Interim Staff Researchers have again risked the use of fetal tissue in human trials for treating a degenerative eye disease. Elisabeth Bryant, who suffered from retinitis pigmentosa and was completely blind, has had her sight partially restored by a transplant of eye tissue derived from an aborted baby. In total, six patients with the disease have been treated by fetal transplants.
“We have shown the way,” said Robert Aramant, who led the experiment at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. “It is possible to reverse these incurable diseases.” One concern of the researchers is that there will not be enough aborted fetal tissue available to begin wider application of the treatment.
Significantly, the Kentucky experiment followed closely on the heels of an advance in treating exactly the same disease with adult stem cells. Aramant dismissed this ethical stem-cell work, claiming that no one is anywhere near recreating the complex structure of the retina-using stem cells.
The same week this news broke, there was news of adult human stem cells restoring the sight of mice and chicks. The use of adult stem cells in curing diseases has been extremely successful and badly under-reported.
The darker side of the use of aborted fetal tissue in human experiments has also not made much headway in the mainstream press. Scientists who lead the field have conceded that fetal tissue is too unpredictable to safely use directly in human trials. The cells are difficult to control and tend to form cancerous tumors. Immune system rejection is a major problem and those who accept tissue transplants from aborted children must remain on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.
“Even if it worked, we still couldn’t do it,” said one doctor. Dr. John Shea, a medical adviser to Campaign Life Coalition, said that medical research has an obligation to think about more than utility. “If we had said of the Nazi medical experiments with prisoners, ‘Yes, but they worked,’ I don’t think anyone would go for it.” Pro-life activists have warned for years that demand for baby body parts is a major factor in fuelling the abortion industry.