T Nation

Dead Fetal Tissue Reanimated

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1879891,00.html

So here’s the summary:
British Researchers have successfully obtained stem cells from dead embryos and reanimated them.

Why this is such a big deal: It’s kinda like salvaging organs from an organ donor who has died in a car wreck. Now we have techniques to salvage dead fetal tissue, reanimate it, and do research or use the tissue for treatments for many diseases and medical conditions.

Relevant quote from the article:
Last night right-to-life campaigners called for caution. ‘In theory if an embryo is obtained ethically and a stem cell can be derived after that embryo has died naturally, then that will remove all ethical objections as there is no destruction of a living organism,’ said Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, a Catholic campaign group. ‘We do not have objections to the use of donated tissue and organs in other areas of medicine.’

So now y’all can stop calling us baby killers. Comments? thoughts?

You zombie baby killer!!!

[quote]- Embryonic stem cells have the ability to develop into any type of cell in the human body, from brain cells to skin and kidney cells.

  • By creating cloned embryos of patients, it might one day be possible to grow their stem cells in the laboratory, say scientists. These could use then be used as transplants.

  • Diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s - in which particular organs or pieces of tissue have been destroyed - are thought to be the best candidates for treatments

[/quote]

That whole cloning issue for organ harvesting is exactly what the movie “The Island” was about. Though science fiction, they proposed that it will later be found that organs are not viable in a living host unless they had actually lived some kind of “life” first.

That was why clones were kept alive just in case the original ever got into a fatal car accident or developed cancer. That is the potential “sci fi” consequence of saying it is ok to clone yourself for organs in the future…among others.

Beyond that, they do raise a good question. If embryos have stopped dividing on their own, doesn’t that mean “something” is wrong with those cells?

They also didn’t make it clear that the cells were still LIVING even though they may have stopped dividing. It isn’t like they created life…which would truly be the ultimate scientific discovery. Cells continue being active for a short time even after a patient dies. that means the other ethical dilemma is that, just like a patient whose heart has stopped beating can sometimes be “brought back”, who is to say what is truly “dead” and what isn’t as long as there is some energy within cells?

[quote]Professor X wrote:

Beyond that, they do raise a good question. If embryos have stopped dividing on their own, doesn’t that mean “something” is wrong with those cells?[/quote]

WRT embryo formation, yes. This is fundamentally what ESC research has been from the beginning, stop the cells from making an embryo and instead make cell/tissue/organ X. I agree with your assessment of this not being anything great discovery, as ESCs can be obtained without destroying the embryo. Further, the number of other sources of stem cells of varying levels of potency makes this a niche discovery, IMO.

As for ‘The Island’, I don’t believe there needs to be a life lived for an organ to be harvested. If pig valves work in human hearts, I can’t imagine the life the harvestee lives being relevant. I do wonder however, what kind of breakthrough this really is, one of the main ‘advantages’ (aside from volume) to ESCs was that they would be immunogenically equivalent or superior to auto/isografts in replacing organs. If the organ comes from a dead embryo that was a sibling, you might as well just get it from any source.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
They also didn’t make it clear that the cells were still LIVING even though they may have stopped dividing. [/quote]
Remember we are talking about microscopic life here. A fetus that young that stops dividing for 24 hours is NOT viable. In other words, without extraordinary outside intervention like our British friends here, those cells become dust.

Yes, it’s not like they just spontaneously created stem cells. They rejuvenated them and started them differentiating again. I would think that’s pretty bad-ass scientific stuff myself. As to your last question, I agree. This breakthrough just reinforces that death is more of a grey area than some of us might like to admit.

[quote]lothario1132 wrote:
This breakthrough just reinforces that death is more of a grey area than some of us might like to admit.
[/quote]
I think death is black and white. It is our knowledge of when it occurs that is grey.

I get to coin the phrase “Frankenfetus”… wooo!

[quote]NealRaymond2 wrote:
I think death is black and white. It is our knowledge of when it occurs that is grey.
[/quote]

Yeah, maybe that’s a good point. The funny thing here is that there are degrees of being “dead”, according to our medical technology. Having a building dropped on you will kill you pretty good, while quietly flatlining in an intensive care unit after surgery will probably give the nurses and doctors a good chance to bring you back. In both instances, the folks we are talking about are dead. However, the poor bastard with the building dropped on him is a lot deader.

vroom: Frankenfetus is a pretty good descriptive term for what these british scientists are doing with the stem cells. Taking parts of “dead babies” and gluing them together to make new tissue and rejuvenating the cells… that’s pretty good.

[quote]vroom wrote:
I get to coin the phrase “Frankenfetus”… wooo![/quote]

???

Nice, Prof. That’s what a fully mature Frankenfetus looks like.

[quote]lothario1132 wrote:
Nice, Prof. That’s what a fully mature Frankenfetus looks like.[/quote]

Looks pretty damned scary to me!