Aborted Baby Stem Cells in Mouse Experiments a Medical and Ethical Disaster

PALO ALTO, September 22, 2005 ( - The use of human foetal brain tissue in spinal cord experiments with mice has shown some success, but is likely to alarm medical ethicists as well as raise objections from pro-life advocates.

Researchers at University of California at Irvine injected stem cells derived from the brains of human foetuses into mice with severe spinal cord injuries. The mice regained some mobility and the research team is cautiously hopeful that this experiment will lead to progress with spinal cord injuries in humans. The stem cells were derived from babies aborted at about 16 to 18 weeks.

Pro-life activists have for years decried the use of aborted babies in medical research maintaining that not only is it a desecration of the dead, but it creates an additional profit motive for killing the unborn and treating unborn children as commercial commodities.

The rationale given for using aborted children’s bodies in medical research is usually that since the children are going to be killed anyway, some good might as well be had from their remains which would otherwise be discarded. Exactly that argument is regularly applied to the use of living frozen embryonic children left in storage after IVF treatments. Pro-life advocates have often pointed out that precisely the same reasoning was used at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals to justify the use of living human test subjects in Nazi concentration camps.

Problems with the ethics of using embryonic or foetal stem cells derived from aborted babies, however, are not confined to the horror of creating a medical research market for killing babies. Previous experiments with tissue or stem cells derived from embryos or foetuses have proved to be medically disastrous for patients as well.

The Washington Post reports that three California companies have applied to the Food and Drug Administration for permission to begin experiments to use foetal stem cells in direct experimentation with human patients.

The Post says that StemCells Inc. of Palo Alto, one of the most prominent of the private stem cell companies, has asked permission to start injecting the cells directly into the
  brains of infants with Batten disease, an inherited illness that destroys the central nervous system.

Dr. John Shea, a physician and researcher who has made extensive study of the medical consequences of using embryo cells on human patients told that this could be disastrous for the patients. “When they used neural cells on Parkinson’s patients in 2001, it made the patients much worse,” he said. “In fact, the doctors themselves called it ‘catastrophic.’”

Shea is referring to a series of studies done in which foetal cells were injected into the brains of patients with severe Parkinson’s disease and resulted in severe irreversible side effects. One of the researchers in the 2001 experiment, Dr. Paul Greene, a neurologist at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, said the results for patients were “absolutely devastating… tragic, catastrophic,” and “a real nightmare.” Green said, “We are absolutely and adamantly convinced that [foetal transplants] should be considered for research only. And whether it should be researched in people is an open question.”

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