Abortion pill hinders Taiwan’s stem cell research

The China Post staff

Doctors at Taipei’s National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) yesterday said the wide use of abortion pill RU-486 among many of the country’s women has presented hindrance to local research on stem cell. As a type of undifferentiated cell found in multicellular organism, stem cells are critical in many current medical research designed to provide cures to certain illnesses. Dr. Tang Chi-lu, an intern at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), pointed out that before many of the country’s women began to resort to RU-486 in terminating unwanted pregnancy, local researchers used to have no problems obtaining stem cell from human embryos “produced” in surgical abortion for their research. With the possible supply shortage of stem cells, Tang predicted that, in the not too distant future, scientists would probably Please see STEM on page

turn to “the extra embryos” created through artificial insemination to keep their research going. He then pointed out that, clinically, he has long used the transplantation of stem cells obtained from the spinal cord to help treat certain cancer patients. The NTUH physician added that even though it’s still too early to know if researchers were able to “grow” organs or other body parts from the stem cells as some have predicted, current studies taking place in many countries around the world do look promising in terms of providing cures to many hard-to-treat diseases. Meanwhile, Tri Service General Hospital’s Dr. Lin Hsin-jung, Taiwan’s first physician to use stem cells harvested from human embryos for treatments on patients, yesterday said he and his team of experts have developed a way to grow stem cells in the lab. In addition, Lin revealed that, with a major breakthrough in the laboratory, he has begun to apply for approval from health authorities to test a new stem-cell treatment on patients suffering from a rare neurological disorder.