FuturePundit Randall Parker reports that pregnant women often receive stem-cell therapy from the children they are carrying. Not only that, mothers (past and present) may turn out to be one of the best sources for fetal stem cells:
It is possible that many years after a pregnancy there are no longer cells in the mother's body that are fetal and capable of becoming all cell types. But a better point at which to try to catch fetal cells from the blood stream of women would be while they are still pregnant or perhaps shortly after giving birth. If fully pluripotent stem cells can be isolated from the blood of pregnant women then this may well provide a source for such cells that will not raise religious hackles.
Randall notes a certain irony:
A confirmation of this result poses what seems to me an ethical problem for the religious opponents of embryonic stem cell research. If developing embryos effectively are donating human embryonic stem cells (hESC) to mothers and literally doing cell therapy to mothers then this natural process is doing something that at least some hESC therapy opponents consider to be morally repugnant.
It will be interesting to see where the various hESC research opponents come down on this result. Will they oppose the extraction of embryonic stem cells from a mother's blood while she is pregnant. If so, on what moral basis?
My guess is that a large fraction of the hESC research opponents will decide that extraction of hESC from a mother's blood is morally acceptable. No fetus will be killed by the extraction. The cells so extracted are not cells that would go on to become a complete new human life. If a sizable portion of the religious hESC opponents can be satisfied by this approach for acquiring hESC then Bianchi's research may well lead to a method to get hESC that will open the gates to a much larger effort to develop therapies based on hESC.
Read the whole thing, including the comments. One reader observes that the opponents of stem cell research may spin this into a victory for their side, which might put the future of therapeutic cloning in jeopardy. This may be. On the other hand, if a means of acquiring embryonic stem cells can be developed that is acceptable to both sides of the debate, who's to say that a mutually agreeable form of cloning (or a subsitute procedure providing the same benefits) can't be developed?
One thing is for sure: it will prove a lot easier to "win" the stem cell debate by coming up with a solution that both sides like than it would have been to get one side to agree that we should walk away, or the other side to agree that it's okay to kill an embryo. There's a lot to be said for the win-win scenario.Posted by Phil at July 26, 2004 09:10 AM | TrackBack