EMBRYO RESEARCH: Ethics Panel Discounts Fear Of ‘Cow-Man’
A national bioethics panel convened at the request of President Clinton to explore the ramifications of creating hybrid human-cow cells concluded yesterday that the technology does not break new moral or ethical ground. The New York Times reports that one advantage of the technique is that it would create embryonic stem cells without using material from human embryos or fetuses, a practice that has been shrouded in controversy (Wade, New York Times, 11/18). The Detroit Free Press reports that scientific experts say "the human embryos would not grow into strange half-human, half-cow creatures" (Lee McFarling, 11/18). Stanford University's Dr. David Cox, a member of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, said, "We should tell the president there is nothing new in cells fused from different eggs." The committee evaluated the technique developed by Advanced Cell Technology in which "the nucleus of a human cell [is] inserted into a cow egg whose own nucleus has been removed." The human proteins are thought to replace the cow proteins as the cells grow, although the "mitochondria of the cell[s] ... are likely to remain cowlike, giving rise at least initially to cells that are not wholly human." Experts consulted by the commission concluded that the resulting cells would not qualify as a chimera -- an organism made up of two distinct animals -- and that the embryonic stem cells formed by the procedure would not be "capable of forming a fetus if transferred to a uterus, something [ACT President Dr. Michael West] said he had no intention of doing" (New York Times, 11/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.