Human Embryos With Genetic Diseases Destroyed for Stem Cells for NIH Registry

Bioethics   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Nov 28, 2013   |   2:35PM   |   Washington, DC

King’s College in London is proud that they have provided 16 new embryonic stem cell lines to the United States’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) registry of stem cell lines eligible for federal funding. On the King’s College website they explain that they have created these stem cell lines with a variety of genetic disease for US researchers to work on:

Scientists from King’s College London have announced that 16 human embryonic stem (hES) cell lines have been approved by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and placed on their Stem Cell Registry, making them freely available for federally-funded research in the USA. The stem cell lines, which carry genes for a variety of hereditary disorders such as Huntington’s disease, spinal muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis, are considered to be ideal research tools for designing models to understand disease progression, and ultimately in helping scientists develop new treatments for patients.

King’s is now one of the five biggest providers of disease-specific human embryonic stem cells lines on the NIH Registry, and the largest from the UK. The development is a significant milestone for King’s and keeps the university at the forefront of global research into regenerative medicine.

Where are they getting these “disease-specific” embryonic stem cell lines? By looking for IVF embryos with genetic disease and ripping them open for their stem cells. At least they clearly admit it:

Embryonic stem cell lines are grown from frozen embryos donated by patients undergoing preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in conjunction with IVF treatment. Unlike ‘adult’ stem cells, embryonic stem cells can differentiate into any type of cell within the body and are considered to be more useful for stem cell-based therapies. Disease-specific stem cell lines are created from embryos found to be affected with genetic disorders and therefore not suitable for implantation, but offer huge potential for research into disease development.

The article says these embryos are “not suitable for implantation.” That means that because of their genetics, these embryos are deemed are not suitable to live. (Does that mean every human being with genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis are not suitable to live. Are they also better utilized for research?)



Does anyone see how horribly Orwellian this practice is? There is a seek-and-destroy mission for embryos with genetic disease. They are condemned in pursuit of cures for others with their same genetic condition. They are being destroyed for research that is intended to help them; that is if they were considered “suitable to live.” And our tax dollars can go to fund research using cells from these lives sacrificed on the altar of medicine.

All of this is unnecessary, of course, because disease-specific pluripotent stem cell lines can be created with induced plutipotent stem cell technology. Instead of searching for and destroying embryos with genetic disease, researchers can create pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming cells from a patient with a genetic disorder. iPSC technology allows for the creation of stem cell lines for disease research without destroying the very lives the research is supposed to help.