Racefan’s Ramblings

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Stem Cell Reserch Allowed by 2 Vote Margin. Is this a good thing?

Posted by Pat Kershaw on November 10, 2006

Australia’s lower house today approved a bill allowing human Stem Cell research. In an article by Anna Salleh, on the ABC science online (8/11/2006) , this new legislation will however forbid mixing human and animal components. The embryonic cells are to be used entirely fro reasrearch and must be destroyed after 14 days.
I have no problems with this as it is a potentially revolutionary area for medical research, which has only really been touched on so far. The bill lifts a ban on therapeutic cloning, allowing the creation of human embryos for research

… top stem cell researchers have welcomed the bill, which lifts a ban on therapeutic cloning by allowing the creation of human embryos specifically for research. The bill, which will now go before the House of Representatives, allows a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This involves removing the nucleus from an egg and replacing it with one from a non-reproductive body cell, of a patient for example, to produce an embryo, the same method used to produce Dolly the sheep.”

“The main Question I had is why the scientists here, (and in the UK at the moment), are so keen on fusing animal and human cells to produce embryos?

“It’s an invasive procedure for a woman to donate an egg and the eggs are very precious,” says Skene. “So we thought it would be better to allow another source of eggs, namely animal eggs, to be used.” “It was never envisaged that any stem cells that were produced from this would go into treatments for people.”

…”Researchers hope to turn embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells “… “But he says thousands of eggs are required to sequence and identify the factors and there are just not enough human eggs for this. “You can’t get thousands of human eggs to extract the factors,” he says. Tuch is less concerned about a shortage of eggs. He says one possible source will be the 240 women a year that have their ovaries removed because a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer.”

There are a couple of other issues involved, such as learning what it is the makes a stem cell turn into whatever type of cell is required. But the main debate centers on supplies of the cells themselves. And more particularly the eggs. this 250 women will not be enough?

Trounson says eggs will be gathered internationally for research to find suitable embryonic stem cell lines. A sociologist who studies the global trade in human and animal tissue, Peta Cook of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane says it’s this international context that needs to be considered when it comes to the pressures on women to sell their eggs. While this is illegal in Australia, Cook says there is a booming international trade in body parts. “If I need a kidney, I can travel to Pakistan or India and receive one from a live donor,” she says. “It is close to an on-demand system.” Similarly, women in Eastern Europe have had their eggs taken illicitly and sold by health-care professionals, says Cook. She says that in the US a woman can sell her eggs for up to US$10,000 and this is very tempting to poor university students and such financial incentives can undermine informed consent and autonomous decision-making.

Hmm, will be interesting to watch!!

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