Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Stem Cell Technique

Why is it that I get a sick feeling every time I read a headline that says something like, 'Major Ethical Dilemma Solved'?

It happened again when I read this article, New Stem Cell Technique May Help Solve Political, Ethical Debate on the front page of today's Globe and Mail. When I first saw the headline I hoped it was a feature on the healing potential of adult brain cells, a truly ethical and truly promising technology.

Instead this supposedly ethical breakthrough is simply a new technique for harvesting cells from an embryo. As the Globe describes:
By plucking a single cell from a human embryo at a very early stage, researchers
at Advanced Cell Technology say they have generated two new stem-cell lines
while the embryos remained intact and continued to develop.

I might start to be convinced if one of these embryos had successfully been implanted in a mother and became a healthy baby. If the scientists haven't taken that step, they simply cannot know whether or not the embryo has actually been harmed.

I'm reminded of an email a well meaning acquaintance sent me a few years ago. The news was that the abortion pill RU-486 was a major ethical breakthrough because it would mean fewer abortions. In fact, the exact opposite was true as the drug induced a chemical abortion.

2 comments:

Another O'Neil said...

Embryonic stem cell resarch is a page out of Joseph Mengele's playbook. The media deliberately ignores the fact that adult stem cells are pluripotent and available for targeted research without a donor's fear of incompatiblity. The embryonic stem cells previously approved for research also have unlimited potential with PCR replication. The reason behind the media misinformation is that researchers want embryos for cloning research - not stem cell research. Adult stem cells are much more promising for real treatments, but only embryos can be used for cloning. The media and the researchers promoting embryonic stem cell research always refer to embryos as a mass of cells. By the same description we are all a mass of cells. An embryo is a developed group of cells less than ten days from a beating heart. When an embryo is implanted in a fertile womb it will develop into an infant. Embryonic stem cell research is experimentation on nascent humans. If thinking people do not have an issue with that, the Islamo-fascists have a point - we have become too de-based to rule.

Patrick O'Neil said...

Thanks very much for your comments. All true.

I never heard the comparison before, but, again its true: "By the same description we are all a mass of cells."

Thanks for your insights. Must be in the name.