Stem Cell Research


Three independent research groups have reported successful adult cell reversion to embryonic-like stem cells in mice. While this is yet to be tested in human adult cells, if it is equally successful there won’t be any need for embryonic stem cells. This has the potential to end the moral debate over stem cells.

Charles Krauthammer, a social conservative who is pro-abortion and pro-embryonic stem cell research, wrote an article today (1-12-07) in National Review titled “Bush’s Historic Veto.” It’s not the kind of article you would expect from someone I just described. I would suggest reading the whole thing, but I wanted to draw your attention to two sections: one bad, one good.

Krauthammer wrote, “I have long supported legal abortion. And I don’t believe that life — meaning the attributes and protections of personhood — begins at conception. Yet many secularly inclined people like me have great trepidation about the inherent dangers of wanton and unrestricted manipulation — to the point of dismemberment — of human embryos.”

 

I’m confused. How can someone who supports the idea that women have a right to dismember their unborn child through an abortion be morally concerned about doing the same to embryos? On the level of appearance and emotion, it would seem easier to stomach the dismemberment of days-old lab embryos (embryonic stem cell research) than it would weeks-old, or months-old embryos (abortion). The latter look and feel more human (even though both are fully human). So I’m not sure what to make of his logic.

 

Now for the good quote. Even though he supports embryonic stem cell research, he recognizes the moral implications involved, and admires the drawing of certain lines. He wrote:

 

You don’t need religion to tremble at the thought of unrestricted embryo research. You simply have to have a healthy respect for the human capacity for doing evil in pursuit of the good. Once we have taken the position of many stem-cell advocates that embryos are discardable tissue with no more intrinsic value than a hangnail or an appendix, then all barriers are down. What is to prevent us from producing not just tissues and organs, but human-like organisms for preservation as a source of future body parts on demand?

The slope is very slippery. Which is why, even though I disagreed with where the president drew the line — I would have permitted the use of fertility-clinic embryos that are discarded and going to die anyway — I applauded his insistence that some line must be drawn, that human embryos are not nothing, and that societal values, not just the scientific imperative, should determine how they are treated.

 

There’s a lot of truth and wisdom packed in those two paragraphs. Of course I have to wonder, given what Krauthammer just said, why he supports destructive embryonic research. Why does he think his line is better than Bush’s, particularly if he is interested in protecting the “intrinsic value” of human beings. Intrinsic value means that one’s value is not degreed, and it exists the very moment the thing in question exists. If humans have intrinsic value, then embryos—as humans—are just as valuable as Krauthammer himself. So why can they be killed in the lab, but his life should be protected? Again, the logic escapes me.

You won’t hear about this in the American mainstream media, so I’m bringing it to you live from my room in my pajamas!

 

While many scientists and the mainstream media are hyping embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), the fact of the matter is that embryonic stem cell research is entirely unproductive at this point. There are no human trials using ESCs, and no treatments/cures coming from ESCR. The same cannot be said of adult stem cell research (ASCR). There are hundreds of human trials, and approximately 75 treatments/cures.

 

In the past few weeks several new breakthroughs using ASCs have been announced:

 

  1. Australian researchers used patients’ own stem cells to treat heart failure.
  2. Researchers at Tulane University in New Orleans injected human ASCs into mice suffering from Type II Diabetes. The ASCs increased their insulin production and even repaired their damaged pancreas. The next step is human trials.
  3. Other researchers have turned umbilical cord stem cells into lung cells.
  4. Nature published research involving adult dog stem cells used to treat the dog version of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disease that affects human children. After a couple of treatments these severely disabled dogs were able to run faster and even jump. The researchers plan to use this technology to begin treating human children in the next year or two.
  5. Swiss scientists have grown heart valves using stem cells from amniotic fluid. The hope is to be able to use these to repair damaged hearts in newborn babies.
  6. University of London researchers restored vision in mice.

