From CNSNews.com comes this story about GE Healthcare, a subsidary of General Electric, and its efforts to use embryonic stem cell research to test drug toxicity and spare poor lab rats:
On June 30, GE Healthcare and Geron Corporation announced a multi-year alliance where Geron will provide GE scientists with an undisclosed amount of human embryonic stem cells.
The human cells will be used “to develop and commercialize cellular assay products derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) for use in drug discovery, development and toxicity screening,” according to a news release.
GE Healthcare, which is based in Britain, hopes that human embryonic testing will spare lab rats from having potentially toxic drugs in or on the animals.
“This could replace, to a large extent, animal trials,” Konstantin Fiedler, general manager of cell technologies at GE Healthcare, told Reuters.
“Once you have human cells and you can get them in a standardized way, like you get right now, your lab rats in a standardized way, you can actually do those experiments on those cells,” he added.
But this is all nonsense, says Dr. David Prentice, senior fellow for life science at the Family Research Council:
[Prentice said] that embryos must be killed before stem cells can be derived from them for research purposes.
“Human embryonic stem cell research is ethically irresponsible and scientifically unworthy, as well as useless for patients,” Prentice said.
Prentice explained that General Electric’s optimism in saving lab animals from testing by using hESCs is also largely unfounded.
“There is always going to be a problem on trying to rely just on cultured cells to do drug testing,” Prentice explained.
The problem, he said, is that many drugs are metabolized in the liver and other parts of the body and those metabolized substances then become the active ingredients of the drugs.
“Treating just cells in culture will give you some idea of toxicity or perhaps effectiveness on a certain cell type, but will not actually work for the whole organ, or the entire system, or the organism,” Prentice said. “So this is not going to replace all animal testing.
Prentice also pointed out that most of the research involving embryonic stem cells thus far has produced no valid therapies, while successful therapies for several diseases and conditions are already in place using adult stem cells, he said.
But, of course, the problem with adult stem cells, which have no ethical baggage associated with them, is that the president who said we must not put ideology over science has pulled government funding for that research.