Firm Offers to Turn Aborted Fetal Cells into Living Human: Science, Ethics of Concept Attacked

By Duin, Julia | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 23, 1996 | Go to article overview

Firm Offers to Turn Aborted Fetal Cells into Living Human: Science, Ethics of Concept Attacked


Duin, Julia, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


A Houston firm is pioneering a new twist on abortion by freezing and thawing parts of an aborted fetus to create a living child.

It is marketing it as a way of saving children who would otherwise be aborted. For $356, a woman can freeze the remains of her abortion for 10 years in what some term "pregnancy suspension."

Detractors say the effort, still in the research stages, sounds like "Brave New World"-style cloning.

They also question the scientific claims, saying fetal tissue cannot be reanimated to become a living human being.

Cryogenic Solutions Inc. (CSI) in west Houston is trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange. The company, founded a year ago, began trading Feb. 5 at $7 a share. It's up to $7.50.

"We are restarting the individual," Chief Executive Officer Charles Boyd says. "It is not cloning. We're not splitting cells and making multiple copies. We're still working with the original copy."

"We think we're pro-life, and we're puzzled by people who oppose us on that issue," Executive Vice President Dell Gibson says. "Women are using abortion as a contraceptive, which is not appropriate. Since abortions are being done, why not save some of them?"

"It puts a nice face on abortion," American Life League President Judie Brown says. "To preserve a cell or several cells to re-create a human being goes completely beyond my imagination."

But it doesn't surpass the imaginations at CSI, where researchers hope to thaw aborted tissue, isolate the basic building-block cells and restart the embryo.

It's a process that at least 85 research studies nationwide have dealt with, and more are ongoing, Mr. Gibson says.

Cryogenics refers to using extreme cold to preserve tissue. It is the technique used in the process of in-vitro fertilization, which involves embryos less than a week old with 16 to 18 cells.

The fetuses CSI hopes to work with are 8 to 9 weeks old, have millions of cells and cannot be frozen in the same way. The heart begins beating at 17 days, and brain waves start at 6 weeks of age.

Getting the aborted material isn't difficult, Mr. Boyd says; any abortion clinic can provide that. The technique of freezing the tissue has been perfected. The challenge will be in thawing it without harming the tissue, which has been impossible.

Next comes re-creating the embryo destroyed in the abortion.

"We are taking the technology in use in the in-vitro labs and expanding it," Mr. Gibson says. "Instead of dealing with very, very early embryos, we're using the research on taking the embryonic tissue, the fetal tissue, and using that to go back to square one and start over with the same entity.

"Cloning is entirely different - that's when you took a fully developed organism, extract a cell, do genetic manipulation on its genes to produce multiple copies of the same thing. That's `Jurassic Park' stuff, that was cloning. There's horrible implications to that. That's not what we're about, what we intend, nor what we're going to do.

"By the time a woman determines she's pregnant and comes in for an abortion, it's impossible to remove it [the embryo] intact. You'd destroy some of the tissue, but you can go back to the more primitive tissue.

"There are cells in the embryo that represent that entire genetic being of this individual. You remove the cells you don't want and get down to the ones you want and restart gestation at square one. You are able to maintain the original genetic identity of this individual. …

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Firm Offers to Turn Aborted Fetal Cells into Living Human: Science, Ethics of Concept Attacked
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