…many medical researchers… think the experiments (with fetal cell transplants) could lead to therapies for many diseases. They have been joined by an unusual coalition that includes victims of such diseases as Parkinson’s and even by quite a few converts from the pro-life camp. Their tactic is to separate the issue of fetal tissue research from the debate over abortion. As they see it, fetal cells are equivalent to vital organs that are available to save lives but are now being thrown away.
Fetal cells are unlike any other tissues
“There’s something magic about them,” says California neurosurgeon Robert Iacono. In experiments with rats, mice, and monkeys, scientists have discovered that fetal cells are effective in treating a wide range of stubborn conditions. Transplanted cells have cured diabetes and restored some sight in animals. The cells have repaired some spinal cord injuries, allowing injured rats to run at normal speed. Implants in the brain have improved memory and learning. The work has led scientists to treat epilepsy, combat leukemia and stop such degenerative diseases as Huntington’s chorea and Alzheimer’s.
Fetal cell transplants
More than 600 people have received fetal cell transplants. The cells have effectively treated DiGeorge syndrome, an extremely rare and fatal genetic disease, and appear to have helped people with Parkinson’s. But in victims of the Chernobyl catastrophe, fetal cells failed to regenerate bone marrow function lost to radiation exposure. People with diabetes have been the largest group of transplant recipients, but while there was a limited improvement, no patient ever came off insulin. Says Hans Sollinger, a diabetes researcher at U of Wisconsin: “In animals, we were extremely successful, but in humans, there’s been no success (with diabetes) up to this point.
Scientists do know that the best cells for transplants come from elective abortions. Cells from spontaneous abortions and ectopic pregnancies (where the fetus never makes it to the uterus) are often abnormal. Yet the reliance on elective abortions could lead to questionable decisions: women becoming pregnant to provide the aborted cells for a relative or simply selling the aborted fetus as if it were a pint of blood. In fact, Elliott Osserman’s (renowned cancer researcher) two daughters volunteered to get pregnant to furnish fetal cells for their father.