Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Research: Embryo-friendly embryonic stem cells?


Interesting article in the NYT on a new method for obtaining embryonic stem cells. Snip:
The new technique would be performed on an embryo when it is two days old, after the fertilized egg has divided into eight cells, known as blastomeres. In fertility clinics, where the embryo is available outside the mother in the normal course of in-vitro fertilization, one of these blastomeres can be removed for diagnostic tests, such as for Down’s syndrome, and the embryo, now with seven cells, can be implanted in the mother if no defect is found. Many such embryos have grown into apparently healthy babies over the ten years or so the diagnostic tests have been used.

Up to now, human embryonic stem cells have been derived at a later stage of development when the embryo consists of about 150 cells. Harvesting these cells destroys the embryo. Last year, Dr. Lanza reported that embryonic stem cell cultures could be derived from the blastomeres of mice, a finding others have confirmed. He now says the same can be done with human blastomeres.

If this works, then it would seem to overcome the ethical objections to research that would result in the destruction of discarded human embryos, right? Well, almost. See, the technique still requires the fertilization of human egg by human sperm outside the darkened confines of a marital bedroom, and there are still some people out there with moral objections to in vitro fertilization. Snip:
Catholic bishops, in particular, oppose both in-vitro fertilization and P.G.D. testing, and therefore still object to the research, even though the cells would be derived from an embryo that is brought to term.

Richard Doerflinger, deputy director for pro-life activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the church opposed in-vitro fertilization because of the high death rate of embryos in fertility clinics and because separating procreation from the act of love made the embryo seem “more a product of manufacture than a gift.” Asked if he meant the parents of an in-vitro child would love it less, Mr. Doerflinger said he was referring to the clinic staff. “The technician does not love this child, has no personal connection with the child, and with every I.V.F. procedure he or she may get more and more used to the idea of the child as manufacture,” he said.

So there are some people for whom this slope is so perilously slippery that they really would prefer that you didn't even shower after sex. One hopes that someone--perhaps one of the gazillion frustrated childless couples giving up vacations and cars in order to pay for IVF--will be able to adequately explain to our President that IVF does not cross his moral line in the sand, that this kind of research must be funded.
New Stem Cell Method Avoids Destroying Embryos - New York Times

1 comment:

Linda D. said...

"So there are some people for whom this slope is so perilously slippery that they really would prefer that you didn't even shower after sex"...

OK, THAT IS A SWELL QUOTE!!! I'm still laughing at the irony.

Linda D. in Seattle