 

None of this progress can be credited to ESCR. Scientists who are making breakthroughs are using ASCs. Dr. Robert MacLaren of the University of London, who restored vision in mice using differentiated stem cells, went so far as to say, “We do not want embryonic stem cells because they are too undifferentiated.”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–> So much for all the hype about the promise of ESCR. The real promise lies in ASCs, and they’ve proven it. The score is about 75-0.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>


<!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>E.J. Mundell, “Cell Transplants Restore Vision in Mice”; available from http://health.msn.com/healthnews/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100148369&GT1=8717#; Internet; accessed 09 November 2006.

Australia’s Senate narrowly approved a bill Tuesday legalizing the cloning of embryos for destructive research. It still has to pass their House of Representatives before it becomes law, but it is fully expected to pass. The law would require that the cloned embryos be destroyed within 14 days of creation, and forbids inserting them into a woman’s womb for gestation.


What I find interesting is that it was only four years ago that Australia passed legislation allowing the use of “leftover embryos” for embryonic stem cell research. Our legislature passed a similar law this year (but it was vetoed by President Bush). During the debate we were assured that all Congress wanted was the ability to use leftover embryos, not clone embryos. I wouldn’t doubt that Australia said the same thing, but the fact of the matter is that biotechnology, when unchecked by morality, is a slippery slope. We have already seen biotech slide down the slope in Australia and other countries. In fact, we’re even seeing it in America. California, Missouri, and New Jersey have all passed laws allowing the cloning of embryos for destructive research. Don’t believe them when they say “we’ll only do X, not Y,” for tomorrow they will be wanting to do Y. Yesterday they didn’t want to clone embryos for research, today they do. Today they are saying they don’t want to gestate clones to birth, but already some scientists are saying that wouldn’t be so bad after all. As it’s been said, what was unthinkable yesterday is thinkable today, and commonplace tomorrow.

Here is a story you probably won’t hear about in the mainstream media (to my knowledge no mainstream U.S. British scientists from Newcastle University—in collaboration with U.S.
news media has even reported on it). scientists—have grown human liver tissue in the lab from umbilical cord blood stem cells (a moral source for stem cells).


 

It will still be about two years before the liver tissue can be used to test drugs, five years before the liver tissue can be implanted to repair minor damaged livers, 15 years before large portions of liver tissue could be implanted to repair major liver damage, and many more years before entire liver transplants will be possible. But this is far more advanced than anything embryonic stem cells have brought us. ESCs are as of yet uncontrollable. There are no human trials utilizing ESCs, and no treatments or cures resulting from ESCs. But you wouldn’t know the great scientific and medical advances using cord blood and adult stem cells, or the utter lack of scientific and medical advances using ESCs from listening to the mainstream media. You’ll only hear loud pronouncements of the promise of ESCR. Why is it “promising”? Because it’s not produced anything yet!

A group called Majority Action produced a commercial supporting embryonic stem cell research. It specifically targets U.S. Congressman Jim Walsh (NY). I have to admit that the commercial is an example of marketing genius, but it is very deceptive and employs very poor reasoning and tactics. Can you spot the incorrect facts? How about the poor tactics and reasoning?

Check out this link for the most amazing pics ever taken of a baby in the womb. The photographer is even able to get a close up pic of sperm “attacking” an egg.

http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/460863p-387629c.html

I never ceased to be amazed at all of the scientific inaccuracies and spin the mainstream media is responsible for when reporting on embryonic stem cell research and cloning (and to a lesser extent, abortion).

This morning I read an article on This Is London about English researchers who are seeking to clone human embryos using rabbit eggs rather than human eggs. If successful, the resulting embryo would be a chimera: part human, part non-human. In this case it would be 99.9% human, .1% rabbit.

Not to make light of the moral issues involved with creating chimeras, but I can’t help to laugh when I think about what would happen if one of these cloned embryos was allowed to be born (rather than killing it within 14 days). Can you imagine what little Johnny would say in his 4th grade class when he has to research and report on his genealogy: “I am part English, part Italian, and part rabbit. My mom is the Cadbury bunny, my grandpa is Peter Cottontail, and my great grandpa is the Easter Bunny!

