutic cloning could treat," says Lanza." It would be wrong of us to abandon those people because we're afraid of controversy." West is even more graphic about his beliefs. " I feel as if all my loved ones are trapped in a burning building, dying of diseases like diabetes and heart disease," he says. " I have the fire extinguisher —— the therapeutic cloning technology —— that can save them, but people are trying to take it out of my hands." And Cibelli is disgusted with the brouhaha. " Therapeutic cloning has to be done, and soon," he says. " Patients are all waiting for the public to get over the hype and fearfulness so that they have a chance to live."


  Because of the hostile climate, it took nearly two years for Cibelli to even begin the experiments. During that time, the partners searched for members to serve on an ethics board and debated how to best go about getting donors for both body cells and human eggs. One major turning point came in late September of 1999, when Cibelli met with Harvard professor Ann Kiessling, who agreed to help set up a program to collect eggs from women. Another breakthrough came in mid-2000, when Dartmouth's Green agreed to head ACT's ethics advisory board. Under their leadership, very strict guidelines were set up for the collection of eggs and body cells, which finally began early this year.


  With precious human eggs too few and far between, Cibelli spent his time between deliveries practicing the transfer of nuclear DNA from a half-dozen or so body cell donors into cow eggs just to perfect his technique.


  On October 10, after removing the DNA from several human eggs, injecting them with DNA from body cells, and then tricking the eggs into thinking they had been fertilized so that they would begin the work of multiplying. But this time, Cibelli left the lab in a depressed mood. The eggs looked a little sickly, and he was convinced he had damaged them beyond repair. But when he called two days later from Michigan, his lab assistant gave him the news he had been wanting to hear for almost five years: The eggs were cleaving into the world's very first known human cloned embryos.


  The ramifications They were only clusters of four and six cells, but in them ACT's scientists saw a revolution in medicine that will render many of today's drugs and treatments obsolete. Essentially, cells yielded from human research cloning are the same stem cells that President Bush decided are promising enough to fund, only better. Unlike existing stem cell lines, stem cells created through cloning would provide a patient with a fresh supply of cells with his or her own genetic code. Gone would be transplant failures and the need for immune-suppressing drugs. In the same way that antibiotics and vaccines rid the world of infectious plagues a half century ago, says Lanza, these cells could for the first time eradicate the chronic, degenerative diseases of our day, such as cancer, Alzheimer's, and heart disease.

  它们只是4 个或6个细胞组成的细胞群,然而在先进细胞技术公司的科学家们看来,这却是能淘汰许多现代药物和治疗的医学革命。事实上,研究克隆的人类细胞与布什总统决定支持的干细胞研究是一样的,只是更好一些。与已有的干细胞不同,克隆生成的干细胞可以为病人提供有自己基因遗传密码的新鲜细胞。移植手术失败和抗免疫反应药物将成为过去。兰扎说,就像半个世纪前抗生素和疫苗使世界免受感染之苦一样,这些细胞可以第一次根治癌症、早老性痴呆症及心脏病等慢性病和变性疾病。

  Because body cells are rejuvenated by an egg's proteins, therapeutic cloning would also tackle aging itself, replenishing the body with younger, more vigorous cells than even the most healthy cells already in place. And because DNA removed from a body cell can be tinkered with before it is placed into an egg, Lanza hopes someday to add factors —— genes for immune cells, for example, that would make a patient resistant to AIDS.


  It's still too early to say whether the United States will accept or reject therapeutic cloning. Cibelli and his colleagues still have mountains of work ahead of them. It takes not just an embryo but the nurturing of stem cells and the ability to transform those stem cells into specialized types before any clinical applications can be used in humans.


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