Time has vindicated Gov. Romney’s stand on embryo research

PerspectivesButton By Eric Fehrnstrom

News that Dr. Robert Lanza and his team of scientists at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester have been injecting human DNA into cow, mouse, and rabbit eggs to produce hybrid stem cells deserves scrutiny by the Biomedical Research Advisory Council, which oversees stem cell research in the state.

In 2005, when Massachusetts was wrestling with the issue of embryonic stem cell research, the issue of human-animal egg combinations was left unaddressed by the Legislature.

It might be time to reconsider. Shockingly, the controversy within the science community is not that Lanza is experimenting with inter-species combinations; it’s with his conclusion that human-animal eggs are not fruitful sources of patient-specific stem cells. Which guarantees one thing: There’ll be more research like this.

The passage of time has vindicated former Gov. Mitt Romney’s position on embryo research. There are alternatives to producing pluripotent stem cells without the ethical controversy created by the destruction of human embryos.

Sadly, it’s a lesson lost on President Obama, who as a US senator from Illinois voted against these promising methods, and is expected soon to reverse former President Bush’s restrictions on federal funding for embryo-destructive research. And it’s obviously lost on scientists who, unbridled from any ethical considerations, keep pushing the envelope further and further.

At the same time Lanza published his results, the world was preoccupied with the story of a woman who asked to be impregnated with multiple eggs and subsequently gave birth to octuplets. Not surprisingly in our instant-celebrity age, she hired a PR agent, went on the Today show and began searching for a multimillion dollar book deal.

How long before some publicity seeker tries to give birth to a half-human, half-monkey?

The Biomedical Research Advisory Council was formed as a result of the 2005 legislation. Its job is to monitor this type of research and keep it from crossing the ethical divide. It ought to take a close look at what is going on and ban animal-human mixing.

Eric Fehrnstrom is a principal in the Shawmut Group, a public affairs and communications consulting practice in Boston, and is a frequent contributor to the Boston Herald. He formerly served as communications director for former Gov. Mitt Romney.