Friday, August 05, 2005

Placenta stem cells?

Reuters.com reports that primative cells have been found in a part of the placenta called the amnion.
It is not yet certain that the cells they found are true stem cells, said Stephen Strom, who worked on the study. But they carry two important genes, called Oct 4 and nanog, which so far have only been seen on embryonic stem cells.
'We were just blown away when we found those two genes expressed in those cells,' Strom said in a telephone interview.
'The presence of these two genes suggests these cells are pluripotent, which means they should be able to form any cell type in the body'.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Since it was possible, it was necessary*

Beating Hurdles, Scientists Clone a Dog for a First


*Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An Extremist reads

From the introduction of Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity by Leon Kass:
Fewer people yet worried about the effects not on the embryos but on our embryo-using society of coming to look upon nascent human life as a natural resource to be mined, exploited, commodified. The little embryos are merely destroyed, but we -- their users-- are at risk of corruption. We are desensitized and denatured by a coarsening of sensibility that comes to regard these practices as natural, ordinary and fully unproblematic. People who can hold nascent human life in their hands coolly and without awe have deadened something in their souls.

Location, location, location

Not just for Real Estate anymore.

The evening that Castle-DeGette passed the house, a group of senators met with Diana DeGette and Mike Castle to take the bill from them to introduce into the Senate. It was a typical "pass the bill"” kind of press conference.

Some of the things the senators statements were rather intriguing. For instance, our supposedly "“pro-life" senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch, pointed out that :
Human life does not begin in a petri dish. It requires and begins in a mother'’s nurturing womb.

In the lab, according to Hatch's logic, the union of a human sperm and a human egg, does not ,in fact, create a human embryo. Said embryo only becomes human when his location changes to that of a woman's womb. At some point in the transfer, human-ness is suddenly (and rather magically to my thinking) imbued into the embryo. It'’s almost miraculous. Move the embryo to a new location and it becomes a whole new entity.

If location can be an attribute used to define what is human, maybe that explains the perception that only sub-humans inhabit fly-over country.


A Frist Compromise??

Eric Cohen and William Kristol conclude in their Weekly Standard piece on Frist's stem cell relapse :
"But here is one thing that can be done between now and when the Senate takes up this issue, most likely in September: Those pro-embryo research politicians who rushed to praise Frist's wisdom and courage should now be forced to take a position on the rest of Frist's recommendations: Will they agree to ban the creation of any human embryo solely for research? Will they agree to make federal funding of research involving destroyed IVF-embryos contingent on such a ban? Or is their support for funding the 'spares' really just one step toward funding everything--creation for destruction, research cloning, fetal farming--and a way to weaken those, like President Bush, who oppose the steady march toward the brave new world?

And Frist could still make his support for the Castle-DeGette bill depend on winning the support of his pro-embryo research colleagues for a ban on the creation of human embryos solely for research and destruction. This, at least, would make supporting limited research on the 'spares' contingent on stopping the full-scale instrumentalization of nascent human life. Such a 'Frist Compromise' would not, on balance, make us a better country. It would not settle this divisive moral issue. For our part, we would still oppose any federal funding of embryo-destructive research. But at least such a 'Frist Compromise' would represent an effort to hold the nation to some moral standard, instead of simply capitulating to those who seek a national blessing for embryo destruction."

not-so-Pro-life Frist

The Mighty Barrister has a very nice piece detailing Frist's pro-life record.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Fr. Tadusz Pacholcyk on Diane Rehm

Fr. Tadusz Pacholcyk (its easy to say folks, really! Just try: Ta-DAY-oosh Puh-CHOL-chik, don't let Polish names scare you...) was on Diane Rehm today and did a great job. It is not the easiest format to make the kind of nuanced points that sometimes need to be made in this area.
Listen to the show here.

Size does matter!

Apparently.

The Ayn Rand Institute (whose concern for the poor and suffering is legion) is the latest to dismiss human embryos from inclusion in our species based on their size. To wit:
"But embryos used in embryonic stem cell research are manifestly not human beings--not in any rational sense of the term. These embryos are smaller than a grain of sand, and consist of at most a few hundred undifferentiated cells."

Well, so what is the magic size at which one becomes a person? Would it be 1000 cells? Would it be 13 inches in length (crown to rump)? Would it be 5 ft 3 in?

As long as there is a size under which one is disqualified from inclusion in humanity, is there an equivalent size over which one issimilarlyy disqualified?

Say, for the sake of the argument, that anyone over 6 ft 6 in is no longer part of homo sapiens sapiens. We will now create a new category for them -- say -- homo sapiens basketballus.

Of course the argument about being too tall is absurd, just like the idea that the smallness of the embryo actually disqualifies it from being human. What, if not a human being, will a human embryo become?