Wednesday, July 13, 2005

George Daley's testimony before senate sub-committee

The American Journal of Bioethics quotes (at some length) the testimony of George Daley dealing with the ethical alternatives for deriving embryonic cells:
"A more recent proposal put forth by Markus Grompe is a variation on Altered Nuclear Transfer called Oocyte Assisted Reprogramming, (OAR). Grompe also suggests altering the input somatic cell so as to preclude formation of a viable human embryo. He proposes using a gene like nanog, which might promote reprogramming of the donor somatic cell directly to something that resembles an embryonic stem cell, which is pluripotent, and avoids generating a cell like a zygote, which is totipotent-that is, able to divide on its own and form a viable human blastocyst. Scientifically, this idea is a reasonable hypothesis that must be tested and might or might not work. But even if this strategy works in mice, there is no guarantee it will work in humans, and verification would then require the creation and destruction of many manipulated human embryos, which might or might not have the altered characteristics that would make this method ethically "acceptable". If it works, I am concerned that in order to use Federal dollars for research US Scientists will be relegated to less-efficient processes like Altered Nuclear Transfer, while Korean scientists employ superior techniques."

Because its all about beating "them".
Further on he makes the point that:
Research on each of these proposed strategies is at present untested in human cells, but if judged to be meritorious by the peer review process, should be funded. However, the already proven routes to obtaining embryonic stem cells from excess IVF embryos or through the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer should not be put on hold pending the outcomes of the more speculative methods.

So, "real scientists" aren't going to stop doing what they want, while we tinker around with proving ethically acceptable methods are workable. Fine. But let's not use taxpayer money to fund it. Let the visionary capitalists provide the cash.
Finally, he concludes:
Science certainly cannot define when in the gradual course of human development we deserve individual and autonomous rights.

You are correct, sir! So why are you trying to shut out from the public debate the very people who can help determine that point?
It seems to me that it ought to be a pretty important point to have clearly defined before preceding. But that's just me, and I am an extremist.