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October 17, 2005

Embryos Spurred To Produce Stem Cells Without Being Destroyed

Not sure if this really avoids the heart of the traditionalists' complaint about the techology:

Two studies released today take further steps toward creating human stem cells without harming embryos, but are not expected to change dramatically the policy disagreements over embryonic stem-cell research.

Both studies, conducted in mice models and published in the journal Nature, attempt to resolve the core objection to such research -- that embryos are destroyed to obtain their stem cells.

...

The first study -- conducted by a team led by Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology -- uses a procedure known as single cell embryo biopsy, used to look for genetic defects, in which a cell is removed from an eight-celled embryo and tested.

The team took a cell from a mouse embryo and used the cell to develop stem cells without destroying the embryo.

The second study used the cloning technique to produce an embryo that is incapable of implanting in a uterus and developing to term, but still produces stem cells. In the cloning process, the nucleus of a body cell is combined with an egg to produce a cloned embryo. In the study, the body cell was stripped of the gene needed to produce a placenta and implant the embryo in the uterus.

I think the objection remains that embryos will still be created and then destroyed just for the stem cells. I suppose there will be some number of embryos tested in the normal course of in vitro fertilization that may be available for this sort of thing, but the core objection will remain: more embryos will be created just to grab some of their cells for stem cell production, and then destroyed or left in a freezer.

The cloning option seems not to avoid any of these issues at all. Deliberately creating a non-viable embryo -- an embryo, but just incapable of actually ever growing much further -- via cloning seems just as bad as creating an embryo to destroy it.

Thanks to OgreGunner.


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posted by Ace at 02:15 PM

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