|ACT's Michael Lanza|
This week, Advanced Cell Technology, a biotechnology company with a reputation for exaggeration, announced improvements in their technique for isolating stem cell lines from embryos in a nondestructive manner. Setting aside the reliability of their claims, the logic behind the rejection by the National Institutes of Health for the funding of ACT's method is both revealing and perplexing.
ACT's technique, first announced in August 2006, involves removing a single cell from an embryo at a very early stage. A stem cell line can be derived from the cell, and the embryo appears to remain viable, much like preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). The NIH, though, is not convinced that the embryo is not harmed, which is the standard to receive federal funding. And the only way to find out would be to implant these embryos, which according to the head of the NIH's task force, would be unethical.
But the implantation of embryos which have had a single cell removed for genetic testing is a not uncommon technique, in PGD. The statements by the NIH's Story Landis imply that PGD itself is unethical due to its uncertain health effects. If implantation of an embryo that has undergone single-cell biopsy is unethical, why has is been occurring for almost eighteen years?
Update: Brandon Keim at the Wired Science blog spoke with Landis, and provides some clarification.
Previously on Biopolitical Times: