Two teams of scientists, in Japan and the United States, report that they have turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic cells without having to make or destroy an embryo – a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.
All the scientists had to do was add four genes. The genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone. Until now, the only way to get such universal human cells was to pluck them from a human embryo several days after fertilization, destroying the embryo in the process.
Researchers and ethicists claim that now the debate over whether it is morally acceptable to create and destroy human embryos to obtain stem cells should be moot.
The director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Washington , Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk , says, “Everyone was waiting for this day to come. You should have a solution here that will address the moral objections that have been percolating for years.”
Most everyone agrees this has been a scientific breakthrough. Is it also a moral breakthrough?
In your opinion, is stem-cell research now morally acceptable?