Stem Cell, Inc., one of Irving Weissman’s biotech companies, has been given clearance by the FDA to begin phase 1 trials of one of the company’s proprietary stem cell preps – stem cells for brain tissue derived from aborted humans. The Boston Globe article on the announcement is here.
Weissman and his cohorts know that there are other probable sources for treatment for Batten’s disease – umbilical cord and bone marrow cells. Way back in 2003, we knew that human umbilical cord cells functioned to repair spinal cord injury. We read about bone marrow derived neural cells in 2004. In this mongth’s Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, there’s more – free content – on the promise of HUCB stem cells in repair of neural disorders.
And last year, we also read about umbilical cord stem cells that crossed the blood-brain barrier to repair injury after strokes.
Phase 1 research trials are usually trials of therapies that have shown promise in animals, but have high risk compared to benefits for the human subjects. Remember the phase 1 trials of fetal and embryonic tissues in patients with Parkinson’s Disease that left half the patients worse off than controls and which caused ethics to be reinvented in order to allow surgeons to perform sham brain surgery? Or those gene therapies that ended up causing leukemia and death? (The children with immune deficiency and many other children and adults with leukemia are now being treated with umbilical cord stem cells – living years without anti-rejection drugs.)
Weissman, et. al., are using already doomed babies and babies with a deadly disease for the same reason – and to advance that reason – that they give to use frozen embryos: “they are/were going to die, anyway.”
It is never right to do evil to good. We all know this, and it is the very basic knowledge that drives the choice of this particular experiment: it’s a test case to prove that people in the US will give in, as they did on IVF, abortion, and “assisted suicide,” out of concern for visible victims.
It is good that we have sympathy and concern. It’s wrong when we fail to restrain the ghouls who call themselves scientists, doctors, and bioethicists. (Remember those sham brain surgeries?)