[extropy-chat] Re: Stem Cell politics --- Link to the Virtual Human Embryo site

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au
Thu May 19 07:25:10 UTC 2005

From: "Mike Lorrey" <mlorrey at yahoo.com>

[Mike you have written a lot in your post and I can't address
all of it in one go so I'll split it up]

>> > --- Brett Paatsch <bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au> wrote:

>> ...  in political terms the stem cell debate often gets
>> conflated with the abortion debate. Some of the issues are similar
>> but to me embryonic stem cell research is a far easier moral call
>> than abortion. I thought that you might have had reservations about
>> deriving embryonic stem cells from embryos and destroying their
>> potential in the process.
>> I think that it would be possible to show you that it is in your
>> personal interest to support embryonic stem cell research and
> >therapeutic cloning with public funds. You and people close to
> >you are likely to be personally effected by how well and how soon
>> embryonic stem cell research gets moving.
>> In my opinion, interested laypeople do not get very good
>> information on *why* embryonic stem cell research and the
>> funding of it matters.
> This is partly because both sides of the debate tend to exaggerate
> their claims, particularly the pro-choice side, about how long a fetus
> remains a 'clump of cells'.

Here's a site that you should find useful so that you can see for yourself.
It show embryos at various stages of development up until day 56. Day
56 or the end of week eight, (on average) is the end of the embryonic
period and the start of the fetal period.


When talking about embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic
cloning in all its conceivable near term medical applications it is ENTIRELY
true and appropriate to talk in terms of "clumps of cells" because that is
ALL that is involved scientifically. That is NOT the case (scientifically)
when we are talking about abortion (that's abortion generally - early stage
and natural abortions of course might amount to no more than clumps of
cells, one of  the ways in which contraceptive pills work is that they
prevent implantation of an embryo into the lining of the uteris).

ALL embryonic stem cell lines available for research in the western
world today are derived from embryos that were left over from in vitro
fertilization (IVF) processes. Any embryo that is older than 14 days is
too old to be of any practical use for embryonic stem cell research and
so embryonic stem cell researcher have no interest in them. They are
too far gone down the developmental pathway towards cellular
specialisation at that stage to be relevent.

Up until the 14 day mark an embryo can still potentially (in nature or
the clinic -its not done in the clinic but is done with pedigree cattle
sometimes) split into two embryos and so go on to form two identical
twins. The clump of cells is that unspecific and that undeveloped up
until that stage. For research that unspecificness and undevelopedness
is exactly why the cells are interesting. Researchers want the base
material to use to learn how to direct its development into different
sorts of tissue.

When therapeutic cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer is done and
it will be done soon by Ian Wilmut the Dolly Cloner and others, it will
be done to produce lines of cells (also embryonic stem cells but not
from embryos left over from IVF) that contain genes that are known
to be from people that have certain diseases. Having the disease in cell
and learning how to developing it into its tissue form will make it easier
to learn about those sorts of diseases and so perhaps to better fight
those sorts of diseases perhaps with drugs.

With abortion, obviously, depending on when the abortion takes place
in the development of the embryo or the fetus it is NOT necessarily
the case that all that is involved is a "clump of cells".

Brett Paatsch

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list