Embryonic Souls on Ice or Stem Cells without Tears?

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Advanced Cell Technology is reporting that its researchers have successfully derived stem cells from donated embryos without destroying them. Basically, ACT takes a single cell from an eight-cell embryo and then grow it into a stem cell colony. Evidently this technique aims to meet the Bush Administration's requirement that federal funding go only to research using stem cell lines derived from embryos which were destroyed before August 10, 2001.

According to the Washington Post, the creative, but frustrated, ACT researchers have likely not crossed the Bush Administration hurdle. Why? As Story Landis, head of National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Task Force explains, the only way to prove that the embryos have not been harmed is by implanting them in the wombs of some women to see if they develop into babies. Of course, these are embryos left over from fertility treatments so there's not much chance of that. On the other hand, lots of eight-cell embryos that have been checked for genetic flaws using the same technique are now babies.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v410/n6829/images/410620aa.0.jpg

In any case, one has to wonder if keeping the embryos on ice forever counts as "not destroying" them? Do theologians puzzle over where their embryonic souls hang out while waiting in a vat of liquid nitrogen to see if they ever get implanted?And besides, why should we be overly fastidious about the survival of 5 day-old embryos since nature and its putative Creator do not seem to be?

The really good news is that the Japanese research team that figured out how to turn skin cells into cells that seem to act like stem cells believes that therapies using them might come online in the next ten years.

Whole Washington Post article on the new research here.