Humor aside, while creating chimeras has been going on for some time now, I find it odd how cavalier the reporting on it is. It is reported on as if there are no qualms about joining human and animals together. Maybe it’s because there is usually so little animal DNA involved (or the converse). The scary thing is that eventually scientists will start mixing more and more genetic info together so that it will be difficult to distinguish whether the chimera is human, animal, or something else. Right now scientists are simply getting the public comfortable with the practice in principle. Then, they will use the boil-the-frog strategy in which they will gradually and incrementally increase the mixing of DNA until they are finally able to achieve the levels of genetic mixing they really desire. The process will be slow enough that we—like a frog—won’t realize we’re being boiled in a pot of water.

But I digress. The reason I bring this article to your attention is to highlight what the article did not say, and the spin on what they did say.

What they did not say is that what these scientists want to do is clone human beings. As a general rule scientists and the media go to great lengths to avoid the “C” word, even if it means being intellectually dishonest and redefining established scientific definitions. The author did admit that what is being produced is an embryo (which is more than American media will usually admit), but s/he would not say how that embryo is being produced. S/he leaves it as the vague “create embryos.”

The article ends with these words: “The embryos will be allowed to grow for only 14 days, at which point they will be cells smaller than a pinhead.” Apart from the fact that this sentence seems to stop short of an actual finish by failing to note that they will be killed by the 14th day, and apart from the fact that this is a strange way to end an article, what is said is a common liberal tactic to devalue the life of that which they advocate killing. Why else comment on the size of the embryo? The presupposition is that since they are so small, they do not have value. How being small deprives one of value is never explained or defended. It is merely assumed, and merely asserted. The next time you hear somebody repeat this line, a good question to ask them is Exactly what size does one have to be before they become valuable and obtain the right to life? Chirp chirp chirp chirp.

Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures (MCSCRC), a cloning and embryonic stem cell research advocacy group, uses misinformation to persuade the Michigan public towards their agenda. For example, on their FAQ page for somatic cell nuclear transfer they responded as follows to the question, “What is somatic cell nuclear transfer?”:

 

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a laboratory procedure that creates embryos for use in stem cell research; sometimes referred to as “therapeutic cloning.” In SCNT, nuclear transfer is used for medical treatment or research. For example, nuclear transfer could be used to create a line of embryonic stem cells genetically identical to the donor. These embryonic stem cells could then be used to generate specialized cells that are transplanted into the patient to replace cells lost to injury or disease. When used in a medical treatment, this would ensure that the new cells would not face rejection by the patient’s immune system. Nuclear transfer also gives researchers the ability to create stem cell lines that carry genetic defects that cause inherited human diseases, allowing them to study the origin of these diseases and potentially to develop new treatments.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>

This is simply not true. SCNT is a laboratory procedure that creates human embryos, period. What scientists intend to do with the embryos created by SCNT is irrelevant. The MCSCRC is illegitimately incorporating scientists’ intentions into the definition of SCNT itself.

 

They are a little more honest when answering the question, “How does SCNT work?”

 

SCNT substitutes the nucleus of a somatic cell (which contains all the genetic information of the patient) for the nucleus of a donated egg that has not been fertilized. In cell culture, this customized egg is then coaxed with an electronic or chemical catalyst to develop into a zygote as if it had been fertilized. The zygote begins cell division and develops into a ball of cells called the morula and then into the blastocyst at approximately five days. The inner cell mass of the blastocyst is then removed to generate a pluripotent stem cell line. After the inner cell mass is removed, the blastocyst is no longer capable of further development.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[2]<!–[endif]–>

At least they indicate what the product is (zygote). Unfortunately, most people will not know what that is. And rather than calling it an embryo after the one-cell stage, they refer to it as a morula. It appears that they are trying to avoid the word “human” and “embryo” at all costs.

 

And don’t miss the euphemism for killing: “no longer capable of further development.”

 

The most disingenuous quote is when answering the question, “Can SCNT be used to clone humans?” They answer:

 

No. The purpose of SCNT is to find cures and therapies to treat human disease. SCNT awakens the natural capacity for self-repair that resides in a person’s genes. While SCNT has been the technique used to clone animals like “Dolly” the sheep, there is no evidence that it could also successfully clone a human due to the increased complexity of the human organism. The overwhelming consensus of the scientific and medical communities in the United States is that human reproductive cloning should be banned.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[3]<!–[endif]–>

What a mess of a statement! In one sense they are right. Current technology has not advanced to the point where a human has been successfully cloned, but people all over the world are trying to do this very thing! But they contradict themselves. They say SCNT can’t be used to clone humans, and yet they say cloning humans should be banned. Why do so if SCNT is incapable of doing so? Obviously it can.

