WASHINGTON, May 16, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The President’s Council on Bioethics, the body that advises President Bush on issues related to cloning, stem cell research and the new reproductive technologies, has issued a report suggesting that stem cells may not have to be taken from living embryos for research. The report says that it is possible that cells taken from embryos that have died after being formed, from the patient’s own body, and those taken from living embryos without killing them, a process called ‘nondestructive biopsy,’ could be used successfully to replace embryonic stem cells in research.
The report, called Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells, is a summation of the discussions of the Council on stem cell research, cloning and related biotechnologies over the last year. Dr. Leon Kass, the head of the Council writes in his introductory letter, “While they may well in the future prove to be of considerable scientific and therapeutic value, new human embryonic stem cell lines cannot at present be obtained without destroying human embryos. As a consequence, the worthy goals of increasing scientific knowledge and developing therapies for grave human illnesses come into conflict with the strongly held belief of many Americans that human life, from its earliest stages, deserves our protection and respect.”
A controversy has been raging in bioethics circles and among researchers and lobbyists over President Bush’s 2001 ban of public funding on creating any new stem cell lines from living embryos. An embryo at an early phase of his or her life contains an inner mass of stem cells that, reseaschers postulate, could be used for a multitude of purposes, including disease research. The cells, however, are nearly impossible to remove from the embryo without ending the tiny human life. While the ban has been in effect, researchers, especially those at Harvard University, have been clamouring for access to the embryos stored frozen in in vitro fertilization facilities around the country. Researchers have been more strident in their demands for public funds since, due largely to lack of success, private biotechnology companies are funding embryo research less and less.
“Much of the ethical controversy over stem cells derives from the fact that, until now, the only way to obtain human pluripotent stem cell lines has been to derive them from living human embryos by a process that necessarily destroys the embryos," the council said in its report."
“If a way could be found to derive such stem cell lines without creating and destroying human embryos, a good deal of that ethical controversy would subside.”
Thus far the success rate in experiments using embryonic stem cells has been dismal. In the meantime, advances are being made with adult stem cells, those cells derived from a patient’s own body, so rapidly that it is difficult to keep abreast of them.
Read: the full report: