La ética revolucionaria de las investigaciones con embriones

Lo que parecía el avance científico más transcendental de 2005 está actualmente sometido a un asedio. En junio, la prestigiosa revista Science publicó un artículo del científico surcoreano Woo-Suk Hwang y un equipo internacional de coautores en el que describían cómo habían desarrollado líneas de células-madre humanas clonadas a partir de un adulto, pero que, en realidad, estaban "hechas por encargo". Aunque la validez científica de su trabajo es ahora objeto de varias investigaciones independientes, no menos importante es examinar sus consecuencias éticas.

Hwang y sus colegas afirmaron haber substituido el núcleo de un óvulo humano infertilizado por el de una célula normal tomada de otra persona y haber desarrollado líneas de células-madre procedentes del embrión resultante que correspondían al ADN de la persona que proporcionó la célula normal. Ese logro parecía acercarnos en gran medida a un mundo en el que se podría aplicar a los pacientes que los necesitaran transplantes de células o tejido que su cuerpo no rechazaría, porque los materiales biológicos, clonados a partir de los propios pacientes, cuadrarían perfectamente.

Al comienzo de diciembre, Hwang reveló que algunos de los óvulos procedían de dos mujeres que trabajaban en su laboratorio y que a otras "donantes" se les habían pagado sus óvulos, violación de las directrices éticas que nada tenía que ver con la exactitud de la ciencia, pero después los colaboradores de Hwang empezaron a poner en tela de juicio el propio experimento y Hwang notificó a Science que deseaba retirar su artículo. En el momento de redactar este texto, sigue defendiendo la validez de sus trabajo, si bien reconoce "errores humanos" en la preservación de las líneas de células-madre, incluida una contaminación por hongos. Al parecer, ha indicado incluso que puede que se manipularan algunas células.

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