Are we close to a human embryonic stem cell trial?

| 6 Comments

A piece by Ronald Bailey from Reason gushes all over Woo Suk Hwang (the South Korean researcher who cloned (among other things) a dog). It reports on a speech he gave while accepting an award from The Alliance for Aging Research (one of those outfits that thinks people ought to never die).

Hwang noted that with cloned stem cells we would be "treating our bodies with our own perfectly matched cells,"

Well, no not really. Technically, we would be treating our bodies with our own twin's cells. That may seem nuanced, but the difference is vast. It is the difference between using my body and using another's body that was destroyed in the process.

However, considering his results so far, Hwang may actually succeed in using human embryonic stem cells as a treatment. "I promise that our medical researchers are working non-stop," concluded Hwang.

So saying there has not been a single trial of an embryonic stem cell therapy may be a lot like saying in 1902 that "heavier than air flight is impossible." It's true until it's not.

I don't think our main line of reasoning is that it WON'T work, but rather that it is an immoral choice. Whether is works or not is secondary. First we have to decide is it "right" or not.

But, in the mean time while we debate the ethical ramifications of ripping apart human embryos for "therapies", why don't we focus our limited resources on adult stem cells; cells that are already curing 65 different diseases and showing more promise every day.

6 Comments

You people are more interested in saving a few cells than a person with a debilitating or life threatening disease. ESC are taken about the fifth day after conception when there is no heart, no brain, no consciousness, no feeling, nothing. These cells may develop into a human being but they are not human beings at the time the cells are harvested. If you want to exclude yourselves from receiving any of the benefits of reseach that may come from ESC fine but don't try and stop the rest of us from benefitting.

So let me get this straight...the product of a human sperm and a human egg is not human at day 5? Wow, what is it then? A frog?

So what you are really saying is that at some point in its development it miraculously switches species and becomes human? And you really believe this? That takes way more faith than my belief requires...not to mention some major leaps of logic.

I'm all for stem cell therapy, I just wouldn't kill anyone for it. I wonder what part of "human embryo.." in "human embryonic stem cell" is not clear to Bailey?

Hey Hugh, you're free to do all the embryonic stem cell research you want. There is no ban on it. There is a ban, however, on stealing our federal tax dollars against our will in order to pay for such research. I thought you people were 'pro-choice'? If you really are for choice, then you pay for your own research. If you actually find a cure for anything (fat chance), it'll be all yours.

Extremist,

You're quick to jump on Hugh but after five days you have a ball of cells, not a human being. Pick a defining characteristic that makes that ball "human" and you will not find it present in that mass of cells.

I disagree however, with the line "may turn into". Given enough time it *will* turn into a human (not a frog). A blueprint, however, is not a house.

Pick a defining characteristic? Hmm, how about human DNA? Does that work? I believe each of the 100 or so cells that make up the HUMAN blastocyst would contain nothing but HUMAN DNA.

I think you may be trying to make a point about "personhood" and whether or not that "ball of cells" is actually a person - since it is undeniably human.

Personhood is not really a concrete concept however; its more like a game of "who can be in my club". And once you start excluding people from the club, bad things tend to happen to those who are excluded.

You pick a characteristic that you think defines "personhood" and I will argue that it is a valuable characteristic or capability because it is intrinsically human. In other words, it is our humanness that makes that capability valuable. If that is the case, then something that has intrinsic value is valuable from the start, i.e. conception.

A blueprint may not be a house, after all a blueprint doesn't organically grow into a house. An embryo, on the other hand, is not a blueprint of a human, but rather a human at that stage of development. A human who is growing.




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