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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Ethical stem cell research used to rebuild windpipe

19 November 2008

A patient's stem-cells have been used to create a part of a windpipe which was successfully transplanted to her without the need for anti-rejection drugs. British scientists removed the cells from a deceased donor's trachea and rebuilt it on the remaining collagen framework using cells from Ms Claudia Castillo's windpipe and marrow. Spanish surgeons used the resulting tissue to replace the 30-year-old's left bronchus which had been damaged by tuberculosis. The Bristol University, England, scientists predict many types of organ will be being created in this way in 20 years' time. [BBC, 19 November] Stem cells have been used to restore hearing and vision in animals. Mesenchymal stem cells from human bone marrow were reportedly used to repair lost hearing in guinea pigs in Korea, and frog cells produced eyes in embryonic tadpoles. [Reuters, 19 November] Our source suggests some of the cells were obtained from embryos.

The Pope has said that unborn children who are ill should be welcomed with love. Benedict XVI told the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care's conference in Rome: "Children must ... always be cared for with love, to help them face suffering and sickness, even before birth, in a way appropriate to their situation." All medical activity with children had to be for the child's authentic good, and all people were created in God's image and likeness. The pontiff also expressed grave concern at the four million newborn babies who died annually. [CNA on EWTN, 17 November] Science that is ethics-free is out of bounds, according to the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Most Rev Rino Fisichella writes in the Vatican newspaper that unethical experimentation on humans could be seen as being done for the sake of the powerful rather than for all mankind. The church had always defended humanity. Human life was not "material that can be manipulated" but had intrinsic dignity. Science actually lacked certainties and the church had a right to present its view on these matters. [CNA on EWTN, 18 November]

Religious bodies are among organisations urging the US president-elect to remove restrictions on abortion and fund it from taxation. Signatories to a letter to Senator Barack Obama include Hadassah, Jewish Women International, the National Council of Jewish Women, Union for Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. They want him to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, repeal the Hyde amendment on funding and resume the sending of American money to UNFPA which supports population control programmes overseas. The Institute on Religion and Democracy said churchgoers in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice's member-denominations would object to the coalition's support for the letter to Mr Obama. Election promises that the senator would reduce abortions would prove hollow. [LifeNews, 18 November]

A threat of forced abortion on a woman in China has been lifted after protests by an American congressman. Ms Arzigul Tursun of Xinjiang region was more than six months' pregnant with her third child and Representative Chris Smith raised the matter with China's ambassador to the US and his American counterpart. Mr Smith and Representative Joe Pitts called for a continued block on funding for UNFPA while it supports Chinese policy. [LifeSiteNews, 18 November]

A device has been successfully tested which detects chromosomal anomalies during amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling on the unborn. The comparative genomic hybridization array yielded data not found by karyotypes, according to research on 300 cases by Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, described in Prenatal Diagnosis. Downs syndrome is one condition the array can be used to detect. [Medical News Today, 18 November] Once anomalies are detected, abortion is often offered to expectant mothers.

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