by Steven Ertelt
December 11, 2007
Kyoto, Japan (LifeNews.com) — Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University made international headlines recently when he devised a new process that allows for the creation of embryonic stem cells without the destruction of human life. Now, Yamanaka says he was prompted to search for ethical alternatives by his own conscience.
Invited by a friend to take a look at a human embryo — a unique human being — under a microscope, Dr. Yamanaka had a moral spark that changed his career.
“When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters,” the father of two told the New York Times today.
The glimpse into the beginnings of human life motivated him to seek out alternatives to the destruction of human beings for their stem cells for research.
“I thought, we can’t keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way," he told the newspaper.
As LifeNews.com reported last month, Yamanaka and a Wisconsin team, ironically headed by James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who discovered embryonic stem cells, both advanced a process called direct reprogramming.
The teams released studies in the medical journals Science and Cell that show how they were able to make adult stem cells revert to their embryonic form.
The studies confirm that human skin cells (fibroblasts) can be used to make pluripotent stem cells sharing essentially all the features of human embryonic stem cells.
Pro-life groups have welcomed the findings because they represent another alternative to destroying human life to advance science.
Ultimately, Dr. Yamanaka says he has to have some reliance on embryonic stem cell research to advance his own work, but he hopes alternatives will eventually outpace the use of human embryos.
“There is no way now to get around some use of embryos,” he said. “But my goal is to avoid using them.”