Newsweek, By Claudia Kalb
Kim Barnett would do anything to help her dad. Already, she’s changed careers. That move came after Barnett noticed her father, who has Parkinson’s, drooling on an airplane in 2001. The disease had hijacked his instinct to swallow—and it devastated Barnett, who worried that outsiders would notice only the symptom, not the smart, funny man she loved. Within two years Barnett had given up her job as an educational consultant to head up the Parkinson Association of the Rockies. Today she says she’d do something far more personal to battle the disease: she’d donate her own biological eggs to stem-cell research. “It’s important to keep the advances going,” says Barnett, 35. “I’m a blood donor and an organ donor. I don’t see donating eggs as anything different.”
For months, politicians have been battling over the ethics of using embryos stored in fertility clinics for stem-cell research. But scientists aren’t setting their sights on embryos alone—they want eggs, too. The purpose: somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), a complex technique that merges eggs (whose nuclei have been removed) with adult cells to create specialized embryonic-stem-cell lines. Last month South Korean researchers announced they’d nailed SCNT, also known as therapeutic cloning, with the help of 18 egg donors; now U.S. scientists want to get going, too. They believe SCNT will allow them to study the origins of disease, hunt for cures and create genetically matched repair cells for patients. Soon, women like Barnett could become biological pioneers in the next frontier of stem-cell science.