Will Science Get Us OUT of a Moral Dilemma?
This would certainly be good news:
In recent months, a number of researchers have begun to assemble intriguing evidence that it is possible to generate embryonic stem cells without having to create or destroy new human embryos.
The research is still young and largely unpublished, and in some cases it is limited to animal cells. Scientists doing the work also emphasize their desire to have continued access to human embryos for now. It is largely by analyzing how nature makes stem cells, deep inside days-old embryos, that these researchers are learning how to make the cells themselves.
Yet the gathering consensus among biologists is that embryonic stem cells are made, not born — and that embryos are not an essential ingredient. That means that today’s heated debates over embryo rights could fade in the aftermath of technical advances allowing scientists to convert ordinary cells into embryonic stem cells.
“That would really get around all the moral and ethical concerns,” said James F. Battey, chief of the stem cell task force at the National Institutes of Health. The techniques under study qualify for federal grant support because embryos are not harmed, he noted. And eventually the work could boost the number of stem cell colonies, or lines, available for study by taxpayer-supported researchers.