The recent media buzz about a technique to start a stem cell line from a single cell removed from an embryo was… premature. None of the embryos in the study survived, though the technique has the potential for just that.
But, does it matter? The President’s Council on Bioethics had previously criticised the approach “…for potentially harming the embryo. The Council also pointed out that the biopsied cell might be totipotent and could therefore be an embryo itself, raising further ethical problems. ” (See http://www.australasianbioethics.org/Newsletters/216-2006-08-29.html). Ah, so the removed cell assumes the same status as the original embryo. Could one be more circular?
But, what if we didn’t need embryos at all? As the same article points out, the media totally missed a real breakthrough whereby adult cells behave like stem cells (see http://www.australasianbioethics.org/Newsletters/214-2006-08-15.html#japanese).
So, we have a Mobius strip of ethical reasoning that leads nowhere for embryonic-based research, while a real breakthrough is ignored. Reporting on the medical field with the most potential to reduce human suffering seems to be largely stuck on a single circular path….