 

To say the purpose of SCNT is to find cures is absolutely false. The purpose of SCNT is to create new human beings asexually. What the creator of those human beings does with them afterwards is irrelevant to what the purpose of SCNT is in itself.

 

On their “Facts & Myth page” they answer the supposed myth that “cloning is cloning is cloning. It’s all the same.”

 

FACT: Not all cloning is the same. According to the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), scientists do many kinds of cloning every day, most of which is commonly accepted. Cloning has allowed scientists to develop powerful new drugs and to produce insulin and useful bacteria in the lab. It also allows researchers to track the origins of biological weapons, catch criminals, and free innocent people. There’s a world of difference between reproductive cloning- something that should be banned right away – and therapeutic cloning, also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Therapeutic cloning is the transplanting of a patient’s own DNA into an unfertilized egg in order to grow stem cells that could cure devastating diseases. Reproductive cloning is the use of cloning technology to create a child. GPI, along with leading scientists and most Americans, oppose reproductive cloning.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[4]<!–[endif]–>

What exactly is the “world of difference” between reproductive and therapeutic cloning? There is none! It’s the same process, the same result. The only difference is what the scientist does with the clone once SCNT is complete.

 

They go on to tackle this supposed myth: “Therapeutic cloning is a slippery slope that leads to reproductive cloning. There is no dividing line between the two forms of cloning.”

FACT: Therapeutic cloning produces stem cells, not babies. With therapeutic cloning, there is no fertilization of the egg by sperm, no implantation in the uterus and no pregnancy. Dr. Harold Varmus, the former head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a Nobel laureate, says there is a profound distinction between cloning with the intent of making a human being and research cloning to help understand and treat life-threatening diseases and conditions. Implantation into a womb is the clear, bright line that divides reproductive and non-reproductive technologies. Without implantation, no new human life is possible. This is where society can and must draw the line.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[5]<!–[endif]–>

This is laughable! There are so many word games being played here I don’t know where to begin. The MCSCRC recognizes that most people use “baby” to refer to a post-natal human being. By choosing to use that word they can say cloning does not produce babies. But they know that’s now what people are concerned with. People are concerned that cloning produces a new human being. And they should be because it does! Besides, therapeutic cloning does not produce stem cells. It produces human zygotes who begin to develop in the same way every one of us developed at that stage in our lives.

 

The fact that there is no fertilization involved in cloning (by definition) is irrelevant. Both fertilization and cloning produce the exact same product: a human zygote. The fact that scientists fail to implant the clone into a uterus does not change what it is. And to say “without implantation no new human life is possible” is simply false. Obviously the embryo from which the scientists are extracting stem cells are alive, and their genetic signature identifies them as human. In fact, that’s why scientists are interested in their stem cells.

 

 

 

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>1<!–[endif]–>Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/faq-somatic.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.

2Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/faq-somatic.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.

3Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/faq-somatic.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.

4Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/factsmyths.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.

5Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/factsmyths.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.


<!–[endif]–>

Jean Peduzzi-Nelson, associate professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology at Detroit’s Wayne State University School of Medicine, wrote an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (posted online 9-02-06) about the current state of stem cell research. She explored the common arguments for the superiority of embryonic over adult stem cells, and found each lacking in practical or rational force.

 

Peduzzi-Nelson argues that adult stem cells are not only the only source of fruitful stem cell research at this point in time, but that the successes in adult stem cell research may obviate the practical need for embryonic stem cells. While the entire article is worth the read, one portion in particular is worth quoting here. Regarding the potential of embryonic stem cells to form into any one of the body’s 200+ cells Peduzzi-Nelson writes, “The ‘potential of embryonic stem cells to possibly form every cell type’ in the body is amazing but is of little clinical relevance. As long as a stem/progenitor cell is capable of forming the cell types needed for a particular injury or disease, the capability to form every cell type is a moot point.”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–> In other words, so long as adult stem cells are able to form the cells we need to treat/cure disease, it is irrelevant how many other types of cells an embryonic stem cell might be able to create. What is needed are useful cells, not unuseful cells.

