Researchers have acquired a stem cell line from a lifeless human embryo. Ethical issues may not be raised as these embryos have stopped developing naturally.
The study and treatment of diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's involving human embryonic stem cells has raised ethical concerns due to the controversial method of obtaining and harvesting human embryos.
Researcher Miodrag Stojkovic said, "The study shows that dead embryos provide an additional source of the cells beyond healthy embryos, rather than to set up any kind of a competition."
The work is considered to be an important addition to the field by Dr. Donald W. Landry, director of the division of experimental therapeutics at the Columbia University Medical Center.
Landry said, "Regardless of how you feel about personhood for embryos, if the embryo is dead, then the issue of personhood is resolved."
"This then reduces the ethics of human embryonic stem cell generation to the ethics of, say, organ donation. So now you're really saying, `Can we take live cells from dead embryos the way we take live organs from dead patients?'"
The Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center said, "I believe an embryo could still be alive if individual cells can still develop stem cell lines. "
At the same time, Dr. George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute was concerned about the method of the study.
"If there was something wrong with the embryo that made it arrest, isn't there something wrong with these cells, he asked. "We don't know."