Updating embryo research guidelines

first_img Related Hard look at ‘who’s responsible?’ in HMS lecture Because of that, some suggested rooting out factors behind the guideline — such as the ability to feel pain or to think — and using those to create guidelines more appropriate to the scientific work being done today.“We’re making more and more faithful, more and more elaborate neural structures for any part of the brain, skipping over the body parts that may make it seem like an embryo,” said Harvard Medical School’s (HMS) Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics George Church. “But there’s essentially no limit to the technology, so we need to focus on ethics and humanity.”The 14-day rule is a widely accepted research guideline in the United States and is enshrined in law in a number of countries around the world. Its roots go back decades. Speakers said it was seen as appropriate because it is the point after which an embryo will not twin, and so can be considered an individual. It is also before the development of a nervous system that could allow the embryo to feel pain or think.Robert Truog (left) and Insoo Hyun participate in a panel discussion on the ethical ramifications of the 14-day rule and its future. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer“What are the first appearing features of the developing embryo that signify the emergence of an entity that we should protect from experimentation?” asked John Aach, lecturer on genetics at HMS.The event, “The Ethics of Early Embryo Research and the Future of the 14 Day Rule,” was sponsored by Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research. It included a review of the guideline’s history, of recent progress in human developmental biology, and a panel discussion about the rule’s possible future. The event was also supported by the International Society for Stem Cell Research and HMS’ Center for Bioethics.While Greely advised against changing the rule as it would relate to natural human embryos, he and Roger Pedersen, a professor at the University of Cambridge, were less concerned about newly developed embryo-like structures. Since they don’t have the capacity to develop on their own, Pederson said he’d create a “bright line” between them and natural human embryos with regard to the rule.“Unless there’s a really good reason to wave the red flag in front of that bull, don’t do it,” Greely said.SaveSave With advancing lab technology perhaps calling into question a longstanding guideline that prohibits experimentation on human embryos older than 14 days, scientists and ethicists gathered at Harvard Law School recently to discuss whether and how that stricture should be revised.Some speakers at the event, held at the School’s Austin Hall on Nov. 7, urged changes that get to heart of why 14 days was once considered appropriate rather than a simple prohibition. Lifting that limit would allow scientists to learn more about human development and improve guidance on the handling of newly developed cellular structures that mimic embryos.“My view is the 14-day rule should be looked at as a public-policy tool and not as a strict moral distinction between right and wrong,” said Insoo Hyun, associate professor of bioethics and philosophy at Case Western Reserve University. “Is it time to get rid of such lines in the sand and rely solely on clear ethical principles?”Gist Croft presents his research at the conference in Austin Hall. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerOther speakers, however, said it’s important to understand the political ramifications of any change, ramifications that — once the guideline was opened for discussion — could see it revised in a way that many scientists wouldn’t favor.“I’m terrified to ask lawmakers to pass laws, I’m terrified of what we’d get,” said Stanford University Law School Professor Henry Greely. “Probably worse than what we have now.”A driving force behind the debate has been research advances that have led to the creation of self-organizing embryo-like structures (SOELS) and synthetic human embryo-like entities (SHELEs), which resemble natural human embryos in some ways.As work continues on these embryo-like structures, some scientists question whether they should be concerned about violating the 14-day rule. Further, they said, stem cell science has enabled them essentially to fast-forward through human development to create organ-like human tissues, making calendar-based guidelines less relevant. Large-scale ethicslast_img read more

Zidane takes walk of shame

first_imgIt feels good to be back in Madison after two-and-a-half months. Denver’s okay, but there’s not much going on in the summer.– I guess I’ll admit it right off the bat. I left town in May a Rockies fan in denial. I returned to Madison in August a proud supporter of the purple pinstripes. – Okay, they’ve slipped a bit since the break, and they appear to be headed for the golf course once again in early October.– But two things need to be said: It was a hell of a ride following the team this year, up until around Aug. 18, and I’ll go out on a limb and call the five Colorado starters the best staff in the National League.– Not that that’s saying much, but it’s something for Denver baseball fans to get excited about for 2007.– Most entertaining quote of the summer: “Can’t wait. Can’t wait! Next Monday! Get to coach football again! Yes!” — Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner at Big Ten Media Day, Aug. 1.– Yes, Terry, we’re all excited too. Just maybe not that excited.– What in the world was Zinedine Zidane thinking?– Going into the FIFA 2006 World Cup Final, with Italy and France competing, I had heard of just one player on either team. And in the 109th minute, Zidane exhibited perhaps the most distasteful act I have ever seen in sports.– Keep in mind, this is coming from a lifelong Avalanche fan who still wants to see Todd Bertuzzi run over by a cement truck.– I don’t care what Italy’s Marco Materazzi said to Zidane in the heat of the moment. Headbutting an opponent right in the middle of the chest is beyond inexcusable.– And in the final game of his allegedly illustrious career, no less.– Everybody kept saying “Oh, he let his team down, he let his country down.” I say he let his entire sport down.– Seeing as soccer struggles with American popularity, and the World Cup — this year’s Cup, in particular — could have served as a fantastic opportunity to win over some fans, Zidane should be blamed for showing the United States — and the world — exactly what is wrong with this game.– Shame on Zidane. As it happens, I’m glad Italy won, just to kick — or headbutt — Zidane when he’s down.– Weirdest quote of the summer: “It was helpless to sit there and watch. We scored only one run. We have to be better than this to stay in the race.” — Joe Torre, after his New York Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians 19-1, July 4.– I am starting to respect the Yankees at this point; following a five-game sweep of the rival Red Sox, the Yanks sit atop the AL East by a healthy six-and-a-half game margin. All things considered — namely injuries, old age and the merciless treatment of Alex Rodriguez — that’s pretty impressive, even to a Boston guy (since 2001) like myself.– But I still think it’s funny that Torre was concerned about his offense when his pitching staff gave up 19 runs in a game. Seems like some priorities were bent out of shape.– I will never — repeat, never — understand paintball.– On July 12, a high school football player died in the heat of a paintball battle in Oklahoma. Garrett Bennett, just 17 years old, was entering his senior year.– Here’s the kicker: a simple paintball war on foot wasn’t enough for these guys. The tragedy occurred as two cars were pelting each other at 75 mph on an Oklahoma highway, and one car swerved off the road, killing Bennett instantly.– Call me what you wish, because I know I sound like a cranky old man, but paintball seems like the absolute dumbest thing one can do with one’s time.– It is, put simply, a tragedy that a good kid was taken at such a young age because maturity was in short supply.– The Tour de France … No. I will not bring myself to comment on a bike race. Ever.– Most hilarious quote of the summer: “I think I farted twice on the couch during this series — and I was called for two fouls against Dwyane Wade.” — From a reader e-mail on the NBA blog of ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons, June 22.– That’s certainly one way to put it, isn’t it?– Well, put it this way: I’m not going to say that NBA commissioner David Stern was absolutely playing favorites during the Finals in June, when the Miami Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in six games for the title amid questionable officiating.– However, the fact that D-Wade shot 25 free throws in Game 5 — exact change for the number of trips to the charity stripe by all of the Mavericks combined during that game — is appalling.– I’m mad at the NBA, and only time will tell if I’ll follow the league for the 2006-07 season.– Whoops. Just for saying that, Wade’s going to the line for two shots.Aaron is a sophomore who is living in Liz Waters this year. Yes, for the 283rd time, guys do live there now. You can contact him at [email protected]last_img read more