Vatican: ‘Breakthrough technique’ in embryonic research does not satisfy moral test

.- A U.S.-based research company claims it has developed a new method to create embryonic stem cells in developing cures for diseases without harming or destroying the original embryo.

Scientists at Advanced Cell Technology Inc., led by Robert Lanza, claim to have developed the technique, which allows embryos to grow to the 8- to 10-cell stage before removing one cell. They then grow stem cells from that single cell. The company has been involved in the field of cloning and embryonic stem-cell research since the late 1990s.

Lanza says the embryos, after such a procedure, still can be implanted in women with the potential to develop normally.

The breakthrough technique, described Wednesday in the British online journal Nature, was meant to answer critics of embryonic stem-cell research. But it doesn’t seem to have worked.

Since the mainstream media picked up on the story late last week, the United States Conference Catholic Bishops and several reputable scientists involved in the field of embryonic stem cell research have pointed out that despite reports to the contrary, Advanced Cell Technology was unsuccessful in removing single cells from the embryos and that all 16 of the embryos involve in the procedure were destroyed.

But, while the success of the method is still in serious doubt, a Vatican official has said even if the method was successful it is still not ethical.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, told Vatican Radio and Reuters that manipulating and experimenting with embryos is wrong.

"Even if it didn't damage the embryo, it's still an issue of an invasive, unjustified operation on a human being ... You're going in, taking a piece of a embryo's organism to use for yourself," he was quoted as saying.

The company made things worse by extracting what could be a "totipotent" cell, he added. Totipotent cells are capable of reproducing a human embryo, he explained, which would lead to a second embryo being destroyed.

Furthermore, the bishop told Reuters there was also no way Lanza could ensure that embryos, which had cells extracted, could later go on to develop normally.

Bishop Sgreccia urged the scientists to look into other promising avenues, including adult stem-cell research, which is considered ethical and acceptable by all camps.


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