By Hilary White
November 22, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Socially conservative groups, including pro-life organisations, are responding positively to the news that a pair of research teams may have found a way to create embryo-like stem cells from adult cells.
Two independent teams, the first from Japan’s Kyoto University, followed by a team from the University of Wisconsin, have performed the groundbreaking research which found a method of “reprogramming” human skin cells to revert to a “pluripotent” state. These cells have been shown to be able to become many tissue types of the body.
Both teams published their findings, the former in the scientific journal Cell, and the other in Science, within a week of each other and the response from both researchers and those who had opposed human embryo research and cloning, has been overwhelmingly positive.
A spokesman for President Bush, Tony Fratto said the president was “very pleased” to hear the reports. “By avoiding techniques that destroy life, while vigorously supporting alternative approaches, President Bush is encouraging scientific advancement within ethical boundaries,” said Fratto in a written statement.
In 2001 President Bush froze federal funds for research that would create new stem cell lines from embryos and has twice vetoed Congressional bills to overturn that policy.
“The President believes medical problems can be solved without compromising either the high aims of science or the sanctity of human life,” Fratto added.
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said, “Once again science is catching up to ethics, proving that the moral way is the most sound, scientific choice.” Wright said the new method will allow lawmakers to be assured when they discontinue pursuing “politically-charged” policies that fund stem cell research which destroys embryos.
Prominent ethicist Leon Kass told the National Review the breakthrough is “an enormously significant achievement, one that boosters of medical progress and defenders of human dignity can celebrate without qualification.”
Kass, who helped to develop the Bush embryo research policy as head of the President’s Council on Bioethics, said the advantage of the discovery was in the cells’ versatility and that they can be obtained without the deaths of embryonic human beings or exploitation of women for their ova.
“Best of all,” Kass said, “these cells can be created from everyone – permitting the study of cells with different diseases and genetic makeup and, when stem-cell-based therapies eventually become available, providing rejection-proof tissues for personalized transplantation.” He noted that the discovery also renders the “alleged need for so-called therapeutic cloning – cloning embryos for research – now passé.”
“We can therefore disentangle the ‘life issue’ of embryo-destruction from the “dignity issue” of baby manufacture, and enact a legislative ban on cloning and other degrading forms of baby-making.”
Justin Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, the chairman of the US bishops’ pro-life committee, has welcomed the announcement saying the discovery offers “new hope advancing stem cell research and therapies while fully respecting the dignity of human life.”
The cardinal said the technique promises to provide stem cells that can match a patient’s genetic composition while it “avoids the many ethical landmines associated with embryonic stem cell research.”
Meanwhile, the British House of Lords has passed Britain’s new Human Fertilisation and Embryology or HFE Bill without a vote to the next stage. The Lords will debate amendments from December 3 onwards.
Anthony Ozimic, political secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said he was “disappointed but unsurprised” that the Labour-controlled government pushed the bill through to the next stage, despite the advances that will render moot the cloning and embryonic research allowed under the proposed law.
“SPUC will continue to urge parliamentarians to reject the bill in principle and as a whole and we will support whatever parliamentary activity is most effective in helping to stop the bill,” Ozimic said.
“We will be emphasising how advances in ethical alternatives to destructive embryo research make many of the bill’s provisions redundant.