Unethical retinal transplant with fetal cells boosts vision — but at what cost? (This will make you sick)


The BBC is reporting that an experimental transplant of fetal cells into the eyes of patients with failing sight improved vision in most of them. The retinal cells, taken from aborted fetuses, were implanted  into 10 people with retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. The American Journal of Ophthalmology study found seven had better – although still seriously impaired – vision.

My Take?

If this doesn’t make you sick, I’m not sure what will. 

First the facts. 

Retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are the most common causes of blindness in old age, and involve the gradual and normally irreversible destruction of the cells on the eye’s retina which receive light.

The technique used by the team at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, saw them implant the fetal retinal cells alongside cells which have the job of nourishing them, with the hope that the new cells would join forces with the existing retinal cells to improve overall vision.

Testing showed no change in three of the 10 patients, but slight improvements in the rest.

However, the improvements were only modest, and eyesight was well short of normal vision.

But, at what cost?

Professor Pete Coffey, from the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology, said that the results did not suggest a major improvement in vision. “I can’t say that this is a success, except in the suggestion that the cells did not provoke an immune reaction in the recipient.”

Furthermore, he says, “Unlike a stem cell line, every time you need new cells you need another foetus.”

Simply put, for the experiment to help the vision of one adult, at least one unborn child had to be murdered.

Like I said, if that doesn’t make you sick, I’m not sure what will.


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