Fetal tissue research firm closes amid failure to find embryonic stem cell cures

fetal tissue stem cells bioethics

The media drumbeat of hysterical pro-abortion claims that pro-lifers are ruining women’s lives is as loud as ever, but amid the commotion it’s easy to forget that one talking point has definitely died down over the past couple years: pro-lifers supposedly putting embryos ahead of sick people by opposing their use in stem-cell research.

This is not a new observation, but there is fresh news driving the point home and warranting a refresher on the subject – which also has implications for the ongoing controversy over Planned Parenthood’s sale of organs and tissue from aborted babies. National Review’s Wesley Smith writes that StemCells Inc., a company that set out to use neural stem cells from aborted babies to treat paralysis, is shutting down.

Per Reuters, StemCells Inc. “said it would wind down operations after the company terminated a mid-stage trial testing its therapy in spinal cord injury,” with one analyst attributing the move to “a combination of the tough market environment and long clinical path ahead drove a financial/clinical failure.”

Smith observes:

Whenever a stem cell company–particularly one dealing with controversial tissues such as embyronic and fetal–announces CURES! CURES! CURES the media goes into full hype mode–unless it is an adult stem cell company in which bona fide successes are often ignored.

Then, when the controversial trial crashes and burns, the story is reported mildly as a business story of falling stock […] Notice the story omits the part about using fetal cells, instead reporting gobbledygook, “developed from tissues.”

Indeed. More comprehensive coverage would have included, for instance, Dr. David Prentice’s testimony before the Colorado Republican Study Committee last November, detailing fetal tissue research as an “antiquated, dying science” that has long passed “its golden age in the 50s and 60s,” and that (similarly to embryonic stem cells), fetal tissue treatment has often backfired in the growth of pretty nasty tumors, and is increasingly being replaced with treatments using adult stem cells.

That hasn’t stopped pro-aborts from scare-mongering that sick people will die if we stop letting Planned Parenthood break multiple laws to hack up children and sell their parts… but similar results largely have gotten them to downplay their similar claims about stem cells.


Once upon a time, George W. Bush’s ban on embryonic stem-cell funding was a major controversy that Barack Obama made headlines by reversing, celebrities attacked pro-life politicians over the issue, and pro-abortion candidates campaigned on it… but these days, the last time stem cells were a major story was when pro-lifers raised awareness that the ALS Association was still involved in the research.

Why the change? Not only did the evidence dry up, but with embryonic stem cells becoming less useful and adult stem cells becoming more useful, the incentives to support it dried up as well.

In April, we covered a new report that adult stem cells showed great promise in cutting heart failure deaths in half, and potentially mitigating shortages of donor organs. That was just the latest in a long line of positive results of sticking to ethically-obtained stem cells.

More importantly, back in 2009, the late National Institute of Health director Dr. Bernadine Healy declared embryonic stem cells “obsolete,” noting that “scientists have learned to coax” adult stem cells “to mature into many cell types, like brain and heart cells, in the laboratory,” that “most of the stem cell triumphs that the public hears about involve the infusion of adult stem cells,” and that DNA from adult skin can be reprogrammed into functional equivalents of embryonic stem cells (“eclips[ing] the value of” ESCs thanks to “significantly lower cost, ease of production, and genetic identity with the patient”).

Embryonic stem cell pioneer James Thomson has also admitted that adult stem cells in which pluripotency (the ability to become other cell types) has been induced “do all the things embryonic stem cells do,” and private investment in stem cell research is moving away from dead-end, embryo-destructive methods. People tend to be more discerning about what works when it’s their own money on the line.

Right now, the abortion lobby has too much invested to give up on fetal research in the same way—it needs people to think the research is valuable in order to make their activities seem more humane and therefore preserve their taxpayer funding—but the fact that the same people were proven wrong about unethical experimentation using even younger humans shows pro-lifers the way to winning this one: showing the public that these babies are being sacrificed for nothing will get them to start questioning the legitimacy of sacrificing them at all.

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