ACT Gets Unethical Patent for Human Embryo Manipulation

Bioethics   |   David Prentice   |   Mar 1, 2011   |   2:53PM   |   Washington, DC

The embryonic stem cell and cloning company, Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), has been granted a patent for what it calls its “single-blastomere technique” for generating human embryonic stem cell lines.

ACT claims that the technique produces embryonic stem cell lines without embryo destruction, but the company’s own published data belie the statement.

ACT first published their claims in Nature in 2006, and their chief scientist Robert Lanza stated at the time “What we have done, for the first time, is to actually create human embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryo itself.” But buried in the paper was the fact that all of the embryos used in the experiments had actually been destroyed. The misleading statements led to publication of a corrected paper and an addendum to “clarify” the data.

Subsequently, Lanza published more data in 2008 in Cell Stem Cell, and Lanza said “If we base this on objective scientific criteria, there’s no evidence that removing a single blastomere harms the embryo.” But even in this paper, Lanza’s own data show that not all embryos survived unharmed. Further data on potential harm and destruction to embryos undergoing blastomere removal can be found here and here.

The data show that the “blastomere biopsy” technique does indeed pose a risk of harm or death for embryos undergoing the procedure, and is neither safe nor ethical.