Oct 12, 2017

Breakthroughs call for more debate on human embryo research

In May 2016, scientists reached a new milestone — the culturing of human embryos to 14 days after fertilization.That experiment was stopped because of current international guidelines, but some scientists would now like policymakers to reconsider this rule.

Day 14 was originally chosen because it precedes formation of the primitive streak when cells begin to specialize in the process leading to neural development. It is also the last point of twinning, when one embryo can split into two, so some argue that prior to this point the embryo could potentially be more than one individual.

By creating a limit, policymakers confer a special status on the human embryo while still allowing for research and the pursuit of knowledge. Calls for an extension are understandable, but any change to the rule may be just as arbitrary as the 14-day mark. At what point does a fertilized egg warrant protections as a human subject? If response to pain is our measure, would administering anesthesia to the embryo satisfy concerns?

To develop a justifiable and thoughtful human embryo research guideline, we need a robust discussion that weighs moral and ethical concerns alongside potentially valuable medical knowledge.

The bottom line: Given the controversial nature of this work, knowledge for its own sake may not ultimately be an adequate justification for extending human embryo research, but now is the time for further debate.

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Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee on Wednesday, including the gunman, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at a Wednesday evening press conference with local police.

Details: All of the victims worked at the brewery complex, as did the shooter who died of "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound," police confirmed in a statement late Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus updates: South Korea case count tops 2,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,850 people and infected over 83,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 hours ago - Health

Syria's darkest chapter

Family room without a family, in Idlib. Photo: Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The worst humanitarian crisis of Syria’s brutal civil war is colliding today with what could be the war’s most dangerous geopolitical showdown, after at least 29 Turkish troops were killed in an airstrike.

The big picture: The fighting is taking place in Idlib in northwest Syria, where a ferocious Syrian and Russian offensive has displaced 1 million civilians and infuriated Turkey, which borders the region.

Go deeperArrow10 hours ago - World