New Stem Cell Reprogramming Methods Not Pro-Life

Second Yamanaka study and UCLA study used aborted fetal and embryonic stem cells

February 20, 2008

By Debra L. Vinnedge
In November 2007, separate scientific studies by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and Dr James Thomson claimed to end the moral debate on embryonic stem cell research.  Both scientists introduced genes into adult stem cells through a lentivirus, which reprogrammed them to become “embryonic” or induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, without destroying human embryos.  However, an inherent problem of embryonic stem cells is their propensity to form cancerous tumors and the reprogrammed iPS cells proved to be no different.  Scientists believed they would eventually get around that problem.


On February 14th and 15th, two more studies were published on reprogramming adult stem cells: the first by UCLA’s Dr Kathrin Plath using neonatal foreskin cells; the second by Dr Yamanaka, using mouse liver and stomach cells, in which he claimed to overcome the problem of tumor formation.  Unfortunately pro-lifers have hailed their work as a moral victory prematurely, because like the November studies, both researchers used aborted fetal and embryonic stem cells in the reprogramming method.


As in his first study, Dr Yamanaka used PLAT-E cells in the lentivirus for reprogramming mouse liver and stomach cells.  PLAT-E cells are a derivative of HEK (human embryonic kidney) 293, obtained from an electively aborted baby.


In the UCLA study, Dr Kathrin Plath used Phoenix-A aborted fetal cell line in her lentivirus and then cultured the reprogrammed foreskin cells on embryonic stem cells.  However, non-objectionable animal, synthetic or ethically obtained human cells could have been used to produce the DNA needed for transformation quite efficiently.  Likewise, Plath’s use of embryonic stem cells as a culture medium was unwarranted, though most likely an attractive choice considering the extensive funding UCLA receives for embryonic stem cell research. Such cell lines are plentiful in her labs.


Further, while some allege the iPS cells would eliminate immune rejection problems in patients, foreign DNA from both the lentviruses, and from the DNA segments of embryonic/fetal cells attached to them, render such cells clinically useless and dangerous. Additionally, the studies by Yamanaka were performed in reproductively cloned chimeric mice and while none of the 65 subjects developed tumors, Yamanaka notes that some of the mice died for “unknown reasons”.  Thus it is ludicrous to believe these cells would somehow be suitable for human applications from both a medical and moral perspective.  Yet unless pro-life groups voice their disdain now while the research is still in infancy stages, one should not be surprised when clinical applications do emerge that utilize deliberately destroyed human beings.  Aborted fetal vaccines are proof enough of what happens when science moves forward unchallenged.


Still the question remains, why are we trying to transform a perfectly good adult cell into a carcinogenic embryonic stem cell fraught with ethical and medical problems in the first place, when adult stem cells have already proven clinical success in over 3500 patients?  For the answer, all one needs to do is follow the money, the patents and especially, the politics.



Dr Yamanaka, Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells From Adult Human Fibroblasts By Defined Factors


Dr James Thomson, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived From Human Somatic Cells


Dr Kathrin Plath, Generation of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells From Dermal Fibroblasts

Published online on February 15, 2008, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.0711983105


Dr Yamanaka, Generation of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Adult Mouse Liver and Stomach Cells