Why human stem cells can replace animal testing

Dianne N. Irving
Copyright May 8, 2006
Reproduced with Permission

It would seem that years of pressure from animal activists, like PETA, have succeeded in replacing animals used in research with cells and tissues derived from human embryos and fetuses (by killing them). Note that PETA was founded by Bioethics Founder Peter Singer, who defined "persons" as inclusive of some non-human animals and some adult human beings. That is, for PETA's Singer, a "person" is one who actively expresses "rational attributes" and "sentience". This allows PETA and Singer to include as "persons" many non-human animals, e.g., apes, gorillas, chickens, pigs, etc. It also allows Singer - and most bioethicists - to automatically remove from "personhood" (and thus, from legal rights and protections) all human embryos, fetuses - even young already born children.

But it also allows them to remove from "personhood" many adult human beings who cannot actively exercise "rational attributes" or "sentience", e.g., the mentally ill, the mentally retarded, drug addicts, alcoholics, the frail elderly, the comatose, paraplegics, those with severe nerve disorders, etc., -- even all of us when we are sleeping!

Note that the NIH office for the protection of animals in research is far larger than its office for the protection of human subjects in research - not to mention that living human embryos are not even defined, and therefore covered, by the U.S. government as "subjects of research" anyway (see the OPRR/OHRP federal regulations on the use of human subjects in research). According to those federal regulations, the early human embryo through 8 weeks just doesn't legally exist.

Indeed, living cells derived from human embryos and human fetuses (by killing them), as well as any living human child or adult who has been declared "brain dead", would work better than non-human cells in research. Such human "biological materials" would also work better for testing biological and chemical reagents, vaccines, etc. But at what cost, ultimately?


May 8, 2006

Stem cells may replace animal testing

COLOGNE, Germany, May 8 (UPI) -- German researchers say stem-cell testing can be used to replace hundreds of thousands of experiments on animals.

Cologne-based physician Heribert Bohlen said a test he developed using stem cells from mice can offer "at least the same amount of information about the possible toxic effects on unborn human life as experiments on mice, rabbits, rats and guinea pigs," Deutsche Welle reported.

In addition to saving animal lives, Bohlen said tests using the new stem-cell technology are more economical than conventional animal experiments.

The newspaper said SUV Rheinland Group and the company Axiogenesis developed the R.E.Tox method. The developers claim that the method can show whether or not a substance damages fetal human cells or hinders their development.

Animal welfare activists say they are happy when animals' lives can be saved, regardless of the number, but they emphasize that widespread testing on animals still continues, the newspaper said.

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