On March 29, 2004, with the passing of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, Canada joined other Western countries that legislate assisted human reproduction. The AHR Act includes prohibitions against, for example, human cloning, the creation of in vitro embryos for any purpose other than reproduction or improving assisted reproduction procedures, and payment for gametes, in vitro embryos, or a surrogate mother's services. Anyone found guilty or indicted of these and other offenses may face a fine of 500,000 dollars or imprisonment of up to ten years, or both. The AHR Act also identifies a number of "controlled activities," which can be undertaken only in accordance with the regulations and a license. While researchers in Canada cannot create embryos for research purposes, they can, with a license, conduct research using human embryos remaining after infertility treatment.
In the final weeks of testimony before the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, many argued for a ban on the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer, or cloning, to create humans, but for classifying cloning for biomedical research as a controlled activity. Some noted that the embryo cloning research recently conducted in South Korea by Moon and colleagues would not be allowed in Canada if the proposed legislation were not amended.
I was among those who urged Senators to support the comprehensive ban on cloning. I argued that so-called "therapeutic cloning" was not necessary to harness the potential benefits of stem cell therapies.
The most common argument in support of cloning for stem cell rearch is that it will solve the immune rejection problem with stem cell transplantation because the patient will get back her own undifferentiated cells instead of transplanted stem cells from a stranger. In fact, though, embryonic stem cell therapies may not carry a risk of immune rejection. To date, immune responses to human embryonic stem cells have not been reported. Moreover, a recent study by Mick Bhatia and colleagues that directly evaluates the immune response of human embryonic stem cells indicates that the injection of these cells into immune competent mice does not induce a detectable immune response. Also, when these stem cells were exposed to human blood containing immune cells they did not elicit an immune reaction.
Further, even if immune rejection occurs, it does not follow that cloning for autologous transplantation is the ideal solution to the problem. …