 

And by the way, the reason scientists say embryonic stem cells have the potential to morph into any of the body’s more than 200 cell types is because scientists have not been able to coax embryonic stem cells into doing so. While stem cells do so naturally in the normal development process, scientists have not yet discovered how to replicate the process in the lab.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>


<!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>Jean Peduzzi-Nelson, “Adult cells are behind much of stem cell success so far”; available from http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=489953; Internet; accessed 25 September 2006.

 

 

Congressman Meisner from the state of Michigan introduced House Bill 4900 to amend sections of the public health code dealing with embryonic stem cell research (http://www.rtl.org/html/legislation/prolifeleg/pdf/EthicsTechnology/1998-SB864.pdf). It is being sold by Rep. Andy Meisner as a bill that will both permit embryonic stem cell research and prohibit human cloning. As with the Missouri and federal proposals, this bill legalizes human cloning while pretending to ban it.

 

It is similar to the other bills in that it:

 

  1. Avoids using the word “embryo” as much as possible (the MI law currently contains the word, but Meisner’s bill proposes to replace all but one occurrence with “fetus”)
  2. Prohibits human cloning by falsely defining human cloning as implanting a cloned embryo in a womb to gestate through birth.

 

Regarding the second, the bill boldly states, “A licensee or registrant shall not engage in or attempt to engage in human cloning.” Sounds good! I guess this means MI will not engage in research involving cloned embryos. But wait! That would be the proper conclusion if words meant something, but in the Meisner bill words don’t mean anything at all. Words mean whatever Meisner says they mean. He defines human cloning, not scientifically as the asexual creation of a human zygote through somatic cell nuclear transfer, but rather as “creating or attempting to create a human being by using the somatic cell nuclear transfer procedure for the purpose of, or to implant, the resulting product to initiate a pregnancy that could result in the birth of a human being.”

 

As with the other bills, Meisner’s bill claims to ban human cloning by redefining the term. Rather than defining “human cloning” in terms of the process involved, and the resultant product of that process, Meisner defines human cloning in terms of what a scientist purposes its creation for. If you use somatic cell nuclear transfer to create a human being for the purpose of implanting it in a womb and gestating it through birth, that is considered “human cloning” and is illegal. What about using somatic cell nuclear transfer to create a human being asexually for the purpose of destructive research? According to Meisner that is not cloning. Why? Is it a different process from the one he described? No. Was the product of that process different? No. So why is one considered human cloning and the other not? Because Meisner says so!

The fact of the matter is that what one purposes to do with the product of “somatic cell nuclear transfer” does not make it, or fail to make it a clone. A clone is a clone regardless of what we do with it. Intentions do not create reality. Reality is what it is apart from what we purpose. The fact of the matter is that the act of cloning is complete at somatic cell nuclear transfer. What one decides to do with the clone (gestate it through birth, kill it for research) subsequent to the act of cloning does not change the fact that the entity itself is a human clone. But that doesn’t matter to those like Meisner. It’s much more convenient to just define cloning in such a way that it has nothing to do with cloning, ban the pseudo-form of cloning, and then go on about your cloning business all the while affirming your opposition to cloning! Wouldn’t it be funny if someone stole Meisner’s car, get apprehended, and then tell Mr. Meisner that they did not “steal” his car because they did not intend to sell it. When Meisner protests they can explain to him that “theft is the taking of someone else’s property without their permission for the purpose of selling it.” Since they had no intentions of selling it, it is not stealing. I don’t think Meisner would be persuaded. Neither should we be persuaded by his disingenuous bill.

 

Since this bill is the amending of an existing law it is important to look at what Meisner wants to take out. The law currently reads: “A person shall not use a live human embryo or neonate for nontherapeutic research….” Meisner proposes to delete “human embryo” and insert “fetus” in its place. It’s obvious why he wants to swap “fetus” for “embryo.” It’s hard to justify killing embryos when the law says you can’t. By changing the language to “fetus,” experimenting on humans up to 8 weeks old becomes legally justifiable.

