胚研究における革命的な倫理

2005年でもっとも重大と見られていた科学的進歩が、いま攻撃の的になっている。6月、有力機関紙「サイエンス(Science)」は、韓国の科学者、黄禹錫(ファン・ウソク)と国際共同開発チームの共著による開発に関する記事を公開した。記事には、要するに、彼らが成人からのクローンによる「オーダーメイド」ヒト幹細胞を開発したという内容が書かれていた。彼らの研究の科学的妥当性が複数の調査の焦点となっているが、その倫理的意味も等しく重要である。

ファンは同僚らと共に、ヒトの不受精卵の細胞核を別のヒトから採取した通常の体細胞の細胞核と置き換え、結果できた胚細胞から、その体細胞の提供者のDNAに適合した幹細胞を開発したと発表した。その達成は、我々を、患者が拒否反応を示すことのない細胞や組織の移植を受けられる世界へと著しく近づけたかに見えた。患者本人からクローンされた生物学的材料は、完璧に適合するだろう。

12月初旬、ファンは、卵子のうちいくつかは彼の研究で働く二人の女性から採取され、そして他の「提供者達」は卵子の提供に対し報酬を受け取っていたことを明らかにした。科学の的確性とは何の関係もない、倫理的指針の侵害である。しかし、やがてファンの協力者らが実験の有効性そのものを疑い始め、ファンはサイエンスに記事の撤回を求めた。この論文が書かれた時点で、真菌類による汚染を含む幹細胞の保管についての「人的ミス」を認めた一方で、彼はまだ実験の正当性を弁護している。彼はいくつかの細胞を意図的に改変したこともほのめかしたと言われている。

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