I have argued in this blog for a while now that when it comes to the debate surrounding embryonic stem cell research and adult stem cell research, the adult cells have the embryonic cells beat on every count. Then comes this headline published several places, but here in the LA Times, “Adult Stem Cell Studies Ahead of Embryonic Research.” The article goes on to mention (and link to) a few of the many clinical successes already known as a result of ASC treatments. As for ESC research it continues to show “promise” and is being worked on in certain spinal cord applications. The long and the short of it (for now), is that ASC research is a success and ESC research is still a promise.
The next consideration is that ESC research destroys embryos – they cannot survive the process of having the stem cells removed. So, depending on your view of the personhood of the embryo, ESC research is tantamount to a form of abortion. Hence, it seems that ASC research has both the scientific and ethical edge.
Another consideration is that ESCs have a potentially wider range of application than ASCs. They might be able to do more for more people, so the research (necessarily including the creation and destruction of embryos) is justified based on the potential good it can do. If we find a way for one embryo to be used in the treatment of, say, 100 patients with 100 different conditions, is it worth the destruction of possibly tens of thousands of embryos in the process?
I don’t agree with that kind of fairly crass utilitarian thinking, and am inclined to be on the side of ASC research that harms none, actually accomplishes real-world treatments, and continues to develop as a multipotent form of medical treatment.