Oregon Research Center Won’t Destroy Human Embryos, For Now

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 5, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Oregon Research Center Won’t Destroy Human Embryos, For Now

by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
April 5, 2004

Salem, OR (LifeNews.com) — The head of a new stem cell research center in Oregon says he will not be performing experiments involving the killing of human embryos. But, there is no guarantee the center won’t perform such anti-life research in the future.

Dr. Markus Grompe, director of the new Oregon Stem Cell Center, told the Associated Press that he will not conduct research that relies on embryonic stem cells.

"The ethical concerns for me are such that I, in my own lab, won’t do that," Grompe told the AP.

Oregon Health & Science University, which is responsible for the stem cell center, has no policy banning embryonic stem cell research, but Grompe has been quoted as saying such research will not be part of the center’s initial efforts.

The $4.5 million used to fund the center comes from a university fund known as The Oregon Opportunity, which has been set up specifically to promote biomedical research.

Stem cell centers have become hot properties on college campuses.

Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin are both pushing embryonic stem cell research on campus, even though such research has failed to produce any significant results. In fact, a number of medical experts have called initial trials disastrous.

The biotech industry, some Congressional representatives, and members of academia have been pressuring President George W. Bush to make embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding. However, a number of medical ethicists say such research is both unethical and unnecessary.

Research using adult stem cells has shown far greater promise, offering the possibility for cures for a host of illnesses, including heart disease, leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and diabetes.

Still, Grompe cautions that the Oregon center’s adult stem cell research is not likely to yield immediate results.

"One of the things we have to be aware of in the stem cell field is to avoid promising too much," Grompe told AP. "My prediction is it will be, not five, but 10 years before this is going to pay off."

According to Grompe, university officials decided in January to establish the center, where high-tech machines should be up and running by summer.

While Bush has restricted funding for research involving human embryos, private foundations can continue to fund this problematic area of modern scientific research.

According to Life Issues Institute, a pro-life organization based in Cincinnati, a group which calls itself the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research is lobbying for federal funding for stem cell research using fertilized eggs developed for in vitro fertilization.

The coalition includes a number of universities: the University of California system, Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Michigan, University of Rochester Medical Center, Stanford, Wisconsin, and Washington University in St. Louis.

The coalition’s roster also includes organizations that promote research for diseases ranging from AIDS to ALS, along with medical organization such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Still, the push for embryonic stem cell research appears short-sided, according to a number of experts in the field. They say that universities would be far better off focusing attention on adult stem cell research.

In a report to the President’s Council on Bioethics, Dr. David A. Prentice, a professor of Life Sciences at Indiana State University, said, "our current knowledge regarding adult stem cells has expanded greatly over what was known just a few short years ago.

"Results from both animal studies and early human clinical trials indicate that they have significant capabilities for growth, repair, and regeneration of damaged cells and tissues in the body, akin to a built-in repair kit or maintenance crew that only needs activation and stimulation to accomplish repair of damage. The potential of adult stem cells to impact medicine in this respect is enormous."

Related web sites:
Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics –
Oregon Right to Life – https://www.ortl.org