Human Exceptionalism

Twisting Ourselves Into Pretzels Over Embryonic Stem Cells

Scientists keep looking for ways to obtain ES cells without destroying embryos. One potential source that some are now discussing is from the process known as parthenogenesis. This process stimulates an egg (which has 46 chromosomes before losing half during fertilization) to divide for a period–perhaps to the point that ES cells could be created. (The story I linked claims that the product of parthenogenesis would be an embryo. But I am not convinced. But let’s not get into that for the moment.)

This seems an unlikely ehtical source of ES cells regardless of whether an embryo is created: You would still have to get an awful lot of eggs to make the tens of thousands of cell lines scientists claim to want to avoid tissue rejection during stem cell treatments. (If memory serves, all frozen leftover IVF embryos in the USA that might be available for use in ESCR–some 12,000 out of the total of 400,000 in cold storage–would only result in the creation of about 200-300 ES cell lines.) And once again, as with human cloning research, it would most likely be poor women who would be paid to bear the burden of providing all those eggs.

Perhaps the best approach would be to stop turning ourselves into pretzels over ES cells, when there is so much promise from sources that are uncontroversial, both as to source and derivation.

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