 

But what about the deletion of “human”? Why delete that word? Is a fetus not human? Yes it is. Is it scientifically inaccurate to call it human? No it’s not. Then why delete the word? It is being deleted for political purposes, not clarity or scientific accuracy.

 

Thankfully the Michigan congress is controlled by pro-life Republicans, so currently the bill is going nowhere. Let’s pray it stays that way.

This is one month old news now, but I’m sure some of you heard about a new technique created by Advanced Cell Technology that allows researchers to extract a single cell from an embryo, and successfully grow a stem cell line without killing the embryo. The news story appeared on the front page of the nation’s most prestigious news papers. What didn’t appear on the front page, however, was the fact that hardly a lick of it was true. The vice-president of the company, and its chief ethicist lied on several occassions about what they did and did not do.

 

Check out two articles by Wesley J. Smith, lawyer and bioethicist, regarding this scam (here and here). It is really sad how corrupt and politicized science has become. They have a political agenda, and will stop at nothing–including outright deception–to accomplish it.

 

And for the fun of it, watch pro-life Catholic, Richard Doerflinger, confront ACT vice-president, Robert Lanza about his misrepresentations of his company’s research. He squirms, he evades, and tries to change the subject to put Doerflinger’s personal views about embryonic stem cell research in general on trial.

 

The mainstream media is on a roll. First CNN Money reported on the fact that adult stem cell research is more advanced and useful than embryonic stem cell research, and that this is not about to change anytime soon. Now the New York Times has does the same.

 

In the August 14th edition Nicholas Wade wrote an article entitled “Some Scientists See Shift in Stem Cell Hopes.” The most significant excerpts as follows:

 

Many researchers now see human embryonic stem cells as part of a long-term research program, with any sort of cell therapy being at least 5 or 10 years off.

That projection shows a gap between scientists’ views and those of the public and of people for whom the overriding purpose of research with human embryonic stem cells is to generate cells that can restore damaged tissues.

Thomas M. Jessell, a neurobiologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said that he hoped to see the research generate new drugs for neurodegenerative diseases within the next five years but that it could be a long time before rational cell-based therapies are effective.

“Many of us feel that for the next few years the most rational way forward is not to try to push cell therapies,” Dr. Jessell said.

Stem cell scientists interviewed for the article are saying that the only short-term benefit embryonic stem cell research might yield is a better understanding of what causes certain diseases.

 

Many researchers have come to see the primary benefit of human embryonic stem cells as models for human disease. The idea is to take a cell from a patient, convert it to embryonic form, and then make the embryonic cell mature into the type that goes awry in the patient’s disease, whether it be a dopamine-producing cell for Parkinson’s disease or an insulin-making cell for diabetes.

Somewhere down this developmental path, the basic cause of the disease may emerge, and be available for study in a dish of cells. The diseased cells should also provide an excellent means of screening thousands of chemicals for new drugs.

“Stem cell biology is just a rubric that applies to many things going on in biology,” said John D. Gearhart, a Johns Hopkins University stem cell expert. “I personally feel that the beauty of these cells is that we’ll learn a lot about human biology and disease processes, and that that information will be more important than the cells themselves.”

Oh how stem cell researchers are singing a different tune after they have received all sorts of federal and state money to perform such research. Prior to the money being given they promised the world. After receiving the money they are trying to manage people’s misinformed expectations.

Scott Klusendorf of Life Training Institute has written a succinct and powerful polemic on why the public—both conservative and liberal—ought to oppose embryonic stem cell research. I think it is a valuable read. Here it is:

Let me be clear: I fully support ethical stem cell research. But I’m opposed to one type of stem cell research that involves destroying human embryos for medical research.

