Too early to judge embryo-friendly stem-cell advance

Stem cells have been harvested from embryos for the first time without killing or hurting them, but Dr Briget Vout of the Sydney Archdiocesan Life Office is reacting cautiously.

CLICK HEREThe Australian reports today on the advance that could eliminate ethical objections to one of the most promising fields of medical research.

It says researchers in the US successfully grew several colonies of embryonic mouse stem cells without destroying any embryos. They claim that if the technique is successful on humans, it could one day provide children with a personal supply of spare-parts tissue.

Stem cells, which can develop into almost every kind of cell, could provide a repair kit for people who have suffered spinal injuries, heart attacks, dementia and motor neurone disease.

Until now, however, the only way to get the cells was to destroy embryos.

Dr Vout, executive officer of Sydney's Life Office, said it is too soon to assess whether the church could support the technique.

"We welcome the search for ethical sources of embryonic stem cells and for us an ethical source would be something that doesn't involve the creation and destruction of human embryos," she said.

The stem cells were harvested by removing one cell, instead of the whole cell mass, and coaxing it into growing and forming cells with the same essential properties as embryonic stem cells taken from the inner cell mass.

In Adelaide, Southern Cross Bioethics Institute director Greg Pike told the Sydney Morning Herald that the single cell might also have the potential to be a new embryo, yet it would be destroyed. The second technique is tantamount to the creation of a defective embryo and, so, was also ethically questionable, Dr Pike said.

Embryos spared in stem-cell advance (The Australian 18/10/05)
Stem cell advances may ease ethical and political objections (Sydney Morning Herald 18/10/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Life Office (Archdiocese of Sydney)
Southern Cross Bioethics Institute

Catholic ethicists oppose cell research fasttrack (CathNews 30/9/05)
Pell calls for stem cell research ban (CathNews 21/9/05)
Pell announces new grant for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/7/05)
Cardinal Pell hails stem cell discovery (CathNews 22/3/05)
Sydney Archdiocese announces Church funding for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/3/03)

Senator Ron Boswell: Submission to the Lockhart Review of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 (13/10/05)
A submission from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to the Lockhart Review of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 and the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 23/9/05)
Catholic GP's stance 'could lift rate of teen pregnancy' (New Zealand Herald 17/10/05)
Breakthrough on fertility offers new hope for families (Catholic Weekly 16/10/05)
UN Population Fund: focus on "reproductive rights," not needs of the poor (Catholic World News 14/10/05)
Alan Nichols: Searching for a middle way on stem cells (The Age 17/10/05)
Faith Groups Join Forces Against Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia (Zenit 13/10/05)
Catholic Archbishops speak out against 'assisted dying' bill in UK (catholicireland.net 13/10/05)

18 Oct 2005