Two new research techniques unveiled in a prestigious scientific journal are stirring hopes that embryonic stem cell research might be done in a way that avoids sticky ethical and religious objections. Teams from Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge reported their experiments online in the journal Nature.
Working independently, the two teams said they have obtained embryonic stem cells from mice without destroying any embryos to get them. Critics of embryonic stem cell research have to date built their opposition primarily on the grounds that it unethically destroys one life—a human embryo’s—in order to get the cells that could save another life, alleviating human suffering from Parkinson’s, for example, or other degenerative diseases.
“I am very encouraged,” said Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, a high-profile critic of embryonic stem cell research, in comments to the Boston Globe. He is director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. “We may be able to work around this with some creativity and good will.”
However, Richard Doerflinger, an influential bioethics analyst for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, denounced the method used by Advanced Cell as an inherently dangerous one with potential long-term consequences for a human embryo that is brought to term once stem cells are harvested. (RNS)