Cloning without the Controversy
April 29, 2003 7:47 AM   Subscribe

'Virgin birth' method promises ethical stem cells. The technique, parthenogenesis, manipulates unfertilized eggs to produce short-lived embryos from which stem cells can be obtained. As the article states: "it produces embryos that could never become human beings. So destroying these embryos to obtain stem cells would avoid the ethical concerns that have led to restrictions or bans on embryonic stem cell research in many countries."
posted by jsonic (19 comments total)
Wow, someone dug up the DNA of Jesus and cloned it? Now Jesus can really heal us all. All of the problems of the world will be solved with countless miracle workers at our disposal!
posted by PigAlien at 7:56 AM on April 29, 2003

Or did they dig up the Virgin Mary instead? Pretty useless unless she can manage a repeat performance.
posted by PigAlien at 7:57 AM on April 29, 2003

< devil's advocate>
Parthenogenesis has produced viable births in other animals . . . are we sure these little lumps couldn't grow up to over-populate the earth instead of being cut up into stems?
< / devil's advocate>
posted by mikrophon at 8:00 AM on April 29, 2003

In parthenogenesis, an unfertilised egg keeps two sets of chromosomes and begins developing as if it had been fertilised. Some insects and reptiles can reproduce this way but even though an electric or chemical stimulus can induce parthenogenesis in mammals, the resulting embryos die after a few days.

I'm all for this, but I bet the part I emphasized will be a deal breaker for many stem cell opponents. May not be viable, but it was "alive" at some point.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:03 AM on April 29, 2003

May not be viable, but it was "alive" at some point.

Alive like an unfertilized egg.

Hey, pro-lifers -- life begins at conception, right?

I'm sure you're right, pinkstainlesstail, but anyone who objects to this is a simple luddite.
posted by Turd Ferguson at 8:13 AM on April 29, 2003

Big black Nemesis
Everybody happy as the dead come home

posted by MrBaliHai at 8:21 AM on April 29, 2003

Absolutely, but then, the objections to date have been based on similar arguments. There's not a whole lot of rationality in the issue.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:25 AM on April 29, 2003

Science is evil.
Only religious faith is good.
Obey your proxies for God/Allah/Buddha.
Do not question.
posted by nofundy at 8:39 AM on April 29, 2003

Wow, maybe all the money I've lost on stem cell stocks will come back to me now. Good luck!
posted by crazy finger at 8:59 AM on April 29, 2003

But the big story today is that cells from bone marrow may soon replace stem cell technology entirely.
posted by cbrody at 9:34 AM on April 29, 2003

I can't get to from here (thank you, overly-broad black-hole routes), so my question to those of you who read the article is-- if the resulting embryo is not viable, how are the extracted stem cells kept viable?
posted by Cerebus at 9:36 AM on April 29, 2003

Cerebus: It's no loss--New Scientist is a rag that is willing to swallow any press release from a dying biotech company and report it as real news. ACT in Mass. has been trying to impress people with its parthenogenesis-derived cells for at least a year, but no peer-reviewed journal will publish their very shaky work. These cell lines are not stable enough to be useful and no techniques for making them useful have been remotely successful enough to warrant even cocktail party conversation.

Getting your science from New Scientist is like getting your current events from People Magazine.
posted by shinnin at 9:45 AM on April 29, 2003

since the truly faithful know that christ is coming next christmas, maybe they'll let these guys experiment for a little while.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 11:02 AM on April 29, 2003

Yeah, there's no chance that using the words "virgin birth" to describe this is going to piss off the religious folks that are opposed to stem-cell research in the first place. Maybe these scientists should hire a freaking PR firm to get their ideas across better.
posted by Bluecoat93 at 11:22 AM on April 29, 2003

shinnin: Where's the best place to get biotech news, then?
posted by gd779 at 11:29 AM on April 29, 2003

Bluecoat93: Yeah, there's no chance that using the words "virgin birth" to describe this is going to piss off the religious folks that are opposed to stem-cell research in the first place.

Haha, I was thinking the same thing. "Virgin Birth" won't fly with the opposition. Something like "Embryos that could never be human ever" would be better, but, you know, more succinct.
posted by fishbulb at 12:33 PM on April 29, 2003

gd: Credible scientific findings are always published in peer-reviewed journals. Science, Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Assoc, British Medical Journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They all have high editorial standards, newsie sections that review research being published elsewhere, and websites that give out a fair amount without subscription.

There are also hundreds of journalists who's job is to wait for the latest issue of those journals and write stories about anything interesting, so you can get by just watching google news for those tell-tale words "reported in this weeks edition of [reputable journal]. " If a story doesn't make such a reference, it's PR. You'll almost never see such a reference in New Scientist or Scientific American.
posted by shinnin at 2:41 PM on April 29, 2003

(MrBaliHai has set my internal dj onto repeat for the rest of the day.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:58 PM on April 29, 2003

Stavros, ME TOO!!!! The odd thing is that just yesterday I realphabetized my vinyl and thought for a while whether to keep that Shriekback album. Now of course I have to.
posted by divrsional at 6:50 PM on April 29, 2003

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