Supporters of Destructive embryo research want to force the taxpayers of America to pay billions of dollars funding highly speculative research that the government, already in financial ruin, cannot afford. Senior citizens are having their services cut; schools are closing; roads are left in disrepair; children’s health care needs are not met—and we’re supposed to go deeper into debt by passing legislation that would force us to pay for speculative embryo research for years to come? To date, treatments using embryo cells have yet to cure one person of any illness. Not one! Meanwhile, ethical alternatives using adult stem cells are currently treating over 70 known diseases.

Sadly, those supporting destructive embryo research believe that human beings that are in the wrong location or have the wrong level of development do not deserve the protection of law. They assert, without justification, the belief that strong and independent humans deserve basic human rights while small and dependent ones do not. This view is elitist and exclusive. It violates the principle that once made political liberalism great: our basic commitment to protect the most vulnerable members of the human community. We can do better than that. In the past, we used to discriminate on the basis of skin color and gender, but now, with elective abortion, we discriminate on the basis of size, level of development, location, and degree of dependency. We’ve simply swapped one form of bigotry for another. In sharp contrast, the position I defend is that no human being regardless of size, level of development, race, gender, or place of residence, should be excluded from the human family. In other words, my view of humanity is inclusive, indeed wide open, to all, especially those that are small, vulnerable, and defenseless.

As at least one columnist has said, “Given a choice between a therapy that happens to be lethal for human subjects and one that is not, wouldn’t we be inclined to favor the therapy that is not lethal? Wouldn’t that be even more the case if that non-lethal therapy turns out to be vastly more promising, and far less speculative, than the lethal therapy?” Stem cells drawn from adults have already yielded some striking achievements, and they do not require the killing of the human being from whom they are drawn. The extraction of stem cells from human embryos does, however, result in the destruction of defenseless human beings.

Therefore, I cannot support embryo research without violating the very principle that made the Democratic Party great in the first place–namely, our party’s concern for the weak and vulnerable. At the same time, people with illnesses deserve real cures, not false promises from politicians. You have my word: I pledge to campaign for maximum government support to find those cures, ethically.

http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2006/08/progressive-case-agaisnt-escr-sk.html

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) have long pointed out that adult stem cell research (ASCR) is far more advanced than embryonic stem cell research. Adult stem cells are being used in hundreds of human clinical trials, and are currently responsible for 72 treatments. How does ESCR measure up? Currently there are no human ESCR clinical trials, and no ESC treatments. Generally speaking the mainstream media is mum on the existence of ASCR, yet alone the advances of ASCR. Once in a while, however, you will get a mainstream news organization to do some honest reporting on the status of the research. On August 9, 2006 CNN Money did just that.

 

As the financial wing of CNN, the online article focused on investments. If one wants to invest in stem cell research, where should they put their money? In no uncertain terms CNN staff writer, Aaron Smith, suggests betting on ASCR. Here are some important excerpts of the article:

 

Embryonic stem cells might hold the secrets to curing paralysis and brain damage, but they’ve also garnered plenty of controversy with the anti-abortion lobby because they’re harvested from embryos. However, work using adult stem cells – which are donated by grown men and women – is not only free of such controversy, it’s actually much closer to getting effective products on the market.

The adult stem cell research at several biotech outfits in particular – Osiris, Cytori, Aastrom – is worth keeping an eye on according to analysts. “From a Wall Street perspective, adult stem cells are a much better investment,” said Stephen Dunn of Dawson James Securities. “These are the guys who are going to be in the news in 2007 and 2008.”

“Embryonic stem cell research hasn’t kept up pace with adult stem cell research,” said Dunn. “Adult stem cell research is advancing so far you might not need embryonic stem cells. If the federal government is reluctant to put their money into it, then Wall Street is as well.”

So while embryonic stem cell researchers are experimenting with rats, adult stem cell researchers have moved on to more advanced tests with humans. The embryonic-based stem cell treatments are probably a decade away, but the U.S. market could see its first adult-based stem cell treatments within the next couple of years.

Did you hear that? Treatments using ESCs are a decade away (and this is a conservative number), but not so with ASCs. ESCR is being left in the dust. Remind me again why it is that biotech industries, state governments, our federal government, and the media are pushing for a form of research that is morally problematic, likely unnecessary, and not fruitful when we have a form of research that is morally acceptable and fruitful?

