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Embryonic stem cells are harvested from fertilized eggs and using them in research has raised ethical issues because embryos are subsequently destroyed Photo: AFP/File
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Japanese newborn gets liver stem cell transplant in world first

19 Comments
By Anne-Christine Poujoulat

Doctors in Japan have successfully transplanted liver cells derived from embryonic stem cells into a newborn baby, in a world first that could provide new treatment options for infants.

The newborn was suffering from urea cycle disorder, where the liver is not capable of breaking down toxic ammonia.

But the six-day-old was too small to undergo a liver transplant, generally not considered safe until a child weighs around six kilograms at around three to five months old.

Doctors at the National Center for Child Health and Development decided to try a "bridge treatment" until the baby was big enough, injecting 190 million liver cells derived from embryonic stem cells (ES cells) into the blood vessels of the baby's liver.

Following the treatment, "the patient did not see an increase in blood ammonia concentration and was able to successfully complete the next treatment", namely a liver transplant, the institute said in a press release.

The baby, whose sex has not been disclosed, received a liver transplant from its father and was discharged from the hospital six months after birth.

"The success of this trial demonstrates safety in the world's first clinical trial using human ES cells for patients with liver disease," the institute said.

It noted that in Europe and the United States, liver cells are often available after being removed from brain-dead donors, but the supply in Japan is more limited.

That has created difficulties in managing the health of small children as they wait to grow big enough for liver transplants. ES cells are harvested from fertilized eggs and using them in research has raised ethical issues because embryos are destroyed subsequently.

The national institute is one of two organizations in Japan allowed to establish ES cells to study new medical treatments. It works with fertilized eggs whose use has been approved by both donors having already completed fertility treatment, according to the institute.

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments
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Well this is good. I’m glad to see that Japan is taking the lead on this. Because especially with it’s declining birth rate and rapidly aging population, this is especially good considering that involves a newborn.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Thank you so much for some much needed good news!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Now a child has a chance at a healthy life. This is good.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

This type of procedure is morally wrong and really shouldn't be legal since it creates or destroys human embryos.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Not all embryos would become human life.

When Does "It" Become a Person?

Two-thirds of all human embryos fail to develop successfully.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101003205930.htm

Without this the baby would not be able to live with out a liver. The liver of the father was used to make a transplant.

Would it have been right to let the living baby die?

"It works with fertilized eggs whose use has been approved by both donors"

Are people allowed to state what can happen with their body parts, like organ transplants?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The baby, whose sex has not been disclosed

Is it necessary to hide the sex of the baby.? Just wondering.

We know it is either a boy or a girl.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Is it necessary to hide the sex of the baby.?

The quote you gave is not enough to come to that conclusion.

The information may have been left out without particular intent to hide the sex.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Just something else for Japanese people to boast about doing first, whilst missing the main point about life. (I'm Japanese by the way. Just can't stand the superiority complex here)

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

What should be kept in mind is the indisputable fact that the life of one human being was purposefully and involuntarily snuffed out so that another human being could have a chance of survival.

Is the taking of a human life without the person’s permission medically ethical throughout Japan? Or is it just that the law has not caught up with the technology yet? This really should be nationally debated before another objectively immoral procedure such as this is performed.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Instead of putting the embryos to good use, would just destroying them be (more) ethical?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

No life was taken. It's impossible to know which embryos could go all the way to human creation and which ones would not.

Maybe the female donor does not want children or has enough of them. The embryo would need a female host.

An embryo is not human life. Its a single cell.

"The early embryo is not an individual. Until about 14 days after conception, the embryo can divide into two or more parts. Under the right conditions, each of those parts can develop into a separate fetus. This is the phenomenon known as "twinning." Twinning shows that adult human beings are not identical with a previously existing zygote or embryo. If that were true, then each pair of twins would be identical with the same embryo. This is a logically incoherent position. If A and B are separate individuals, they cannot both be identical with a previously existent entity, C.

As the early embryo is not an individual, it cannot be the moral equivalent of an adult human. To claim that someone is harmed, there must be "someone" there. We do not and should not grant moral rights to mere groupings of cells."

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Instead of putting the embryos to good use, would just destroying them be (more) ethical?

In the United States, there is an option where embryos can be adopted. Japan should put such an option in place, if it has not already, and immediately cease creating new embryos. We do not put human beings to good use without their consent. At the very least, we should not, though we have through slavery, etc.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Except by definition embryos are not considered human beings and since they are only a cell they have no ability to give or reject consent.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Religious beliefs have nothing to do with the science.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

An embryo is not human life. Its a single cell. 

I am sorry to disagree but an embryo is a human being. We might not know how long or how productive a life this human will have. We do not know if this embryo will be allowed to develop. However, these do not disqualify any embryo from being a full human being.

As the early embryo is not an individual, it cannot be the moral equivalent of an adult human.

This confuses the ontological property of a human being with the number of humans present. Until after blastocyst, we might not know how many human beings are present but this is clearly a different issue than whether humanness is present.

One clear example of this is the existence of congenitally united twins. If an embryo cannot be a human being until after twinning occurs, then these conjoined twins are non-human humans. This is nonsense. They are two human individuals who simply share a body.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

However, these do not disqualify any embryo from being a full human being.

Not being a full human being is what "disqualifies" an embryo from being a full human being.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Rolf Anderson

An embryo is not human life. Its a single cell.

I am sorry to disagree but an embryo is a human being. We might not know how long or how productive a life this human will have. We do not know if this embryo will be allowed to develop. However, these do not disqualify any embryo from being a full human being.

Maybe according to your religious beliefs but not according to medical science. Not all embryos develop into a human being. Not all fetus develop into a full baby. Not all babies are born into human life. Some miscarriage or still born. Others die just after birth or very shortly after.

No science considers an embryo has being a human being.

You have frequently posted your views based on religion, such as gay sex and marriage.

In the case of the baby in the post it was able to survive and hopefully now develop into a full human being because of a stem cell, otherwise it would have died.

Embryos do not have moral rights.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Rolf Anderson

your body is not even capable of being a host for an embryo which in turn "might" develop into a full human being.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The embryos used for baby would have just been destroyed having already completed fertility treatment for the donors.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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