February 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 23
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

New Guidelines would Permit Destruction of Living Embryos

    WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB 1 (ZENIT).- The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has decided to extend the deadline for public comment on a revised set of guidelines for stem cell research. The "novelty" of the new guidelines is that not only will researchers be able to harvest cells from dead embryos (normally from abortions), but also will be able to kill "unwanted" embryos from fertility clinics in order to extract the stem cells and still receive Federal funding for their research.

    Embryonic stem cells are the undifferentiated cells in the human blastocyst, from which any type of human cell may later develop. Supporters of the process claim that the blastocyst is not really an embryo, but a "pre-embryo." However, this is just a word game, according to Dr. Dianne Irving, a former career-appointed NIH bench research biochemist/biologist. "The immediate product of fertilization is a human being with 46 chromosomes, a human embryo, an individual member of the human species, and ... this is the beginning of the embryonic period."

    Currently, a Congressional ban prevents Federally funded human embryo research. Research on entire live fetuses is still altogether illegal. The new guidelines would open a loophole, claiming that human embryo stem cell research does not fall under the ban. Essentially, the "surplus" embryos would be killed in private fertility clinics so that the research can be done in Federally funded centers without ever technically breaking the ban on live fetus research. The actual guidelines are available for reading at .

    Dr. Irving, who represented the U.S. Catholic Medical Association in the October "Guadalupe Appeal" conference on bioethics in Mexico City, indicated that it is unusual that the NIH would extend the period for public comment, and that this probably indicates a large groundswell of opposition to the measure. Nonetheless, this extra time period could allow supporters of the technique to skew the comments in favor of the proposed guidelines. The NIH invites written comments from all, either by mail (Stem Cell Guidelines, NIH Office of Science Policy, 1 Center Drive, Building 1, Room 218, Bethesda, MD 20892), fax (++1 (301) 402-0280), or email

    Even a short comment can make a difference in the adoption or rejection of these guidelines.

    Dr. Irving also indicated that the use of embryonic cells is unnecessary for stem cell research. She cited, for example, a study in which a team of Italian and Canadian scientists, led by Angelo L. Vescovi in Milan, was able to metamorphose adult neural stem cells into the blood-making stem cells of the bone marrow. ZE00020120


February 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 23

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