There Are Monsters We Can See

Jose Trasancos
Children of God for Life

And there are monsters we imagine. Those we conjure up often drive us to distraction, and that is neither good nor productive.

The Senomyx issue has become more and more visible in recent months, and it has overflowed the banks. I feel compelled to comment on what I believe to be potential sources of this growing concern and the extension of these concerns to areas that amount to a waste of emotional and practical energy.

Let's begin with a brief discussion of the utility of cell lines in research and testing. Primary cell cultures and cell lines allow for direct observation of chemical reactions at the cellular level. Human cells are extraordinary and remarkable little factories, each a part of a brilliantly orchestrated system that regulates our integrated function as a living being. They are truly marvelous examples of God's handiwork, each capable of metabolizing nutrients, providing its own energy, producing a wide variety and number of molecules and replicating itself, thus producing subsequent generations.

The production of many different kinds of molecules is the principal reason for the use of cell lines and primary cultures in research, development and testing. Cell lines and primary cultures are considered necessary in the development of vaccines because viruses are not capable of self-replication - they need a host cell in order to reproduce. Beyond vaccines, cell lines and primary cultures are used to observe and measure a cell's production of molecules (typically proteins) in response to a stimulus. That stimulus is the compound/drug being developed and tested. Antibodies are an example of the proteins looked for and measured.

Cell lines and primary cultures are also used to measure cytotoxicity - the level at which the substance under development becomes toxic to the cell and cell function begins to fall apart.

Why cover the basics? Well, much of the recent dialogue surrounding the use of cell lines strays a long way from the utility of cell lines in research and development processes. Some of this is undoubtedly due to unsubstantiated portrayals of Senomyx flavor enhancers by some organizations and the still-perpetuated myth that many OTC and legacy prescription drugs were developed and tested using aborted fetal cell lines. It is not my intent to sit in judgment of the motivations, but facts are facts, and facts are much more useful and lead to more productive discussions than allegations presented as truth.

The current state with respect to Senomyx has been described elsewhere on this site, along with the difficulties associated with finding reliable and authoritative information on the actual use of their flavor enhancers, so I will not unpack that here. I will affirm that we will not make unsupported allegations in any way, no more than we will accept excuses or assurances that are contradicted by the scientific literature (Novavax, for example), nor will we present speculation as truth. When we in the pro-life community allow ourselves to be whipped into a frenzy by claims that all PepsiCo products are abortion tainted, that aborted fetal cell lines are actually ingredients in foods and beverages and that fresh produce and meats are somehow 'tested' in aborted fetal cell lines, we make it easier for some to marginalize the pro-life movement in general. Why? Because those things are NOT TRUE. It goes without saying that an argument supported by falsehoods, even just a few, is easily compromised and unconvincing. A couple of examples follow.

Aquafina brand bottled water has been mentioned by many as one of the PepsiCo products that is tested in aborted fetal cell lines. There is no evidence that I've been able to find that gives this credibility. Why? Do 'they' hide it? The real reason is that no one does it because it doesn't make any sense. 'Testing' water in cell lines adds no value in quality control, where purity is the name of the game, and there is no observable biological function to be 'tested' in this case. Please refer to the fourth paragraph, above, that describes the general utility of cell lines. Exactly what would one be measuring by 'testing' water with fetal cell lines? As previously mentioned, the purity of the substance being tested would not be revealed by the use of aborted fetal cell lines. There are many ways to assess the purity of bottled water efficiently and with precision, and cell line assays do not appear on that list. Is PepsiCo examining how the product is metabolized? It's water. Two hydrogen atoms covalently bonded to one oxygen atom. How the body uses water is settled hash and there is not a single manufacturer of bottled water that feels compelled to re-answer that question with every single production run. In fact, there is nothing to 'test', so why would a for-profit corporation go to the trouble of tasking well-paid lab technicians and staff scientists with the dilution of an expensive biologic (that's the only thing adding water to a cell line biologic will do), measure nothing and then pour it all down the drain? Bottled water IS NOT tested in fetal cell lines. Period.

Now for meats and produce. The same general reasoning applies. What would one test in the little protein factories of human cells? More settled hash - the human body metabolizes food for its use. That is, in part, what sustains life. This is not something that requires testing and doing so is akin to jumping off of the roof every morning to 'test' the force of gravity, just to make sure it hasn't changed overnight.

The intent of this post is not to criticize, rather to reorient our collective thinking and behaviors. Whether we call it looking for monsters in the closet, monster that we imagine, or tilting at windmills, what's true is that the time and energy are not allocated productively. There are real monsters that we can see. The exploitation of aborted children in research has grown dramatically over the last several decades and it will take our best efforts to change that, even in the post-Roe v. Wade world. If we allow ourselves to be distracted, we diminish our effectiveness and actually aid those willing to perpetuate the ghastly exploitation of the killed unborn.

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