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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So Jackson Labs Does Experiment on Human Embryos? [UPDATE:.... on Human Embryonic Stem Cells?]

AveWatch has done more investigation. Based on Jackson Labs's own literature, Jackson Labs provides a service to human embryo researchers around the world: examination of cellular pluripotency by in vivo teratoma formation.

I'm not a scientist, so if I'm not understanding right, please correct me on the science. In addition to creating mouse cell lines for human embryo research, another service that Jackson Labs provides is that it will take human embryonic stem cells, implant them into mice, and then monitor them for the formation of teratomas (which are noncancerous tumors). From Jackson Labs's fact sheet: "The ability to form teratoma in vivo is a defining feature in evaluating the quality of hES cells." Having Jackson Labs monitor teratoma growth, thereby evaluating the quality of human embryonic stem cells, is a useful service to embryonic research facilities that need good quality embryonic stem cells for their research.

So, I think this means that although Jackson Labs technically does not do research on human embryonic stem cells, it does experiment on human embryonic stem cells.

To analogize to my cyanide gas company: Not only does the company manufacture and market cyanide gas for killing human beings, it actually tests the gas and monitors its effects on human beings at its facility.

Does Monaghan have assurances that this type of experimentation with human embryos won't be happening at the Ave Maria facility?

UPDATE: Commenter "anonymous" says I'm being imprecise in my post. "anonymous" argues that Jackson Labs is not engaged in the destruction of human embryos. Instead, Jackson Labs apparently uses "illicitly derived cells" and "conducts tests on cells from a human embryonic stem cell line."

I was imprecise; I didn't mean to imply that Jackson Labs creates human embryos on site, because I don't think they do. I was using "experimentation on human embryos" to mean "experimentation on human embryonic stem cells."

I admit I'm not a scientist so I might be wrong on this whole issue. From what I can discern from the fact sheet, Jackson Labs uses PA-1 ovarian teratocarcinoma cells as a control for comparison to human embryonic stem cell formation. If the PA-1 cells are not derived from human embryos and if Jackson Labs doesn't have human embryonic stem cells on site, then maybe Jackson Labs is even in a better moral light than what "anonymous" is saying. On the other hand, as commenter "Fronkenshteen" argues, Jackson Labs appears to at least do training on human embryonic stem cell lines.

So, I guess my question better stated this way: Is it unfair to say that Jackson Labs experiments on human embryonic stem cells?