Policy

Stem cell research no longer threatened by Ohio Senate bill

The Ohio Senate passed a bill that would outlaw the mixing of human and animal cells to create “human-animal hybrids,” such as the implanting of an human embryo into an animal’s womb. But the big news for stem cell researchers is that the bill passed by the Senate no longer would ban human cloning, as […]

The Ohio Senate passed a bill that would outlaw the mixing of human and animal cells to create “human-animal hybrids,” such as the implanting of an human embryo into an animal’s womb.

But the big news for stem cell researchers is that the bill passed by the Senate no longer would ban human cloning, as the version introduced in March did. Scientists and stem cell research advocates were concerned that a blanket ban on human cloning would harm the state’s ability to attract grants and top-notch biomedical researchers.

Those fears would seem to have eased as a result of the bill’s new, stripped-down language. The bill lists eight examples of “human-animal” hybrids, including an embryo produced by introducing a nonhuman nucleus into an human cell and “a nonhuman life form engineered such that it contains an human brain.”

Steve Buehrer, R-Delta, said he introduced the bill after hearing news reports of scientists using rabbits, mice and cows to make human clones, according to a statement. “While thoughts of animal-human hybrids conjure up images of science fiction movies, it is no fantasy that several labs around the world have or are attempting to combine animal and human cells,” he said.

Buehrer said he dropped the language that applied to human cloning to help move the bill and broaden its appeal. “The stem cell piece has much more complexity … so I made the decision to pare the bill down,” he said.

Anyone who violates the law would be subject to imprisonment of up to a year and a fine between $250,000 and $500,000. The fine would apply only if the violator made money as a result of the violation.

Stem cell research advocates were disappointed that the earlier version of the bill didn’t contain a distinction between reproductive cloning — creating humans — and therapeutic cloning, which is done for research purposes and can lead to breakthroughs in treating diseases.

The legislation, Senate Bill 243, now moves to the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives for further consideration. It passed the Senate by a 24-8 vote.