New Embryonic Stem Cells Still Can’t Help Treat Diseases

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 19, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Embryonic Stem Cells Still Can’t Help Treat Diseases Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 19, 2005

Washington, DC ( — South Korean and British scientists made a major announcement Thursday about the successful cloning of a human embryo and the creation of patient-specific embryonic stem cells. However, the cells are still nowhere close to being able to help treat diseases.

South Korean scientists say they have used human cloning to make made embryonic stem cells able to match an individual patient. The discovery could possibly help the cells overcome a longtime problem plaguing their feasibility as a development for cures — rejection issues.

While adult stem cells have already produced dozens of treatments and cures, even the new embryonic stem cells are far away from ever being useful.

The new embryonic stem cells display some of the characteristics of the diseases they are intended to cure. Dr. Gerald Schatten, a University of Pittsburgh scientist who worked with the South Korean team, admitted that they may will likely need to be manipulated further before they could be used.

Though the new cells don’t rely on mouse feeder cells to grow, since they are obtained from cloned humans, they still had animal cell components injected into them.

"Scientists must also find a way to remove the remaining animal components from the laboratory procedures," they said in a report on their discovery scheduled to be printed in the journal Science on Friday.

Even leading South Korean research Hwang Woo-suk admitted "we have to open so many doors before human trials.”

Pro-life groups condemned the new research because it involves cloning and killing human beings.

Julia Millington, of the ProLife Alliance said "Cloning for research purposes, which involves the manufacture of human embryos destined for experimentation and subsequent destruction, is profoundly unethical."

"The manufacture and destruction of one cloned embryo is one too many, regardless of the number of eggs that are required," she told the BBC. "Experimentation upon human life at any stage of development has no place in a civilized society."