Some Lifelinks..and keeping Gosnell front and center

Over at Lifesitenews, we learn that iPS cells may not, after all, be the hoped-for ethical deliverance from the patently immoral culling of stem cells from leftover IVF or cloned human embryos – immoral because the culling kills the embryo.

The revelation that some iPS cells are indistinguishable from single-cell embryos is likely to dismantle arguments supporting the cells as “ethical.” In a surprise statement in his keynote address at the conference co-sponsored by the Vatican, Dr. John Gurdon, a pioneer in nuclear transfer cloning techniques, said that with iPS cells created from adult skin cells, “You can actually get a totally normal, reproducing, adult animal from a skin cell without the use of an egg.” He said it is possible to derive “a complete animal” from the cells. This is not theoretical, he added, but has already been done with mice.

Speaking to after the lecture, Dr. Gurdon agreed that the possibility of creating whole organisms from a single skin cell “is quite remarkable.” Asked what the difference is between an iPS cell that has been reverted back to its pluripotent state and an embryo in its earliest, single-cell stage, Gurdon replied, “Probably none.”

[Update: see the comments below for clarification regarding the information in that Lifesitenews article, and for a link to Lydia's own article on the subject.]

An article at the American Spectator by Matt Purple acquaints us with a fellow named Harvey Karman, his association with Kermit Gosnell, and their collaboration on an exercise in butchery that would later be called the Mother’s Day Massacre, which was initiated in an attempt to test one of Karman’s inventions, a thing called the Super Coil. Its purpose was to make safe and simple 2nd trimester abortions. A Gosnell staffer explains its ingenuity:

[T]here was a device that he and [Karman] were working on that was supposed to be plastic – basically plastic razors that were formed into a ball. All right. They were coated into a gel, so that they would remain closed. These would be inserted into the woman’s uterus. And after several hours of body temperature, it would then – the gel would melt and these 97 things would spring open, supposedly cutting up the fetus, and the fetus would be expelled.

Says Purple:

When he died in 2008, Harvey Karman, who murdered countless unborn children, killed a pregnant mother with a nutcracker, used women as human experiments, and enthusiastically promoted a medieval killing device, was given a pleasant obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

At National Review, Andrew McCarthy reminds us that the words we use bear an actual relationship to the so-called reality inside our heads. Corrupt the one, you corrupt the other. Though it seems a chicken-or-the-egg sort of problem to me: does the misuse of language bring about the reality, or do we mangle the language only after we’ve set our minds on a particular depravity?

In Philadelphia, at a human abattoir on Lancaster Avenue, is where it ends, not where it starts. It starts with the perversion of language. It starts when the icons of a dissipated culture reduce a baby to a “fetus.” From there, Yeats’s blood-dimmed tide rolls rapidly in. Before long, a baby is not a person but a punishment, as President Barack Obama framed the matter in his familiar off-the-cuff iciness.

He quotes the oft-cited words of our first black, anti-Christian Christian president in all his fumbling glory before the Illinois state senate – “That fetus, or child — however way you want to describe it” – and uses if often throughout to great effect. Regarding the media’s reluctance to cover Gosnell’s trial, he says

Better to shove the evidence into a dark closet. That’s what they did in Chicago. There, despite the best efforts of “physicians” (they of the “do no harm” oath), many “however way you want to describe its” were “not just coming out limp and dead,” as Obama haltingly put it. The abortionists’ answer was to stick the helpless survivors in a utility closet where they could die, out of sight and out of mind.

…”Snip” is a terse, antiseptic word. Like “choice,” it is tailored to those rare, discomfiting occasions when the intentional killing of a “however way you want to describe it” must be spoken of rather than silently done. It is an effort, as much mentally as verbally, to evade the monstrousness we abide in the United States, where nearly 60 million children — a population roughly equal to that of France or the United Kingdom — have been aborted since the Supreme Court’s 1973 fatwa in Roe v. Wade.

Apparently what Gosnell should have been doing – rather than lifting the kid from the womb before performing his now-infamous ‘snip’ – was to have left it there and then performed what you might call a pre-partial-birth abortion, which was described for us by a nurse in testimony before the Supreme Court, regarding the legal execution of a six month old:

the baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby’s arms jerked out, like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall. The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby went completely limp…He cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he had just used.

“Four justices of the United States Supreme Court,” McCarthy reminds us, “would have upheld this barbarism. They would not have described it. It is not to be spoken of, only done.”

