Catholic Church, Scientists Say New Embryonic Stem Cell Research Claims False

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 27, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Church, Scientists Say New Embryonic Stem Cell Research Claims False Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 27
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — In a rare agreement on the thorny issue of embryonic stem cell research, the Catholic Church and scientists who back the destructive research both agree that a California biotech firm’s claims of creating a new method of obtaining embryonic stem cells without taking human life are false.

Art Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the top embryonic stem cell research advocates in the United States, called the claims "all hype."

Advanced Cell Technology published a paper last week in the journal Nature claiming to have used the single-cell biopsy technique called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) to obtain stem cells from 16 human embryos. However, further examination shows all 16 of the days-old unborn children died in the process.

"The science involved is not going to lead to any sort of ethical breakthrough," Caplan wrote in an op-ed over the weekend.

Caplan said the cells ACT obtained may not act like embryonic stem cells obtained by the traditional method of killing human embryos. He also said couples would be reluctant to donate human embryos for the research and that the cells may only come from embryos with physical handicaps.

"Ultimately this so-called ‘breakthrough’ does little to quiet the critics of embryo destruction or the proponents of stem cell research using human embryos, such as myself," he explained.
"What we have here is hype, not hope," he added.

Top Stanford University researcher Hank Greely agreed.

"From the scientific perspective, never believe anything until it’s replicated several times," he said. "It will be interesting and important to see if these cells turn out to be the same kind of cells with the same kind of promise as [embryonic] stem cells derived [traditionally]."

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church blasted the new technique and said it did nothing to allay concerns about the destruction of human life.

Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, the top bioethics spokesman, said the technique was a "manipulation" that "doesn’t solve the ethical problems."

Sgreccia, who heads the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, echoed concerns from a leading spokesman for the U.S. Catholic Bishops, who said that the process is flawed because twinning can occur and the cells taken from the human embryos can become a unique human being.

The USCCB spokesman, Richard Doerflinger, discussed ACT’s claims in an email.

He said the biotech company failed to disclose that all 16 of the human embryos in its experiment were killed. He said it was deceptive to say the embryonic stem cells grew on their own into stem cell lines, because ACT had to use hormones to spark the growth.