No Such Thing as “Artificial” Human Life

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 3, 2017
Contact: Nicole Stacy, nstacy@sba-list.org, 703-470-1926

Stem Cell Expert Warns Against Creating, Manipulating Human Embryos in the Lab

Washington, D.C. – Scientists in the United Kingdom report that they have created “artificial” mouse embryos by combining two different types of stem cells, raising concerns that human beings could eventually be “made to order” in the laboratory.

“The term ‘artificial embryos’ does not accurately describe what the research team created,” said Dr. David Prentice, Vice President and Research Director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute. “These embryos were generated in a laboratory, like ones created through IVF or cloning, but there is nothing else ‘artificial’ about them. While much more work would be needed to create human embryos using this technique, the newly constructed organisms would be real human beings. 

“Potential use of this new technique to create human embryos is of great concern for ethical reasons. It opens the possibility of creating unlimited numbers of manufactured human embryos for experimentation, including genetic manipulation and cloning. There is little reassurance that scientists will show restraint in using this technique.  Human beings, no matter their age or manner of creation, are not merely raw material and should never be considered fodder for such experiments.

“Science owes its highest duty to truth and that includes the truth about human rights.  Redefining some human beings as ‘artificial’ or ‘laboratory constructs’ is the first step toward a form of dehumanization that undermines both the character of those who are experimented upon and the society that permits the experiments.”

The technique used by Cambridge University researchers combined embryonic stem cells with trophoblast stem cells (which normally form the placenta for a developing embryo).  When grown together on a matrix of stimulatory proteins, the two cell types self-assembled to form embryos with structures and subsequent developmental growth like that seen in normal embryos. 

A similar technique called ‘tetraploid complementation,’ which combines pluripotent stem cells (which create the embryonic body) with a second cell type that can generate a trophoblast and placenta, has been used since 1990 to create new mouse embryos from cellular components (without egg and sperm) and gestate the embryos to birth. It has also been used for genetic engineering to create mutant mouse strains.

Charlotte Lozier Institute was launched in 2011 as the education and research arm of Susan B. Anthony List.  CLI is a hub for research and public policy analysis on some of the most pressing issues facing the United States and nations around the world. The Institute is named for a feminist physician known for her commitment to the sanctity of human life and equal career and educational opportunities for women.

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