Human Exceptionalism

Ethical Stem Cells Grow Tiny Human Hearts

Remember when THE SCIENTISTS! insisted that embryonic stem cells and human cloning were the ONLY HOPE to create a vibrant regenerative medical sector? People bought the mendacity, and as one consequence, California is now stuck with the borrow-and-spend-billions boondoggle known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

One Japanese scientist saw his own daughters in embryos under a microscope and invented induced pluripotent stem cells, that is, stem cells (undifferentiated cells) made from skin cells, that can then be transformed (differentiated) into other kinds of tissues.

Now, IPS cells have been used to manufacture tiny human hearts. From The Independent story:

Scientists have made tiny human hearts that can actually beat from nothing — and they’re so small that they can barely be seen with the naked eye.

The hearts have been grown using only stem cells, for the very first time, the New Scientist reports. As such, it mimics the processes that happen when humans hearts’ grow for the first time — except it happens in a lab, at the prompting of researchers.

But once again, the media gets the basic science of a stem cell story wrong:

The new hearts were created using stems cells that were made by reversing human skill cells, so that they turned back to something like an embryo.

No! Embryos are living organisms. The skin cells were merely that before the IPSC process, and they remained merely a different kind of cell after the genetic manipulation.

Why is that important, Wesley? Human embryos have moral value as nascent human beings. Cells are just cells, and don’t have intrinsic value. That is a distinction with a huge ethical difference.

That point aside. This is very good news. In a decade or two, we might be able to have replacement organs manufactured from our own skin cells. No embryos destroyed. No human beings cloned.

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