Thursday, August 24, 2006

A safe way to harvest embryonic stem cells?

(from American Papist)
So goes the new claim:
Biologists have developed a technique for establishing colonies of human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a method that, if confirmed in other laboratories, would seem to remove the principal objection to stem cell research."There is no rational reason left to oppose this research," said Dr. Robert Lanza, vice president of Advanced Cell Technology and leader of a team that reported the new method in an article published online by the journal Nature.But critics of human embryonic stem cell research raised other objections, citing the possible risk to the embryo from using the technique, and the fact that it depends on in-vitro fertilization, the generation of embryos outside the womb from a couple’s egg and sperm.
...
Critics, however, have a range of objections to the research. Catholic bishops, in particular, oppose both in-vitro fertilization and P.G.D. testing, and therefore still object to the research, even though the cells would be derived from an embryo that is brought to term.
Richard Doerflinger, deputy director for pro-life activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the church opposed in-vitro fertilization because of the high death rate of embryos in fertility clinics and because separating procreation from the act of love made the embryo seem "more a product of manufacture than a gift."
...
Dr. Leon Kass, former chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, said, “I do not think that this is the sought-for, morally unproblematic and practically useful approach we need.” He said the long-term risk of P.G.D. testing is unknown, and that the present stem-cell technique is inefficient, requiring blastomeres from many embryos to generate each new cell line. It would be better to derive human stem cell lines from the body’s mature cells, he said, a method that researchers are still working on.
Scientists welcomed the new development, but also expressed concerns. Dr. Irving Weissman, a stem cell expert at Stanford University, said the new method, if confined to P.G.D.-derived blastomeres, would not provide a highly desired type of cell, those derived from patients with a specific disease. [full NYT article.]More sources:
Embryos spared in stem cell creation - USA Today
US firm makes "ethical" embryo stem cells - Reuters
New method makes embryo-safe stem cells - AP
IVF? P.G.D.? Sorry, try again folks. Or better yet, try adult stem cells.

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