Thursday, November 19, 2009

How long before we make lampshades out of them?

Human embryos are being used to grow skin cells for burn victims:

Nov. 19, 2009 -- Human embryonic stem cells can be used to produce skin grafts for people who have been seriously burned, shows a study published in The Lancet.

Though patients have benefited from cell therapy for two decades, the techniques used have had limitations, write Hind Guenou, PhD, of INSERM and the Institute for Stem Cell Therapy and Exploration of Monogenic Diseases in Evry Cedex, France, and colleagues. [...]

So the scientists in this study, employing a pharmacological treatment over 40 days, seeded feeder cells with human embryonic stem cells. The treatment drives the human embryonic stem cells toward forming an epidermis, the outer layer of skin the researchers report.

The team says it was able to generate a population of cells that showed the characteristics of the epidermis. Once manipulated on an artificial surface, the cells were able to form a layer of skin, the scientists say.

In 12 weeks, after grafting it onto five mice, the skin layer that came from human embryonic stem cells had a structure the "consistent" with human skin.

Horrible. Just horrible.

I realize that burn victims suffer terribly, but there are morally acceptable ways of providing skin grafts that don't require us to cannibalize tiny human beings.

Worse, of course, is that unless I'm greatly mistaken this technology may quite conceivably open the door to a future nightmare of cosmetic treatments involving the growing of new skin cells to replace old, wrinkly ones.

Perhaps in some future PETA paradise we'll stop covering furniture, making shoes etc. with leather, and make these things from human embryo-skin hides instead. We might even take a tip from our philosophical inspiration and make lampshades...


Kerri said...

Lord, help us.

Your extrapolation from using embryonic stem cells to help burn victims to their use for "cosmetic surgery" is horrifying. But hey, why not? Abortion has ridden the slippery slope from "saving the life of the mother" to gender selection.

Jacque said...

Just reading the title sent chills up my spine. After reading the piece, I find it all to easy to become true... Also, I wonder how many young people would have the same mental image of human lampshades as us old folks do?
It's been so long since I've had a child in school, I wonder if they even teach about the lamp shades with the tatoos any longer. I also wonder with all the desensitizing to our culture, if the kid would even find it as sickening as we did?
I'd better leave things at that because my attitude toward this world is showing a little too much.

Anonymous said...

from Scotch Meg

Here's the irony: they would be much, much better off using the technique they have developed to grow skin cells from the burn victim's own (adult) stem cells, rather than an embryo. In other words, using this technique to grow new skin that belongs to the burn victim! In other words (to put it as plainly as possible), making new skin for the person FROM THAT PERSON. The advantages are obvious: no worries about tumor growth (a common problem with attempted ESC treatments) and no worries about immune reactions, either host-vs-graft or graft-vs-host.

This is truly insane!

And, btw, I'd wait a bit to see whether these treatments really work without serious side effects.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please don't give them any ideas! Your scenarios beyond cosmetics, though I never would have thought of them, sound deplorably plausible given some people's opinions about people, animals, and "utility."


eulogos said...

There are already some cosmetic uses, and others you wouldn't have thought of:

The first source I found when I googled

Almost beyond belief</a

Susan Peterson

eulogos said...

Well, that link does open, even if I meant to end it sooner than I did. But it opens in the combox, which is difficult to read.

So here it is for copy/paste into your browser.

eulogos said...

Specifically about cosmetic use

Susan Peterson