Human cloning ban taking steps in state Legislature

by Kyle Potter

A bill that would prohibit human cloning passed through its first committee hearing Tuesday in the Minnesota House of Representatives, according to Minnesota Public Radio. That same bill could impact stem cell research if passed.

The House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee approved the “Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2011” today. Its companion bill in the Senate will be discussed in the Health and Human Services committee tonight.

“The research, maybe in other parts of the world, might be going on out there, but we just feel it’s not for Minnesota,” the bill’s lead author Rep. Bob Dettmer told MPR. 

The bill specifically bans somatic cell nuclear transfer, a procedure in which the DNA from a patient’s cell is implanted into an unfertilized egg. That egg is coaxed to develop into a blastocyst, a ball of cells that forms approximately five days later. Part of the blastocyst is then removed in order to grow embryonic stem cells.

The International Society for Stem Cell research said on its website that somatic cell nuclear transfer “could provide a powerful new tool for studying the basis of human disease and for discovering new drugs.” The stem cells derived from the procedure are nearly identical genetically to those of the patient.

The procedure is one of several techniques used to create human stem cell lines. It has not yet been used to clone a human, though it was used in the cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996.

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a two-year ban into law in 2009 that prohibited state funds from being used for the procedure.

The United States currently prohibits any federal funds from being used for somatic cell nuclear transfer research.