By Alex Bush

BOSTON, Mass, July 1, 2009 ( – General Electric has announced that it will use embryonic stem cells provided by Geron Corporation for the purpose of testing toxic effects of drug treatments.

GE issued a statement, attempting to preempt criticism over the decision, saying, “We acknowledge the considerable debate and take very seriously the ethical and societal issues associated with research using stem cells derived from embryonic or fetal tissue.”

“We conduct our research in an ethically and scientifically responsible manner,” the statement said.

However, embryonic stem cells have been the center of heated controversy since harvesting the cells requires the destruction of embryonic human beings.

But Geron Corporation indicates that in this case it believes that the ends justify the means.

“Up to three quarters of toxicity problems are not detected until preclinical or later stages of drug development and this significantly increases the cost of developing new drugs,” Geron Corporation said in a press release, “Earlier detection of toxicity problems could reduce both overall drug development costs and potentially harmful patient exposure in clinical trials.”

Konstantin Fielder, General Manager of Cell Technologies at GE Healthcare said that stem cells harvested from human embryos could even replace lab rats as the primary scientific testing method.

“Once you have human cells and you can get them in a standardized way, like you get right now your lab rats in a standardized way, you can actually do those experiments on those cells,” he said.

Both GE and Geron have said that the stem cells to be used are listed on a National Institutes of Health registry, making them eligible for use in the United States.

Contact Information for General Electric:

Or by phone: (203) 373-2211