In “The Collapsing of the American Skull,” Mark Steyn is thinking along similar lines when he cites Dr. Tracy Weitz of the University of California, San Francisco, who tries to starkly emphasize the rather evanescent difference between the way Dr. Gosnell kills babies and the way a doctor of the more competent variety does it:

When a procedure that usually involves the collapsing of the skull is done, it’s usually done when the fetus is still in the uterus, not when the fetus has been delivered…So, in terms of thinking about the difference between the way abortion providers who do later abortions in the United States practice, and this particular practice, they are completely worlds apart.

Oh. I was wondering if the “little fingers” of the fetus “still in the uterus” might be “clasping and unclasping, and his little feet” still “kicking.” Or, when the scissors are stuck into the back of his head, do the arms of the fetus “still in the uterus” try to jerk out, “like a startle reaction”? I was wondering, once his brains are sucked out, if he goes “completely limp.” Maybe it’s too cramped in there for the reaction to be quite as noticeable. Maybe it makes him easier to kill. As Steyn says to Dr. Weitz’s “worlds apart” assertion,

Technically, they’re only inches apart. So what’s the big deal? The skull is collapsed in order to make it easier to clear the cervix. Once a healthy baby is out on the table and you cut his spinal column, there’s no need to suck out his brains and cave in his skull.

Well, I asked once before, and might as well again:

They wanted their babies killed; Dr. Gosnell killed them. What’s the problem? Oh, his methods were gruesome and unsanitary. Well, suppose the place had been sanitary, and that instead of killing them savagely, he had killed them softly. That is, rather than sticking scissors into the back of their necks, suppose he had administered a lethal sedative? Would everything then have been okey-dokey?

I don’t think America quite understands, and certainly is not willing to admit, just what Kermit Gosnell really is: he is a government-licensed-and-approved serial killer. So are all abortionists. That’s what they do.

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8 Responses to Some Lifelinks..and keeping Gosnell front and center

  1. Lydia says:

    I’m sorry, but pretty much all of that stuff in the Lifesite news article about iPS cells is wrong. Those scientists are saying things that are false. By the way, something not well known is that in Japanese scientific circles the word “totipotent” is used to mean “fully pluripotent.” It is false that whole animals have been created by reverting somatic cells back to the point of being totipotent. That has not been done. Perhaps they are talking about reverting them to the point of being pluripotent and injecting them into a denucleated egg or perhaps they are talking about the tetraploid complementation technique. But it is false to say that a somatic cell has been (or, as far as we know, can be) simply “reverted” to being truly totipotent. There is a good reason for that: The reason is that such a cell lacks the genetic information to make the placenta. It simply isn’t there, so you can’t just “revert” to the point of its being there.

    I think this is a pretty irresponsible set of statements by these scientists. Notice, too, that one of the scientists uses the fact that a _test_ for plurpotency–namely, tetraploid complementation–is unethical if carried out on humans as a criticism of iPS cells. That is illogical, as I’ve explained at length elsewhere.

  2. Lydia says:

    It seems that when Gurdon says you can get an “entire animal without the use of an egg” and that this has been done with mice he must be talking about tetraploid complementation. This is a highly misleading characterization, in that case, because it gives the impression that mice have been made simply be “reverting a skin cell too far” and then implanting the product of such reversion, which developed into a mouse. AFAIK, that has _not_ been done, and there is no reason to believe that it ever _can_ or _will_ be done.

  3. Lydia says:

    Reading more from Dr. Irving, I also noticed that she believes that the very possibility of twinning at or after the blastocyst stage in humans means that the cells of the inner cell mass are totipotent. (Hence, she is arguing, if iPS cells are like the cells of the ICM, they must be totipotent as well.) This simply does not follow. Embryos arising from twinning at these stages typically share a placenta! So the reason that twinning at this stage is possible is because that crucial shell has already been formed. This does not mean that the cells of the ICM have the potential to form the extra-embryonic tissues such as the placenta–i.e., that they are totipotent. In fact, while Dr. Irving has a good deal to say about the alleged unclarity, and even, she alleges, deception in the use of the term “pluripotent” in the literature, it appears that it is she who is confused. She seems to be confusing a capability to produce all the bodily tissue types of the embryo with a capability to produce all the tissue types for all organs necessary to the embryo, including the extra-bodily tissue of the placenta. That, however, is just the difference between pluripotency and totipotency! Nor is this an isolated statement of hers. She argues at great length and repeatedly that the possibility of twinning proves that we have been deceived about totipotency.

