Prof. Alain Privat: iPS cells are “the future of modern medicine”

Publié le : 20 March 2013

 With the bill authorising research on the embryo due to be carefully studied in the National Assembly on 28 March, after its adoption by the Senate on 4 December last, Prof. Alain Privat, in an interview with the weekly magazine Famille Chrétienne, denounces the reasons behind the support for this bill and calls attention to the abuses that its adoption could lead to.

Questioned first of all on the reasons for this parliamentary debate when there is already the possibility of obtaining dispensations from the principle of a prohibition on research on the embryo, Prof. Alain Privat explains that "in France, the pharmaceutical industry and the pharmacological research laboratories are focussed on research into embryonic stem cells." With this bill, if it is approved, "the pharmaceutical industry thinks that it will be able to save several billion by dropping the costly stages such as tests on animal models." But, Prof. Privat points out, "an alternative to research on the human embryo" was found by Prof. Yamanaka who, in October 2012, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. This alternative is the use of iPS cells, adult cells which, when rejuvenated, recover the equivalent features of embryonic stem cells (ES). (Gènéthique press review from 8th to 12th of october 2012 and Gènéthique from 12th to 16th of November 2013)
Prof. Alain Privat also regrets that in France, "no measures have been adopted to encourage research in this area [on iPS cells]" whereas "in the United States, in Germany and the United Kingdom, it is highly encouraged because it is a very promising area." Thus, "the National Research Agency (ANR) has never issued an invitation to tender in France for iPS cells." Yet, he adds, "this would have enabled us to cut the costs considerably and to ensure that research on human embryonic stem cells was rendered obsolete."
The professor of neurobiology in Montpellier University and former unit director in Inserm, "compliance with this law will kill innovation". For, according to him, "this research on iPS cells will of course be financially more costly, but it will ultimately lead to targeted therapeutic solutions for each patient. This is the future of modern medicine".
If this law is voted through, its consequence will be the submission of "hundreds of requests to the Biomedicine Agency to freely obtain these embryos stored in the Cecos centres (Centre for the Study and Conservation of Human Ova and Sperm)." But this vote would lead to major ethical abuses: "we are moving towards the use of the embryo-as-medication. The embryo will be definitively regarded as a simple biological product and there will be a strong temptation to want to create chimeras or perfect individuals." Prof. Privat adds: "that is what we call eugenics." This "will also open the door to a choice of society where everything is for sale, including human beings."
On the margin of this interview, the weekly Famille Chrétienne mentions that the online petition of the Fondation Jérôme Lejeune "to protest against research on the embryo […] has already collected 40,000 signatures. It aims to mobilise people against the bill to be examined on 28 March in the Assembly."

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