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Michael West(s) Bioethics Battleground Michael West
by Ricki Lewis Photograph by Jason Grow

When Michael West ’76 was trying to convey his love of science on his application to Rensselaer in the fall of 1971, he had no idea that three decades later he’d be at the center of a firestorm concerning human cloning. As the president and CEO of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) in Worcester, Mass., West and his colleagues are pioneering use of nuclei from body cells to restart development — a.k.a. human cloning (many biologists prefer the more scientifically precise term “somatic cell nuclear transfer”). The process won’t create a new human being, but will yield specialized cells that promise a multitude of clinical applications, from patching injuries to rejuvenating aging tissues.

“It is possible to use nuclear transfer as a time machine to take a differentiated cell back to an embryonic state. That is a remarkable phenomenon,” West says. But President Bush, who called the company’s November 2001 cloning of a six-celled human embryo “morally wrong,” disagreed, and he is joined by others, including political and religious leaders, who consider the group of cells that results from nuclear transfer a person.

But human cloning is only part of ACT’s work, and is the latest of a series of intellectual challenges on West’s journey to make a difference.



Rensselaer Magazine: September 2002
President's View Your Mail From the Archives Hawk Talk Class Notes Features
Front Page At Rensselaer Milestones
In Memoriam Making a Difference Staying Connected
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