Jun 21 2007

Embryonic Stem Cell Snake Oil (Again)

Published by at 8:09 am under All General Discussions,Stem Cell Debate

Some researchers in California (so much for the myth there is no ESCR in the US) are making the claim they can take out embryonic stem cells without ‘destroying’ the embryo. Their track record is one more of snake oil peddlers than scientists:

Scientists said they grew colonies of human stem cells without harming the embryos from which they came, 10 months after making a similar announcement, only to acknowledge the embryos they used were destroyed.

Researchers led by Robert Lanza at Alameda, Calif.-based Advanced Cell Technology Inc., which has operations in Worcester, said they took stem cells from embryos, which were then frozen. That would allow the embryos to be used to help women who want to get pregnant.

Lanza said Advanced Cell is asking the National Institutes of Health for funding to increase production.

“We have the first lines in existence in the world where a human embryo wasn’t destroyed,” Lanza told reporters yesterday at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Australia.

Let me remind folks what stem cells do: they are the building blocks for every organ and cell type in your body. They are your parts. Now what these people have done is taken some cells from a young human being, then frozen it and probably thawed it back out again to see if it would still divide. So while it was not destroyed or killed we do not know one critical thing: Was it maimed or crippled.

We do not know enough about how stem cells create the organs and cell types that transform the embryo’s physical structure to that of a fetus or baby. We do not know if there is a need for a minimal number of cells to do the job right. We do not know if there is a need to have the same number down the invisible symmetry line (which we know exists since you have a heart on your left side but lungs on each side) so that everything lays out in its proper places. We do not know if removing stem cells creates a horrible physical abberation in a few months or years time.

Why do people do this? It is clear from the story:

Lanza’s remarks come after the journal Nature published research last August in which Advanced Cell scientists said they derived embryonic stem cells using a technique that “does not harm embryos.” The company’s shares quadrupled the day of the announcement. They later clarified the research, saying the 16 embryos they used weren’t allowed to continue growing.

I for one do not believe they can make the claim the embryo is not damaged (they can claim it was not destroyed) without letting it continue to grow and be born. But I would also not want to be there if at birth we find a disfigured human baby. This is why this process is so morally repugnant. These are human lives. That is a scientific fact provable in a court of law using standard DNA tests. We should not be playing god with them.

One response so far

One Response to “Embryonic Stem Cell Snake Oil (Again)”

  1. The Macker says:

    Dare we call it “stem cell theft?”