Vatican, Jan. 9, 2007 (CWNews.com) – The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care has welcomed a new breakthrough in research using stem cells from amniotic fluids.
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan told a Vatican Radio audience that the latest discovery was welcome because it allowed for the stem cells to be harvested without any threat to the life of the donor.
The Church, the cardinal pointed out, does not object to stem-cell research in itself, but to the harvesting in which human embryos are destroyed in order to obtain stem cells. The use of amniotic fluid involves no such destruction of human life.
It is pretty good news that this development has been reported fairly widely. Usually any actual breakthroughs that dealt with any process that did not actually require the destruction of human embryos received pretty much a media blackout.
Not that this will have any effect on the political debate. Even if amniotic fluid produced stem-cells that were exactly equal to the purported capabilities of embryonic stem-cells it would not matter. The political debate has never really been about cures, but a reaction to any attempt to admit that human embryos are persons and should not be destroyed. This is the only explanation for the totally unbalanced hype and subsequent coverage between embryonic and non-embryonic sources of stem-cells.
To prove the point.
Paolo De Coppi told the Italian ANSA news agency that a groundbreaking paper published this week in Nature Biotechnology had previously been rejected by four different journals. “It took seven years to get our paper published,” he said.
De Coppi and his colleague, Anthony Atala, demonstrated that stem cells derived from amniotic fluid could be used to generate many different types of body tissues, which could be used in the treatment of diseases. For the purposes of medical research, their paper argued, the stem cells taken from amniotic fluid show more promise than those obtained from human embryos.
Nevertheless, De Coppi told ANSA, his research was unwelcome in some quarters. He concluded that his paper was met by “a resistance to the idea of finding an alternative to embryonic stem cells,” because many leading researchers– particularly in the US– are so heavily invested in embryo research.
The researches in this case have no ethical problems with ESCR itself in the first place, they just made the mistake of finding another source.
Though I do wonder if this work turns out to be truly promising if there is still the problem of using stem-cells that are not yours and having the body reject them. That is why so much effort has been put into cloning in the first place. News stories don’t often mention that they would have to create of clone of yourself first, kill it, and then harvest the embryonic stem-cells – kind of a self-cannibalism.