Thursday, June 23, 2005

new stem-cell research technique shows promise

Thirty five experts in medicine and ethics recently announced their support for research into an experimental laboratory technique that could produce embryo-like stem cells without creating or destroying human embryos. This procedure is called "oocyte [egg] assisted reprogramming," which "reprograms" an egg cell to produce cells which can be used for stem cell research. This is different from other techniques where genes from the oocyte are deleted or extracted, which is problematic ethically.

According to the statement released by these experts: "this method would achieve its objective not by a gene deletion that precludes embryonic organization in the cell produced, but rather by a positive transformation that generates, ab initio, a cell with the distinctive molecular characteristics and developmental behavior of a pluripotent cell."

Moreover, after the "reprogramming," pluripotent cells suitable for stem cell research are created, not a totipotent embryo.

A few Catholic ethicists including Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J were among the 35 experts who wrote the statement. This seems to be a very good alternative to the usual method of embryonic stem-cell research wherein the embryo is destroyed in order to extract its stem cells.

According to Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of the pro-life secretariat of the USCCB: "This new proposal addresses the Catholic Church's fundamental moral objection to embryonic stem cell research as now practiced, by offering to create cells with the properties of embryonic stem cells without ever producing or harming a human embryo."

Well I think the scientists from the International Society for Stem Cell Research who are gathering in San Francisco today ought to look at this more closely.

Read the statement from the 35 bioethicists here.

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