Synthetic Embryo, Next Unethical Tool In Lab After Abortion-Derived Cell Lines

A researcher inside the stem cells laboratory.
A researcher inside the stem cells laboratory. (AFP)

Scientists are using human stem cells to create a structure that mimics a pre-embryo and can serve as a research alternative to a real one.

They say these “blastoids” provide an efficient, ethical way to study human development and pursue biomedical discoveries in fertility and contraception.

The latest effort was detailed in the latest issue of journal Nature. The structures are not embryos, but scientists nevertheless did not let them grow past two weeks in deference to longstanding ethical guidelines.

A blastoid is a model for a blastocyst, a ball of cells that form within a week of fertilization and are about the width of a hair. Nicolas Rivron, a researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and one of the authors of the Nature paper, said the models are “a fantastic alternative” to human embryos for research, partly because donated embryos are hard to obtain and manipulate in the lab.

It is extremely difficult to use such human embryos to discover any molecules, genes, principles that might allow us to better understand development and also make biomedical discoveries, Rivron said.

But lab-created stand-ins can be made, altered and studied in big numbers, and would complement embryonic research, he said.

The violation of the dignity of human life

Dr. Barbara Golder, editor-in-chief of The Linacre Quarterly, the journal of the Catholic Medical Association, said the development of blastoids shows “how science goes forward.” But, she said, it is problematic that embryonic cell lines remain the standard in science.

The ethical problems will exist as long as there’s a connection to the stem cells that are derived from an aborted fetus and as long as we have to correlate one set of stem cell lines against ones that are embryonic stem-cell derived, she said.

Catholic theology, unlike Protestant, developed an intellectual, moral and in-depth position on the issue of sanctity human life. In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II warned against the attempts to reconcile most complex moral conflicts with the democratic majority.

He stated the majority opinions can not change the values such as the dignity of every human person, respect for inviolable and inalienable human rights, and the adoption of the "common good" as the end and criterion regulating political life are certainly fundamental.

The scientists are preparing a stem cell-based regeneration treatment in the stem cell lab.
The scientists are preparing a stem cell-based regeneration treatment in the stem cell lab. (AFP)

Pope emphasised the basis of these values, can be only an objective moral law which, as the "natural law" written in the human heart, is the obligatory point of reference for civil law itself.

"If, as a result of a tragic obscuring of the collective conscience, an attitude of scepticism were to succeed in bringing into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations, and would be reduced to a mere mechanism for regulating different and opposing interests on a purely empirical basis", John Paul II emphasised.

"Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law", he concluded.

The Method

The so-called science dominated by the researchers who deny existence of God and reject any moral law continue to advance the experiments that involve abortion-derived cells.

To create the blastoids, the scientists used two different types of stem cells: either embryonic stem cells from previously established cell lines or stem cells reprogrammed from adult cells, such as skin cells. All cell lines were after product of abortions.

In the future, the stem cells reprogrammed from adult cells are likely to become the new standard in research, he said, but established embryonic cell lines are necessary now because they are still the ultimate reference. He said blastocysts were cultured separately to compare them side-by-side with lab-created structures.

The study showed blastoids reliably replicated key phases of early embryo development.

Rivron said researchers stopped their growth after 13 days and analyzed the cells. At that point, he said, the collection of cells did not reflect a 13-day-old embryo; they weren’t growing enough or organizing as well.


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