The Weekly Standard, October 3, 2005. Reprinted in Human Life Review 31:4 (Fall 2005); in Spanish translation as “Fabricas de Organos,” La Gaceta de los Negocios (October 2, 2006); and in Rafael Domingo et al. (eds.) Hacia Un Derecho Global (Thomson Publishing Co., 2007).
THE JOURNAL Science late last month published the results of research conducted at Harvard proving that embryonic stem cells can be produced by a method that does not involve creating or destroying a living human embryo. Additional progress will be required to perfect this technique of stem cell production, but few seriously doubt that it will be perfected, and many agree that this can be accomplished in the relatively near future. At the same time, important breakthroughs have been announced by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Texas demonstrating that cells derived harmlessly from placental tissue and umbilical cord blood can be induced to exhibit the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. (“Pluripotency” is the potential of a cell to develop into multiple types of mature cells.)
One would expect that advocates of embryonic stem cell research would be delighted by these developments. After all, they point to uncontroversial ways to obtain embryonic stem cells or their exact equivalent and to create new stem cell lines that are (unlike lines created by destroying embryos) immediately eligible for federal funding. Yet some advocates seem to be unhappy at the news. Why?
The likely answer is ominous….
The Weekly Standard