More MS news articles for Jan 2002

Researchers Back Away from Human Embryo Destruction

January 18, 2002
By Susan Jones Morning Editor

A Virginia research laboratory involved in stem cell research has decided to stop creating human embryos for the specific purpose of killing them.

Over the summer, the Jones Institute for Reproduce Medicine in Norfolk (a division of the Eastern Virginia Medical School) created an uproar in pro-life circles by announcing it would recruit and pay human egg donors for the sole purpose of creating embryos that would then be destroyed in the process of harvesting their stem cells.

The embryo production was paid for with private money, but even so, protests followed the announcement.

As reported last July, pro-life groups, including the National Pro-Life Religious Council, condemned the practice of creating and manipulating human embryos in "the strongest possible terms."

The Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the NPRC, called the practice "absolutely Hitleresque."

'Contentious' policy

On Thursday, the Jones Institute did an about-face, saying it would find other ways to produce stem cells.

"We are not ceasing our intent to study stem cells," said William Gibbons, chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Eastern Virginia Medical School. "But we're not going to continue to pursue the approach of using stem cell donors recruited to produce eggs."

The Washington Post quoted Gibbons as saying that political pressure played a part in the decision to stop harvesting stem cells from human embryos. "The uproar was part of it," he's quoted as saying. The uproar included protests as well as angry letters and emails.

Gibbons admitted that the policy was "contentious."

It was so contentious, in fact, that one Virginia lawmaker introduced a bill outlawing the creation of embryos for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells. Other research clinics, rather than creating their own human embryos, use fertility clinic "leftovers."

Gibbons said the Jones Institute will continue its research using stem cells derived from umbilical cords and from adults instead of from human embryos.

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