WASHINGTON, D.C., January 10, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A new report by the United States governments’ Domestic Policy Council admits that embryos are human beings; the only differences between embryos and other human beings, says the report, are accidental differences in levels of development.In related developments, you may have noticed the news trickling out that human embryos are not the stem cell source of choice after all: amniotic fluid is -- at least according to Charles Krauthammer's Jan. 14, 2007 article syndicated in the Charlotte Observer, "Saved from stem cell research's slippery slope," according to which President Bush's 2001 veto of carte blanche federal funding for embryonic stem cell research "gave technology enough time to rescue us from moral dilemma." Krauthammer writes:
“Embryos are humans in their earliest developmental stage,” writes the Council.
It has just been demonstrated that stem cells with enormous potential can be harvested from amniotic fluid.[Hat tip to M.F. for the link to the first article, and to D.S. for the Observer article.]
This is a revolutionary finding. Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the womb during pregnancy. It is routinely drawn out by needle in amniocentesis. The procedure carries little risk and is done for legitimate medical purposes that have nothing to do with stem cells. If it nonetheless yields a harvest of stem cells, we have just stumbled upon an endless supply.
And not just endless, but uncontroversial. No embryos are destroyed. The cells are just floating there, as if waiting for science to discover them.
Even better, amniotic fluid might prove to yield an ideal stem cell -- not as primitive as embryonic stem cells and therefore less likely to grow uncontrollably into tumors, but also not as developed as adult stem cells and therefore more "pluripotential" in the kinds of tissues it can produce.
If it is proved that these are the Goldilocks of stem cells, history will record the amniotic breakthrough as the turning point in the evolution of stem cell research from a narrow, difficult, delicate and morally dubious enterprise into an uncontroversial one with raw material produced unproblematically every day.