Biotech Firm Modifies Embryonic Stem Cell Research Technique Claims

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

Biotech Firm Modifies Embryonic Stem Cell Research Technique Claims Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 23
, 2006

Los Angeles, CA ( — A leading biotech firm that came under fire for claiming to have created a new technique to obtain embryonic stem cells without destroying human life has modified its claims. In a new paper submitted to the scientific journal Nature, Advanced Cell Technology confirmed previous reports indicating the assertions were false.

In an addendum to the original report, ACT admitted that none of the 16 human embryos in the original experiments survived the attempt at creating a new technique.

ACT also clarified its own claims about it’s research, now saying that it "might" be possible to obtain stem cells from a human embryo without killing it.

In the Thursday paper, ACT went on to say that "none of the biopsied [human] embryos" involved in the research survived.

Ultimately, ACT scientists extracted two embryonic stem cell lines from the 16 human embryos but, like other methods of obtaining the cells, the ACT methods resulted in the killing of all 16 human beings.

Though the new paper establishes that one cell from a human embryo, called a blastomere, could generate embryonic stem cells, the ACT team destroyed the human embryos by using several cells from them.

Even if the ACT team had used just one cell from each embryo, more human embryos would have to be used and likely eventually destroyed.

Nature requested the addendum after ACT and Nature press releases in late August misstated the results of the study and claimed the new technique solved the ethical problems that pro-life advocates have with embryonic stem cell research.

Dr. Ritu Dhand, Nature’s chief biology editor, said the correction was sought to make the original paper easier to understand. He also said experts reviewed the correction “just to be sure that everything was as it should be.”

“There was nothing either scientifically or technically wrong with the paper,” Dhand said.

Though the original ACT paper had no flaws — it admitted that all of the human embryos were destroyed and a new technique to obtain embryonic stem cells without destroying human life was not created — the press statements about the paper were misleading.

Nature later apologized for the wrongful claims in its own press releases on the ACT research.

Instead of apologizing for its own false assertions in its press release, ACT stood by its claims in media interviews and sent a threatening letter to after the pro-life news service exposed ACT’s false statements.

The false statements caused the company’s stock to triple in price after several months of decreasing values. The stock price is back down to its original level prior to the controversy.

The correction paper was written by Irina Klimanskaya, Young Chung, Sandy Becker, Shi-Jian Lu and Robert Lanza.