Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Breakthrough Will Eliminate "Need" To Destroy Human Embryos, Ethicist Hopes


Washington D.C., (CNA).- Two teams of Chinese researchers reported a medical breakthrough this morning, creating living mice from connective tissue that had been reverted to its embryonic state, a development that may eliminate the "need" to destroy human embryos for research.

Researchers accomplished this by first inducing the cells from the connective tissue to revert back to their embryonic state. This feat was first achieved two years ago, however researchers had never been successful in creating new living animals from these "induced pluripotent stem" (iPS) cells, raising questions about their developmental potential.

Results published today by the online journals "Nature" and "Cell Stem Cell" answer those questions, as scientists have shown that the iPS cells truly do function identically to embryonic stem cells. This proves that like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells are pluripotent, or able to develop into any type of cell, rather than simply multipotent, as adult stem cells are, only able to develop into a limited number of cells.

Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, neuroscientist, staff ethicist, and director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, explained to CNA that the breakthrough offers hope that iPS cells may be effective in providing an ethically acceptable alternative to human embryonic stem cell research.

"This procedure does not require the destruction of human embryos," Fr. Pacholczyk

said. "Therefore, it is certainly preferable to embryonic stem cell research."

"Nature" reports how researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanghai Jiao Tong University successfully produced 27 live offspring, while the National Institute of Biological Sciences produced four. Some of the mice have successfully mated to produce hundreds of second and third generation mice, however some of the first-generation mice had abnormalities.

Due to these abnormalities and the large number of failures necessary to produce a few successes, scientists argued that the experiments were too dangerous to attempt on humans.

Pacholczyk stressed that such procedures would also be ethically unacceptable. "You would run into exactly the same set of concerns that human closing raises," he told CNA, explaining that such procedures were acceptable when applied to animals, but "absolutely unethical" for humans.

While the process used to create the mice is technically different from cloning, both yield an organism that is genetically identical to its cell donor. The Catholic Church opposes this artificial creation of life when applied to human beings.

However, while it cannot be ethically used to create new humans, iPS cells offer hopes for the ethical treatment of human diseases and other ailments.

In the realm of medicine, where the goal is not to create a new human being but to development treatment for an illness, iPS cells would provide an ethical alternative to processes that use embryonic stem cells, destroying human embryos in the process. ::MORE

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Blogger Gabriella said...

hmmm! The media around the world has not jumped around in joy at this important breakthrough.
Anything that stops the blind progress of modern man or in a way proves that the Catholic Church is right when it insists that there are 'other ways' to do things is looked at from askew ...

July 29, 2009 9:41 AM  

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