Harvard-Created Embryonic Stem Cells No Better than NIH Lines

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 8, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Harvard-Created Embryonic Stem Cells No Better than NIH Lines

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 8, 2004

Boston, MA (LifeNews.com) — Earlier this month, Harvard researchers made 17 embryonic stem cell lines available to scientists worldwide. The announcement was heralded as a breakthrough by cloning advocates, in part because many of the stem cell lines currently available to use from the National Institutes of Health may be unusable.

However, it appears the Harvard-created embryonic stem cells are not any better — making claims that they will provide cures for a plethora of diseases dubious at best.

The stem cell lines that qualify for limited federal funding are fewer in number than researchers previously thought. In addition, developing therapies for patients from the NIH stem cell lines may also prove difficult since they were made using mouse feeder cells and bovine serums.

Dr. Leonard Zon, president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, hailed the Harvard announcement saying that the cell lines will be more useful for scientists than the ones currently available.

Daniel Perry, President of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research agreed, saying the "new cell lines will begin to fill the unfortunate void created by a restrictive federal policy, which has left the NIH with less than fifteen usable lines to offer researchers."

But, the new cells Harvard researcher Dr. Douglas Melton created are also grown in mouse feeder cells and would have the same problems, Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told LifeNews.com.

Doerflinger says Melton and his fellow researchers, in a scientific paper accompanying the announcement, "admit that their cell lines accumulate chromosomal abnormalities in culture, and that the abnormal cells grow much faster than the normal ones — the
implication being that these new cell lines may soon be completely taken over by abnormal, potentially cancerous cells."

"[T]he new cell lines are as useless for therapies as the old ones," Doerflinger says.

That flies in the face of Melton’s claims that the destruction of human embryos was justified because the embryonic stem cell lines could produce a cure for diabetes, an ailment his son suffers.

This has led some scientists to say that Melton’s announcement is a largely symbolic protest against President Bush’s August 2001 policy of preventing federal taxpayer funding of any new embryonic stem cell research.

"They killed 344 fellow human beings for a largely ‘symbolic’ statement," Doerflinger said.

Harvard is just one of a growing number of academic institutions that has either established or has plans to establish its own emrbyonic stem cell institute and is pressuring Prsident Bush to make embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding, even though scientific evidence is clearly on the side of adult stem cell research

Only adult stem cells have been scientifically proven to repair heart tissue, put leukemia into remission, cure sickle cell anemia, and limit the effects of other ideases.

"Destroying human life is never necessary to cure a disease or illness," says Tony Perkins president of the Family Research Council. "And our taxpayer dollars should never be used to destroy human embryos."

Harvard University, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a medical research organization, put up the funding to create the embryonic stem cell lines.