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Researchers claim 'ethical' stem cell breakthrough
Thursday, August 24, 2006. ABC News
The researchers say they have developed an acceptable alternative to destroying
A team of US researchers say they have developed a way to make human embryonic
stem cells without harming the original embryo, a finding it says could dispel
ethical objections to promising medical research using such cells.
"It is possible to generate stem cells without destroying the embryo and without
destroying its potential for life," chief scientist Dr Robert Lanza said.
The standard method of obtaining stem cells is to grow a fertilized embryo to
100 cells stage. Then the embryo was destroyed and the stem cells harvested. At
that stage, the embryo is like a ball of cells. The outer layer of cells will
develop into the placenta and umbilical cord while the cells in the centre will
form the organs and the body. The cells in the centre are called stem cells.
Hence obtaining stem cells will means destroying the embryo.
What Dr. Lanza did was to remove some stem cells from the embryo without
destroying the embryo. He has developed a technique which works with mice
embryos. He allows a fertilised egg to develop into an 8 cells stage
(blastocyte). Then he removed one cell which he culture in the lab to form stem
cell lines. The remaining embryo with the 7 cells are reimplanted into the womb
and was able to grow to term. The report was inaccurate in that Dr. Lanza did
not work with human embryos. All experiments were done on mice.
On the surface, this will solve some of the objections to stem cell research.
Many people objected to stem cell research because the embryo has to be
destroyed to obtain the stem cells. Here no embryos were destroyed. However, it
remains to be seen if it will work in humans.
I do have a question here, which Dr.Lanza did not address in his Nature articles
or his company, Advanced cell Technology ‘s press releases. I am also surprised
it is not noted in the few medical ethicists who commented on the issue. Is the
one cell from a 8 cell blastocyte a stem cell? That is an important question
which was not answered.
|24 August 2006|