Scientists Harvest Embryos Solely for Research

Until now, stem cells were collected from already existing embryos at fertility clinics.

Reports of the procedure, conducted at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Norfolk, come as Washington debates whether destroying human embryos for stem cells is ethical.

Many scientists believe the young cells could contribute to the development of revolutionary therapies for multiple illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Although some abortion opponents support the research, many pro-life groups, including the Catholic church, have deemed the procedure unethical.

The creation of new embryos for the sole purpose of destroying them, however, runs into a greater amount of opposition from some in the medical community.

Stem cells are taken from three-to-five day old embryos and can transform themselves into any type of cell in the body.

Imminent decision

President Bush has said he will soon decide whether to allow taxpayer dollars to be used for research on embryonic stem cells.

After hearing about the work in Virginia, which was published today in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said “Even scientists who are involved in stem cell research have raised questions about what took place in Virginia. And the president views this as a reminder that this is not a simple matter, that this is a matter that involves very sensitive and important issues.”

Bush has delayed the implementation of National Institutes of Health guidelines that would allow federally-funded scientists to conduct research on stem cells, but only if the cells came from spare frozen embryos.

The researchers at the Jones Institute have not yet used the stem cells they made with the eggs from 12 women and sperm from two men.