The Humanitas Project


Living in the Biotech Century

News, Resources, and Commentary

August 5, 2005



Susan Anne Catherine Torres – 1 pound, 13 ounces; 13.5 inches...


Brain-Dead Woman Dies After Giving Birth



Susan Anne Catherine Torres

“A day after Jason Torres welcomed his daughter into the world, he bid a final farewell to his brain-dead wife who had been kept alive so the baby inside her could live.


“Doctors removed Susan Torres, 26, from life support Wednesday with the consent of her husband after she received the final sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church.


“‘We thank all of those who prayed and provided support for Susan, the baby and our family,’ Jason Torres said in a statement. ‘We especially thank God for giving us little Susan. My wife’s courage will never be forgotten.’


“Susan Torres, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, suffered a stroke in May after melanoma spread to her brain. With no hope for recovery, her family decided to keep her alive to give her fetus a chance.


“It became a race between the fetus’ development and the cancer that was ravaging the woman’s body....”


AP/ – August 4, 2005


Photo is from the website of The Susan M. Torres Fund.




Please forward this e-mail to anyone who might be interested in staying abreast of the rapidly changing developments in biotechnology and the related area of bioethics.  For more information on The Humanitas Project, contact Michael Poore, Executive Director, at 931-528-2408 or .  Or visit The Humanitas Project web site at



Developing medical uses for nanotechnology...


Scientists Develop Nanotech-Laser Treatment that Kills Cancer Cells without Harming Healthy Tissue



“Scientists at Stanford University have developed a new laser therapy that destroys cancer cells but leaves healthy ones unharmed. The new, non-invasive treatment is described in a study published in the Aug. 1 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


“‘One of the longstanding problems in medicine is how to cure cancer without harming normal body tissue,’ says Hongjie Dai, an associate professor of chemistry at Stanford and co-author of the study. ‘Standard chemotherapy destroys cancer cells and normal cells alike. That’s why patients often lose their hair and suffer numerous other side effects. For us, the Holy Grail would be finding a way to selectively kill cancer cells and not damage healthy ones.’




“For the PNAS experiment, Dai and his colleagues used a basic tool of nanotechnology—carbon nanotubes, synthetic rods that are only half the width of a DNA molecule. Thousands of nanotubes could easily fit inside a typical cell....


“In the experiment, Stanford researchers found that if they placed a solution of carbon nanotubes under a near-infrared laser beam, the solution would heat up to about 158 degrees F (70 C) in two minutes. When nanotubes were placed inside cells and radiated by the laser beam, the cells were quickly destroyed by the heat. However, cells without nanotubes showed no effects when placed under near-infrared light.


“‘It’s actually quite simple and amazing,’ Dai observes. ‘We’re using an intrinsic property of nanotubes to develop a weapon that kills cancer....’”


Stanford Report – August 2, 2005


Bionics — it’s still all about normal activity...


Artificial Limbs in the High Tech Age



“Your legs may not seem all that smart, but they’re pretty good at letting you walk without having to think about what you’re doing.


“That hasn’t been the case with artificial limbs, which have long required wearers to put a lot of thought and effort into a simple stride. Now, though, a newer generation of prosthetic devices is making use of chip technology to make walking a more natural act for amputees.


“One such device is the C-Leg, from Otto Bock HealthCare, a German company that got its start working with war victims in the first years after World War I. The C-Leg is a decidedly 21st-century device, with a microprocessor in the knee that reads data 50 times a second — from real-time sensor data — to help the wearer negotiate changing terrain. The company also provides upper-body devices such as a new ‘dynamic arm’ that for the first time has power-assist technology in elbow....”


CNET – August 04, 2005


Is the production of cloned “human organ factories” the real goal of cloning research?


The Organ Factory

by William Saletan


Cures Now



Human embryonic stem cells (illuminated by green fluorescent proteins)

“Two weeks ago, members of Congress held a press conference to demand Senate ratification of H.R. 810, a bill to expand federal funding of human embryonic stem-cell (or hES) research. Alternative schemes to get stem cells without killing embryos would take too long, they argued. ‘There is only one bill which may quickly open the door to medical solutions. That is H.R. 810,’ said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del. He pointed to the glut of embryos left over from fertility treatments and concluded, ‘It simply makes no sense at all not to take advantage of what is already immediately available.’


“But the Castle bill isn’t the quickest way to open the door to medical solutions. If we’re going to take advantage of what’s already available, the quickest way is to open a different door. The Castle bill, which has already passed the House, would open a door President Bush closed on Aug. 9, 2001, when he agreed to fund hES research on cell lines derived before that date but not afterward....


“The other door, the one that’s blocking more-immediate help, has been closed by research proponents themselves. To get transplantable tissue your body won’t reject, cells from somebody else—the cells you’d get from the Castle bill—won’t do. You need cells with your DNA. You need a clone....”


