Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

TR: How does mutating an embryo so it is no longer a viable embryo really solve the problem?

WH: That is exactly the wrong way to frame the description of what’s being done. The idea that we’re mutating an embryo is an inaccurate and misleading representation of what we’re doing. The key to the project is that no embryo is ever created. It’s not a deficiency in an embryo but an insufficiency in the starting component, such that it cannot rise to the level of a living being.

TR: Shinya Yamanaka and others are having success reprogramming adult skin cells into embryonic stem cells. Why should we continue with ANT?

WH: Yamanaka’s cells are very, very interesting and may solve the issue of how to procure embryonic-type stem cells. But altered nuclear transfer takes things back to the very beginning, to the single-cell stage. So ANT would give us the ethical framework and technological tools for probing early development, without the creation and destruction of human embryos.

TR: Are there circumstances that you could imagine under which you might condone embryonic­-stem-cell research?

WH: I’m in no sense an opponent of research with embryonic stem cells as such. I have moral concerns about how the stem cells are obtained, not about the use of the cells themselves. I’m not in favor of the destruction of human embryos for research purposes.

TR: What are the ethical and moral issues we face in neuroscience?

WH: One of the most fundamental questions is how you correlate the neurological development during embryogenesis with moral standing. Some people argue that until you have a conscious being, or maybe a self-conscious being, you don’t have moral value. We don’t know exactly what consciousness is, but most neuro­physiologists don’t think there’s consciousness present before 18 or 20 weeks at the earliest. If that’s your criterion, you could probably justify the instrumental use of human embryos up to maybe 20 weeks. So without a strong moral prin­ciple, you may very well see the argument over stem-cell research move from 14 days to later stages. So at least at the federal-funding level, we should preserve the principle of the defense of human life from its earliest origins in the one-cell stage.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Credit: Andrew Nagata

Tagged: Biomedicine

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me