Federal funds should go to stem-cell study
A biotechnology company has developed a method of creating embryonic stem cells without destroying human embryos.
SCIENTISTS have found a way to establish human embryonic stem cells for research without destroying the embryo, which appears to conform with federal protection of embryos in federally funded research. Irrational opposition to the use of embryonic stem cells extracted by the new method should not stand in the way of federal funds going to this important research.
Federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research has been limited to 20 stem-cell lines created before August 2001. By law, federal money cannot be spent beyond those lines for "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."
Under the new method, one of the eight cells developed in the embryo after two days is removed and can be used for research without destroying the embryo. The method already is used for diagnosis of possible genetic diseases.
Doctors estimate that more than 2,000 babies have been born in the United States after such preimplantation genetic diagnosis. By all indications, the procedure is safe and routine, posing no risk to the embryo.
The Catholic Church and other opponents of stem-cell research suggest that the single cell removed from the embryo could itself develop into an embryo. "You are creating a twin and killing that twin," said a spokesman for Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
That is absurd. While it may be possible for the single cell to grow into an embryo, it does not occur naturally and has never been documented. "They're citing something without any medical evidence," said Dr. Irving L. Weissman, director of Stanford University's stem-cell institute.
If a single cell were to be nurtured into becoming an embryo, that would not be creating a twin. It would more accurately be described as cloning, which violates federal law.
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