Editor’s Note:  This article is the first part of a five-part series by William Saletan, Slate’s biotechnology reporter.  The series, now complete, is an outstanding overview of current stem cell and cloning research.  Saletan makes a very credible case that the real objective of cloning research is “fetal farming,” the production of cloned embryos and fetuses to be used as sources of differentiated tissue, even organs, for transplant.


Slate – July 25, 2005


Or is it the moral fog of politics?


Moral Maturity


Bill Frist, closet pro-choicer.

by William Saletan



Which comes Frist?  Pro-life or pro-choice?

“Does Bill Frist think unborn human beings have a right to life?


“Frist, the Senate majority leader, calls himself pro-life. He has a 100 percent pro-life voting record, according to the National Right to Life Committee. But last week, he asked his colleagues to lift President Bush’s restriction on federal funding of human embryonic stem-cell research—a restriction that Bush imposed on the grounds that such research required the destruction of embryos. Why remove Bush’s constraints? Because they ‘slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases,’ said Frist. What about the embryo? That’s up to the family, the senator concluded: ‘Obviously, any decision about the destiny of an embryo must clearly and ultimately rest with the parents.’


“In other words, when it comes to aborting embryos, Frist is pro-choice....”


Slate – August 3, 2005


The case against ESCs is scientific...”


On Embryonic Stem Cells, Frist Backs A Loser

by Michael Fumento



“What does embryonic stem cell research have to do with the space shuttle? Seemingly nothing. Dig deeper, though. Whatever NASA may claim, there’s little the shuttle can do that unmanned spaceships cannot—at much lower costs. But NASA knows what sci-fi writers always have, that we’re enamored of manned space flight. The shuttle’s main mission is maintaining NASA’s prestige and budget.


“Yet if the shuttle has proved to have little use, ESCs have so far had none. They’ve never been tested on a human, much less treated one. And like the shuttle, there’s a far superior alternative. Culled from numerous body tissues as well as umbilical cords and placenta, these are generally referred to as ‘adult stem cells.’ Yet the value of ASCs are routinely downplayed or even ignored precisely because ESCs, like the shuttle, are of such marginal value to the human race but of such tremendous value to individual reputations and budgets.


“Which brings us to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s support of new legislation (and his break with the Bush administration) that would tremendously expand federal aid for ESC research. (Note: one of the myths surrounding ESC research is that it currently receives no federal support, while another goes even further to say such research is illegal.)


“Frist’s position carries much weight, we’re told, not just because he’s the highest-ranking Republican in Congress, but also because he’s a physician. Actually, that makes him as much a specialist on stem cells as a plumber is on aquatic chemistry. A half hour of reading will give you more knowledge about these cells than the average doctor possesses. In that short time you might learn that ASCs are CURRENTLY used in over 250 human clinical trials and are treating over 80 different diseases....”


Tech Central Station – August 3, 2005


Considering the ethical hazards of offering incentives for body parts...


Cloning Plan Poses New Ethical Dilemma


Scientist courts controversy with call for women to donate eggs



“Healthy women could be asked to donate their eggs for cloning research in a controversial bid to speed up the development of new treatments for disease, the Guardian has learned.


“Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, is to seek permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to ask women to donate eggs for cloning experiments designed to shed light on the debilitating condition motor neurone disease.


“Until now, cloning experts in Britain have justified their work by using only spare eggs left over from couples undergoing treatment at fertility clinics. The eggs are typically rejects of the IVF process and are routinely discarded if not used in experiments.


“The issue raises ethical questions. Many scientists working in the field believe their research is severely hampered because the eggs they use are of such poor quality that they often do not grow into healthy clones. But others believe that asking women to donate eggs purely for research introduces a possible financial incentive that is morally objectionable....


“Dr Bruce added: ‘I’m very nervous about this. Altruistic donation has a strong tradition in medicine, but any inducement to donate, whether it’s moral or financial, is something we should be wary of.


“‘If a woman decides of her own free will that she wants to donate eggs, then that is her decision, but as soon as someone offers an incentive, even if it is not financial, it becomes a worry,’ he said....”


The Guardian – July 26, 2005


“1,000 laboratory-grown embryos led to the birth of just two cloned puppies...”


In a Furry First, A Dog Is Cloned In South Korea

by Rick Weiss



Snuppy, right, with the 3-year-old Afghan hound that lent an ear cell to the clone.  (Seoul National University – Reuters)

“South Korean researchers said yesterday that they have created the world’s first cloned dog: a playful black, tan and white Afghan hound named Snuppy.


“The puppy, grown from a single cell taken from the ear of a 3-year-old male Afghan, marks a milestone in the race to fabricate genetically identical dogs for research and as companion animals.


“The process of dog cloning remains highly inefficient, a reflection of how much scientists still have to learn about how to make mammalian offspring from single parents and without the help of sperm. Multiple surgeries on more than 100 anesthetized dogs and the painstaking creation of more than 1,000 laboratory-grown embryos led to the birth of just two cloned puppies—one of which died after three weeks.


