Rabbit Eggs Used to Grow Embryonic Stem Cells

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 22, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Rabbit Eggs Used to Grow Embryonic Stem Cells

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 22, 2003

Shanghai, China (LifeNews.com) — Researchers have found a new way to harvest embryonic stem cells, though the results are still objectionable to pro-life groups.

A team of scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University have reported fusing human skin cells with rabbit eggs to produce early stage embryos, which in turn are killed for their stem cells.

Some scientists believe that by using skin cells or other cells from a patient to create an embryo through cloning, they could extract stem cells that could be grown into tissue that genetically matches the patient’s own. That tissue could then be used for transplants and medical procedures in the patient without rejection.

That has been one problem with embryonic stem cells. When injected into patients, it has produced convulsions in many instead of cures or a reduction in the effects of certain diseases.

On the other hand, adult stem cells obtained from more ethical sources have already proven successful in clinical trials.

The Chinese scientists took rabbit eggs and remove the nuclei, which contains the DNA. The fused the eggs with human skin cells. The DNA form the human skin cells "took over" and produce embryonic development as opposed to skin. The resulting embryos were clones of the human donors, although they were never intended to be born.

A week later, researchers destroyed the embryos by removing their stem cells.

The work is exactly the kind of research pro-life groups say ought to be banned. It sparks opposition from pro-life organizations not only because human embryos are destroyed but, in this case, they are intentionally created solely for the purpose of destroying them.

Pro-life legislation that has already been approved by the House of Representatives would ban both human cloning reproductive purposes as well as "clone and kill" research. President George W. Bush is supporting an effort in the U.N. to advance a similar pro-life ban.

Do No Harm, a U.S. group opposed to embryonic stem cell research, says the embryos created by the Chinese research are human in identity.

"Cloning of humans for any purpose is unethical. It constitutes unethical human experimentation,” David Prentice, a professor of life sciences at Indiana State University and a founding member of Do No Harm, told the Associated Press.

The Chinese researchers say they used rabbit eggs because human eggs were not available.