By Lisa Monique Thompson

In October 2007, the second annual Stem Cell Summit was held in Boston. The Summit, produced by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the Genetics Policy Institute, and the Burrill Life Sciences Media Group, gathered many great scientific minds, as well as ardent advocates, in the field of global stem cell research.

There was a combined feeling of hope and frustration from researchers, patient advocates and patients themselves. Patients and patient advocates decried what seems to be an interminable wait for U.S. research teams to catch up with international clinical trials. U.S. scientists cited a severe lack of funding combined with a lack of donated eggs to perform somatic cell nuclear transfer research (sometimes called “therapeutic cloning” research — see sidebar).

California, Massachusetts, and Missouri all have legislation supporting stem cell research. This does not mean that stem cell research in those states is safe. In fact, some legislators in Missouri are looking to ban and criminalize SCNT by revoking an amendment that currently allows for stem cell research and therapy as allowed by federal law. Catch phrases such as “Dolly

[the sheep cloned in Scotland], daughters, and dollars” are prevalent and prey on people’s fear of human cloning and convolute the issue. Moreover, legislators are in most cases scientific laypeople who have great difficulty understanding this complex science.

Stem cell advocates were encouraged to look to California, Massachusetts, and Missouri, as well as countries like Belgium, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Spain, and Sweden, as models of appropriate legislation. William Neaves, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, warned Summit attendees that this “Cures without Cloning” move in Missouri is simply and frighteningly a test case for other states.

Ian Wilmut, the famed University of Edinburgh embryologist, who is best known as the man who supervised the individuals that cloned Dolly the sheep, noted that SCNT offers more promise to produce cells equivalent to those in the patient because in SCNT, donor cells can actually be taken from the individual. The cells then harvested are patient-specific and may eliminate concern of transplant immune rejection. Rudolf Jaenisch of MITR