“But the feat suggests that a market in cloned dogs, through which people grieving the loss of their favorite pets could order genetic duplicates, may not be as futuristic as some had thought. And by leapfrogging a seven-year-old, multimillion-dollar U.S. effort, the success has clinched South Korea’s quickly growing reputation as a premier center for cloning and stem cell research....” – August 4, 2005


What’s the real problem?  Probably not fear of conservative opposition...


In Race to Stem Cell Center, New Jersey’s Efforts Stall



“In New Jersey, which bills itself as the medicine cabinet of the nation, the potentially lucrative stem cell research race has gone off with both a bang and a whimper.


“Just 14 months ago, James E. McGreevey, then the governor, signed a bill to establish the nation’s first state-supported stem research institute, proclaiming, over the objections of Roman Catholic bishops, that the frontiers of medical science should not be hemmed in by politics. Earlier in the year, New Jersey had become the second state in the nation, after California, to pass a law specifically legalizing embryonic stem cell research.


“Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey continued the efforts with enthusiasm, proposing that the state dedicate almost $400 million for stem cell science. But progress has been fitful at best, partly because of garden variety Garden State inertia and partly because of growing fears of a conservative backlash.


“And so the groundbreaking for the New Jersey Stem Cell Research Institute, which was scheduled for tomorrow, has been postponed. The land at Rutgers University where the institute was supposed to rise remains a parking lot. The money to build the center is not yet available; the State Assembly failed to pass a bill in June to provide the $150 million for the institute, and the Legislature is not likely to revisit the issue until the end of the year, at the earliest....”


New York Times – July 31, 2005 (free registration required)


Getting ready for genetically based medicine...


DNA Machine May Advance Genetic Sequencing for Patients

by Nicholas Wade



“A new kind of machine for decoding DNA may help bring costs so low that it would be feasible to decode an individual’s DNA for medical reasons. The machine, developed by 454 Life Sciences of Branford, Conn., was used to resequence the genome of a small bacterium in four hours, its scientists report in an article published online today by the journal Nature.


“In 1995, when the same bacterium was first sequenced, by Claire M. Fraser, it required 24,000 separate operations spread over four to six months, she said in an e-mail message.


“The machine uses the chemistry of fireflies to generate a flash of light each time a unit of DNA is correctly analyzed. The flashes from more than a million DNA-containing wells, arrayed on a credit-card-sized plate, are monitored by a light-detecting chip, of the kind used in telescopes to detect the faintest light from distant stars. Then, they are sent to a computer that reconstructs the sequence of the genome....


“‘What they have done here is very significant,’ [Dr. Mostafa] Ronaghi said, noting that the company had already sequenced 50 microbial genomes. ‘This is the first step toward $1,000 human genome sequencing,’ he said....”


The New York Times – August 1, 2005 (free registration required)


Worth considering...


From The Revenge of Conscience

by J. Budziszewski



“Our efforts to thwart the law of natural consequences merely make the penalty more crushing when it comes.  The only question is whether our culture will be able to survive the return stroke of the piston.  To survive what is bearing down on us, we must learn four hard lessons: to acknowledge the natural law as a true and universal morality; to be on guard against our own attempts to overwrite it with new laws that are really rationalizations for wrong; to fear the natural consequences of its violation, recognizing their inexorability; and to forbear from all further attempts to compensate for immorality, returning on the path that brought us to this place.


“Unfortunately, the condition of human beings since before recorded history is that we do not want to learn hard lessons.  We would rather remain in denial.  What power can break through such a barrier?


“The only Power that ever has.  Thomas Aquinas writes that when a nation suffers tyranny, those who enthroned the tyrant may first try to remove him, then call upon the emperor for help.  When these human means fail, they should consider their sins and pray.  We are now so thoroughly under the tyranny of our vices that it would be difficult for us to recognize an external tyrant at all.  By our own hands we enthroned them: our strength no longer suffices for their removal; they have suspended the senate of right reason and the assembly of the virtues; the emperor, our will, is held hostage; and it is time to pray.  We do not want to read the letters on our heart, because they burn; but they do burn, so at last we must read them.”



“The Revenge of Conscience” is one of the essays collected in J. Budziszewski’s The Revenge of Conscience:  Politics and the Fall of Man (Spence Publishing Company, 1999).  An earlier, shorter version of “The Revenge of Conscience” was published in the journal First Things and is available online.




Living in the Biotech Century is produced, twice monthly, by The Humanitas Project.  Please note that after a period of time, some web pages may no longer be available due to expiration or a change of address.  Other pages may still be available, but only for a fee.


The views expressed in these resources are not necessarily those of The Humanitas Project.  Our goal is to provide access to information from various sides of the debate.  Ethically and morally, The Humanitas Project unapologetically defends both human dignity and the sanctity of human life in all contexts, from the vantage point of historic Christianity.


Feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone who might be interested in these issues.  To subscribe or unsubscribe to Living in the Biotech Century, visit our website at, or e-mail .  The Humanitas Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and all gifts are tax deductible.  For more information on The Humanitas Project, contact Michael Poore, Executive Director, at 931-528-2408 or .


Copyright © 2005