California company to use stem cells from aborted babies to treat paralysis

Christine Dhanagom

Thursday, Mar 24 16:42 EST

PALO ALTO, California, March 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The California based company StemCells, Inc announced last week a new experimental clinical trial that will use stem cells from aborted fetuses to treat paralysis.

While current treatments rely on immediate post-injury intervention for their effectiveness, the company has announced that its new trial will attempt to treat victims whose injuries occurred between three and twelve months ago by implanting human neural stem cells into the spinal cord.

Dr. Armin Curt, Medical Director of the Paraplegic Center at Balgrist University Hospital in Switzerland where the trial will take place, called the experimental therapy “landmark.”

The research will use fetal neural stem cells which are differentiated as central nervous system cells, rather than undifferentiated embryonic stem cells.

In addition to the experiment announced last week, the company is using fetal neural stem cells in two other experimental trials to treat fatal neurodegenerative disorders.

The use of aborted fetal cells was criticized by Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of Children of God for Life. She told LifeSiteNews that in her view it is disingenuous for researchers using aborted fetal cells to claim that there is not a close connection between their research and the abortion.

“You can’t have an abortion and then after the fact decide that you want to donate the baby for research, because in the first five minutes after the death of the baby the cells begin to deteriorate. In an hour, they’re completely useless,” Vinnedge explained. “You have to pre-arrange the abortion. The mother has to give her informed consent.”

Vinnedge also pointed out that according to research done by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, abortionists commonly change the method of abortion if the mother has consented to donating the baby for scientific research, opting for a prostaglandin abortion that causes the mother to go into labor and deliver the baby intact.

In about half of these abortions, Vinnedge said, the baby is born alive. “They would just open up the baby with no anesthesia and take out the organs. It’s disgusting,” she said.

Dr. Theresa Deisher, CEO and Founder of AVM Biotechnology which is dedicated to the development of pro-life medical technology, also took issue with the plan. She said that the research is also ethically problematic in its disregard for the best interest of the patient.

“The attractiveness of using embryonic or fetal stem cells to a company is the ease of scalability. These cells will grow readily and rapidly in their manufacturing facilities. You can expand them to treat a lot of patients,” she told LifeSiteNews.

“That rapid growth is attractive economically to companies. Unfortunately, that exact property is what makes these cells not optimal for treating patients, because that rapid growth doesn’t cease. It doesn’t become dampened or controlled when we put them in patients. So, the economics of these companies are in direct conflict with the best well-being for the patients.”

A March 2001 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine had found that an experimental treatment which involved the transplanting of aborted fetal tissue to treat Parkinson’s disease resulted in “disastrous side effects” for patients.

Other attempts to use fetal material, such as treating a young Israeli boy with spinal degeneration, have resulted in similar outcomes, Dr. Deisher explained.

“Five years after the treatment what they found was a tumor growing in his spine from those fetal cell extracts that he was treated with,” she said. “And not only that, but the treatment didn’t do anything to help his disease, so they only result was a negative result without any sort of benefit.”

The Vatican has also condemned the use of aborted fetuses in scientific research, even when the baby was not killed specifically for the sake of research.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s 2008 instruction Dignitatis Personae says that “there is a duty to refuse to use such ‘biological material’ even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the artificial fertilization or the abortion, or when there was no prior agreement with the centers in which the artificial fertilization took place. This duty springs from the necessity to remove oneself, within the area of one’s own research, from a gravely unjust legal situation and to affirm with clarity the value of human life.”