The International Society for Stem Cell Research on Tuesday voiced its opposition to a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly that would lead to a worldwide ban on nuclear transfer with human cells.
The society (ISSCR) said such a ban would inhibit research on stem cells and their medical applications.
ISSCR is a nonprofit organization that promotes the exchange and dissemination of information relating to stem cells, as well as professional and public education in stem cell research and its applications.
In its letter to the General Assembly, the society said it continues to support alternative proposals and resolutions that would ban human reproductive cloning while preserving the use of human nuclear transfer for beneficial medical research.
Nuclear transfer research is used to produce human stem cells, and subsequent tissues and organs that could be used to study disease and to replace damaged tissue.
Researchers who advocate its use say nuclear transfer would allow the production of cells and tissues matching each individual patient, because the donated nucleus would come from the patient so that the cells would be a genetic match, thus reducing the risk of rejection when transplanted.
ISSCR said nuclear transfer would enhance the availability of future cell therapies to diverse patients and has promise as a method to generate stem cells that can be used to examine rare genetic diseases, to study common diseases for which there is no way of disentangling genetic and epigenetic or environmental factors, and to understand diseases that afflict different races and ethnic groups.
The society recommended that research into nuclear transfer proceed with "appropriate regulation developed by scientists and regulators working together to provide ongoing scientific and ethical oversight to establish norms for good basic research, clinical investigation and laboratory practices."
ISSCR said recent scientific research demonstrated that stem cell research could lead to improved understanding and treatment of many diseases, including cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). There is evidence, the society said, that research on both adult stem cells and human pluripotent stem cells - also called human embryonic stem cells - will be required.
The society's letter also said there is "no credible scientific basis" to support the conclusion that research on human adult stem cells can take the place of research on human pluripotent stem cells, or vice versa. The ISSCR said it believes that it will be important for governments to support ongoing research involving adult human stem cells, and human pluripotent stem cells.
The ISSCR also explained in its letter that it opposes human reproductive cloning - implantation into a uterus of morulae or blastocysts derived through nuclear transfer - and said that all available evidence indicates that human cloning would be unsafe and should be prohibited at this time given current "widespread moral and ethical consensus."