  4. William Luse says:

    That’s why I didn’t offer any commentary, because the science is so murky to me; it’s easy to see how this kind of talk from scientists can confuse the layman. You seem to be saying that Dr. Gurdon is lying. If he is, I hope the Vatican scientists know it, and Lifesitenews ought to offer another article by someone who disputes Gurdon’s conclusions.

    That is illogical, as I’ve explained at length elsewhere.

    A link or two to those writings would be helpful to me and my readers.

  5. William Luse says:

    Here’s how Gurdon confuses people: At NIH I read:

    Initially, it was unclear that iPSCs were truly pluripotent, as early iPSC lines contributed to mouse embryonic development but failed to produce live-born progeny as do ESCs. In late 2009, however, several research groups reported mouse iPSC lines that are capable of producing live births, (37,38) noting that the cells maintain a pluripotent potential that is “very close to” that of ESCs. (38)

    Those numbers are footnotes, and reading them we discover that “iPS cells produce viable mice through tetraploid complementation.” So only if you read the footnote do you realize that what’s being said is not completely true on its face.

    At Nature I find this:

    The most stringent test for pluripotency is known as the tetraploid blastocyst complementation assay. The method involves merging the embryonic (ES or iPS cells) and extraembryonic tissue (tetraploid cells) from two different species of animals and then testing to see if the embryonic tissue is sufficient for the normal development to the adult stage. Using this assay, several studies now show the production of fertile adult mice derived entirely from iPS cells, therefore confirming the true pluripotency gained by iPS cells during the reprogramming process.

    And from The New Atlantis: “…iPS cells at no point go through a stage of totipotency. Thus, no human embryos are created or destroyed in the formation and use of iPS cells, so that that moral controversy is sidestepped.”

    So it appears that any adult organism “derived” from iPS cells was not derived purely from the cell but by adding something to it that made it possible.

    Lifesite should publish a correction to this article, because Gurdon is lying. What his motive is for doing so I don’t know.

  6. Lydia says:

    “So it appears that any adult organism “derived” from iPS cells was not derived purely from the cell but by adding something to it that made it possible.”

    Bingo. Right-on.

    Here is my piece on this when it was being said by those on the other side of the ESCR debate:

    Gurdon is saying something highly misleading, though true on a narrowly literal interpretation. It’s true that the mice were derived without using an *egg*, but a shell had to be created in a different way to take the place of the egg.

    Irving appears to me to be sincerely muddled, though she is also obviously very intelligent. The only thing she has brought up that is even somewhat concerning is the reference to antigens found on the surfaces of _some_ iPS cells that are similar to antigens found on the surfaces of embryonic cells. What does that mean? After looking into it, I’m convinced it is quite unclear that it means anything to be ethically concerned about. Such antigens are sometimes found on the surfaces of cells of the ICM. We knew that iPS cells are similar to the cells of the ICM, so… Of course, Irving would say that that means that the cells of the ICM are also “totipotent,” but her understanding of the meaning of “totipotent” does not appear to be accurate.

    Btw, on the Gosnell case, I keep seeing this disgusting claim from the defense that the motions by the babies after they were born were “involuntary.” What the heck? The question isn’t whether they were engaging in semaphore signing! The question is whether they were _alive_. What does “involuntary” have to do with anything? Many movements of a newborn baby are involuntary! These people are absolute monsters, including the lawyers representing Gosnell.

  7. William Luse says:

    On the news it was reported that Gosnell’s lawyer is making the claim that there is “absolutely no evidence” that any babies were born alive, or that any living babies survived an abortion.

    I don’t know what he counts as evidence, but if the jury members have half their brains intact, they’ll be wondering: “Then why did he have to ‘snip’ their spines?”

  8. Lydia says:

    Exactly. What sort of person snips the spines of dead babies just for the heck of it? But as I said elsewhere (just realized I didn’t say it here), that phrase “to make sure” can only mean that, if they weren’t dead already, he wanted to kill them. Which isn’t something one does without being charged for murder. I’m here referring to a summary I saw in several news stories to the effect that the defense was saying that the babies were already dead, but he snipped their spines “to make sure they were already dead.” What??? That doesn’t even make good nonsense. Since when does one make sure that a human being “was already dead” by cutting his spine? One checks to see if someone is dead by looking for breathing or conducting an examination, not by carrying out some further injury. These sorts of defenses are insulting to the jury.

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