Biotech Firm Claims New Embryonic Stem Cell Research Method Pro-Life

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 23, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Biotech Firm Claims New Embryonic Stem Cell Research Method Pro-Life Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 23, 2006

Alameda, CA ( — A leading biotech firm claims it has developed a new method of taking embryonic stem cells from human embryos without destroying the days-old unborn child in the process. However, a pro-life advocate who focuses on bioethics issues says he’s not convinced it won’t destroy human life.

Advanced Cell Technology made the claims in an article they published in the scientific journal Nature, which published the false claims of Hwang Woo-suk.

The article describes the single-cell biopsy technique called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) which is used in in-vitro fertilization to assess the health of human embryos before transplantation. It involves taking a single cell from the human embryo and using the cell to create others.

ACT claims that "the cell lines produced using this technique appear to be identical to hES cell lines derived from later-stage embryos using techniques that destroy the [human being]."

"Until now, embryonic stem cell research has been synonymous with the destruction of human embryos," Robert Lanza, the study’s senior author, said in a statement obtained by

"We have demonstrated, for the first time, that human embryonic stem cells can be generated without interfering with the embryo’s potential for life," he claimed.

Lanza added that 1,500 health children have been born after the PGD procedure was done on them.

However, Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, an expert on bioethics issues, told the Associated Press the research "raises more ethical questions than it answers."

Doerflinger criticized the experiment itself as "gravely unethical" because human embryos were killed in the process of coming up with it.

He also said that the single cell from the days-old unborn child could eventually become a human being.

"It is widely believed that one cell of a very early embryo may separate and become a new embryo, an identical twin," Doerflinger told the Associated Press.

Responding to the claims, a White House spokesman said it’s not known whether the new process would qualify for federal funding under President Bush’s guidelines of not spending any taxpayer funds on new embryonic stem cell research.

The spokesman told the Associated Press "it is encouraging to see scientists at least making serious efforts to move away from research that involves the destruction of embryos."

ACT previous said it had the same success with the technique in mice in a October 2005 Nature article.

Under its experiments with human embryos, the company said it was able to develop two viable embryonic stem cell lines from a total of 16 human embryos. However, more study is needed to determine if the cells have the same properties as embryonic stem cells obtained from destroying human life.

Last year, President Bush’s bioethics panel evaluated the idea and said that, in theory, it appeared it would not involve the destruction of human life. At the time no embryonic stem cells had been obtained by the PGD method.

Yet, the panel wrote, "Subjecting otherwise healthy embryos to biopsy procedures in order to derive stem cells seems ethically troubling."

Edward Furton, of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, agreed and told the San Jose Mercury News, "You don’t take an innocent human being and subject it to risk if there is no advantage to the human being.”