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Defending life from the moment of conception

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18 October 2005

18 October 2005

18 October 2005 Scientists at two Massachusetts-based institutes have developed methods of extracting embryonic stem cells that they claim could bypass ethical objections.

A team at Advanced Cell Technology used pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to extract one cell from a mouse embryo, which they used to grow an embryonic stem cell line.

A team at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a genetically damaged mouse that could not develop properly in the womb and developed embryonic stem cells from it.

Dr George Daley of the Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School said of both methods: "They demonstrate that you can isolate the equivalent embryonic stem cells by alternative methods that may not raise the ethical questions. I would say they also raise more questions than answers."

[Reuters, 16 October ] These methods would still pose ethical problems as they would both involve the manipulation of human embryos.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has warned that babies are at higher risk of dying when they are born at birth centres than those born in hospital.

Birth centres, which are funded by the National Health Service and run by midwives, do not have any anaesthetists or obstetricians present, meaning that there can be a 45 minute delay in transferring women to hospital if a serious complication arises.

[The Telegraph, 16 October ] Britons are travelling to Barbados, Ecuador, Russia and the Ukraine for cosmetic treatment involving stem cells from aborted babies, the Independent reports.

The Institute of Regenerative Medicine in Barbados claims that if foetal cells are injected into the arm, they may repair damaged and dead cells in the body and help regenerate the skin, improve sex drive and general quality of life.

However, Dr Stephen Minger, director of the King's College London stem-cell biology laboratory, warned that these claims are not backed up by any scientific data.

[The Independent, 16 October ] The Governor of Wisconsin has vetoed a bill that would have protected health workers who conscientiously object from anti-life practices such as removing a patient's food and fluids, destroying human embryos and assisting in a suicide.

Gov. Jim Doyle said that such legislation is 'a disservice to patients and to our health care system.' Medical workers are currently permitted to refuse to perform abortions and sterilisations. In response to the veto, Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life said: "The whole atmosphere is not very amenable to people who don't want to kill their patients." [The Guardian, 15 October ]


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