Scientists have figured out how to extract stem cells from blastocysts without killing the blastocyst, says Nicholas Wade in the New York Times.
The new technique would be performed on a two-day-old embryo, after the fertilized egg has divided into eight cells, known as blastomeres. In fertility clinics, where the embryo is available outside the woman in the normal course of in vitro fertilization, one of these blastomeres can be removed for diagnostic tests, like for Down syndrome.
The embryo, now with seven cells, can be implanted in the woman if no defect is found. Many such embryos have grown into apparently healthy babies over the 10 years or so the diagnostic tests have been used. …
…â€œBy growing the biopsied cell overnight,â€ he said, â€œthe resulting cells could be used for both P.G.D. and the generation of stem cells without affecting the subsequent chances of having a child.â€
Great breakthrough, huh? Now researchers can get all the embryonic stem cells they could ask for without killing blastocysts. But it looks like the scientists needn’t have bothered.
But the new method, reported yesterday by researchers at Advanced Cell Technology on the Web site of the journal Nature, had little immediate effect on longstanding objections of the White House and some Congressional leaders yesterday. It also brought objections from critics who warned of possible risk to the embryo and the in vitro fertilization procedure itself, in which embryos are generated from a coupleâ€™s egg and sperm.
Um, but it says the blastomeres were being removed anyway, doesn’t it?
Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, suggested that the new procedure would not satisfy the objections of Mr. Bush, who vetoed legislation in July that would have expanded federally financed embryonic stem cell research. Though Ms. Lawrimore called it encouraging that scientists were moving away from destroying embryos, she said: â€œAny use of human embryos for research purposes raises serious ethical questions. This technique does not resolve those concerns.â€
What ethical questions? Do they want the blastocyst to sign a consent form?
“Embryos cannot give consent and the people they could become will obviously have had no say on whether cells should have been removed. Even if they are not destroying the embryo they are still putting it at some risk.
“A lot of these researchers make claims which are later disproved or turn out not to be as they promised, so we will have to wait and see if it really is as it seems.”
What could possibly be the objection? The National Catholic Bioethics Center has two, for starters. One is that the extracted cell has the potential to develop into an embryo. Never mind that those extracted cells aren’t now developed into embryos when extracted for genetic testing or other uses.
The other is that the embryo is undergoing a medical procedure â€” the extraction of one cell â€” not for its own benefit but for the cause of science. If the cell can also be used for genetic testing, however, it is being used for that embryo’s benefit. And even if it is not, there are many other procedures â€” organ donation, for example â€” that do not benefit the host but are nonetheless viewed not only as acceptable but as moral.
President Bush offered little encouragement Wednesday and, if anything, raised the bar higher, suggesting he would not be comfortable unless embryos were not involved at all.
Well, we don’t want to make the President uncomfortable, do we?
Social conservatives already have begun complaining that the new technique falls short. They say the method does injure nascent embryos, and they question whether the cell that is removed from an embryo has the potential to develop on its own.
There’s no point trying to appease, reason, or compromise with the Fetus People. Say the words “embryonic stem cell” to them, and their warped little brains promptly go to work manufacturing new reasons why embryonic stem cells are bad. Unfortunately we’re all being held hostage by their ersatz “morality.”