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America's Culture War: Stem-Cell Research

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In the News: Eggs from Embryonic Stem Cells

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Frequently, scientific research outpaces governmental laws and ethical practices. A good case in point would be a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania who discovered that mouse embryonic stem cells could be developed into eggs in culture dishes. Scientists do not yet know if these cells possess the ability to develop into embryos after fertilization. The stem cells developed spontaneously in dense cultures of embryonic stem cells. The trick was identifying which cells took on the characteristics of egg cells—a problem that researchers were able to remedy by using a flourescent green marker (see Hubner, 2003).

In discussing the ramifications of this research, bioethicist Arthur Caplan said: “This paper is an ethical earthquake.” If scientists can generate eggs from embryonic stem cells, it would allow them to completely bypass egg donors. Via cloning, we no longer need males. Now, we may no longer need females, either!

REFERENCE

Hubner, Karin, et al., (2003), “Derivation of Oo-cytes from Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells,” Science, 300:1251-1256, May 23.




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