The United States’ largest association of faith-based physicians says two recently reported developments in embryonic stem-cell research, purportedly designed to allay ethical concerns, “do not circumvent the moral dilemmas of destroying living human beings or exposing them to harm.” Both methods were reported in the October 17 online edition of Nature.
While applauding the search for ethical alternatives, the Christian Medical Association’s leaders note that one procedure involves programming an embryo genetically so that it cannot successfully implant and develop in the uterus.
"Just because scientists have created a genetic time bomb in the embryo does not change its essential human nature,” said CMA executive director Dr. David Stevens.
Another procedure involves removing a cell from an eight-cell embryo, then developing that removed cell in order to harvest embryonic stem cells.
"The cell taken from the embryo to start an embryonic stem cell line, a separated blastomere, is actually a totipotent cell that can develop into a complete organism--a human baby. This process is essentially artificial identical twinning,” Stevens explained in a press release.
"Embryologists have long recognized that these early developing human cells, called blastomeres, have a regulative nature--a strong tendency for the system to be restored to wholeness,” he said. This has been proven in the case of separated blastomeres of animals.
"So to emphasize that the original embryo is not killed is actually to employ a scientific sleight of hand,” said Stevens. “Researchers using this process may not destroy the first embryo, but they do destroy the second one.”
Stevens said this technique also exposes the surviving human being to potential risk. “Even if the surviving embryo is implanted in a womb, no one knows the long-term effect … on children born after being subjected to the procedure.”
In the meantime, he added, “adult stem cells are already providing real cures for real patients.”
His colleague CMA associate executive director Dr. Gene Rudd added: “Clinical trials and treatments using adult stem cells currently provide verifiable progress in treating the very diseases that embryonic stem cell researchers boast that they may cure in 10 years.