Thursday, February 09, 2006

an evening on stem cells

The other evening in Berkeley I attended a very informative dialogue on altered nuclear transfer-oocyte assisted reprogrammig (ANT-OAR), a proposed theory of extracting embryonic stem cells without destroying an embryo. I have written about this in a previous post.

A presenter that evening was none other than the man who originally came up with this technique, William Hurlbut--a faculty member at Stanford University and a member of the President's Council for Bioethics.

What struck me about his words, as well as the words of his co-presenter Nicanor Austriaco, is the willingness of conscientious scientists out there, like Hurlbut, to find ways to advance the science of stem cell research with moral questions and concerns in mind.

Without the involvement of such scientists and physicians, this biomedical technology could easily go in the direction that abandons ethical concerns. Just take the recent events in South Korea involving a fake research on stem cells.

And there are many more people out there in the world who are just eager to develop this stem cell technology, because frankly no one likes to get sick and to suffer. The desire to cure is impetus enough, without regard to any prestige and the money involved.

The inevitability of the use of embryonic stem cells is almost certain, this is because scientists have always regarded the pluripotency of these cells to be irreplaceable.

So, shouldn’t conscientious scientists take an active role in finding ways that address ethical concerns and at the same time advance the technology?

In a way, this is what proposed theories like ANT-OAR do.

No doubt there are concerns raised about this new technique which is yet to be tested. And other scientists such as Adrian Walker and David Schindler have raised concerns. Their voices need to be heard too. This is the nature of the method of science.

The heartening thing is that there are scientists who take care not to abandon ethics in their pursuit of a cure.

Communio printed a series of articles on this subject. Check them out here.

The dialogue by the way was sponsored by the Dominican School of Philosphy and Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

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