Japanese researchers have been able to revert adult mouse stem cells into an embryonic-like state according to the online article from the journal, Cell. If this same technology can be used on adult stem cells we will be able to obtain all the benefits of embryonic stem cell research without the moral problems associated with it. Of course, should we be able to do so I can guarantee you biotech industries will still be pushing for cloning and the destruction of human embryos. See this article that explains why.

Sue O’Shea, the director of Michigan Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, spoke at a luncheon hosted by U.S. Congressman Sander Levin (D) and Michigan state Congressman Andy Meisner (D) on August 1, 2006. According to Martha Wood’s report in The Observer, “O’Shea said researchers only want to be able to clone organs to replace malfunctioning ones, which would reduce or abolish the need for transplants.” Assuming Wood’s has accurately reported what O’Shea said, this is nothing short of organ farming! To date stem cells cannot be used to form organs. Certain types of stem cells can only be used to repair existing organs. To do what O’Shea is suggesting we would have to create embryos, gestate them for at least 8-12 weeks, and then remove their organs killing them in the process.

 

I have blogged on this before. Fetal farming is where biotech is headed. We can stop it now by battling the issue in the market place of ideas before we find ourselves battling it in labs, legislatures, and courthouses.


The UK’s Daily Mail reports on a new beauty trend hitting the world stage: injecting the stem cells of aborted fetuses to reverse the effects of aging. My trying to describe the contents of this article would not do it justice. It is sickening. Read it for yourself.

Robert P. George (law professor at Princeton and member of the President’s Council on Bioethics) and Eric Cohen wrote a terrific piece in National Review about the politicization of the stem cell controversy. They discuss a couple of important votes that took place in the U.S. Legislature in late July regarding bills that would fund stem cell research. A bill supporting the federal funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research was passed by both houses of Congress, but vetoed by President Bush. As important as that is, George and Cohen focused on another bill that did not pass both houses of Congress. This second bill would have funded alternative forms of creating embryonic-like stem cells. While the Senate approved it unanimously, and the House approved it with a majority, key supporters of the destructive embryonic stem cell research bill pulled some shenanigans to kill the bill in the House.

 

This is important because one of the mantras the pro-embryonic stem cell research crowd repeats over and over again is that Bush is anti-science, and not interested in finding cures. And yet here is an example where embryonic stem cell research supporters had a chance to federally fund stem cell research that is currently more fruitful and more promising than embryonic stem cell research, but refused to do so. As George and Cohen wrote:

 

 

Some opponents of the Bush stem-cell policy have argued that we should support any and all stem-cell research, and not limit any particular type, so that science can advance on all fronts at once. The president has argued that we should support all ethical stem-cell research, so we may advance medical science while always respecting human dignity and protecting human life.

 

But those members of the House who voted against the Specter-Santorum bill did not choose all effective avenues of science or all ethical avenues of science. Instead, they would support only ethically controversial stem-cell research. They would support the research only if it involves the destruction of embryos. Otherwise, they are not interested.

 

That is not a position for the advancement of science on all fronts, but for keeping a political issue alive even as science advances and leaves it behind. It is hard to imagine a more blatant example of political cynicism overpowering a constructive solution. As the president put it: “It makes no sense to say that you’re in favor of finding cures for terrible diseases as quickly as possible, and then block a bill that would authorize funding for promising and ethical stem cell research.”

 


It is not Bush who is anti-science, or holding up potential cures. It is a group of Congressman and the lobbyists who support them. It is they, not Bush, who is putting ideology ahead of cures.

Below you will find several posts evaluating the claims made by advocates of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). I never cease to be amazed at the blatant misinformation being given to the public in this area. Unfortunately it can’t be blamed on ignorance, because many of those who are supplying it are medical professionals such as William Neaves. These posts will quote the individual, and then offer a biological and logical critique.

 


 

 

In the May 5, 2004 publication of the St. Louis Post Dispatch retired Senator Jack Danforth wrote:

 

The proposal to criminalize cell regeneration research calls for a choice between two understandings of human life. On one hand, we have the millions of people who suffer from ALS, Alzheimer’s, juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries and cancer – and the loved ones who care for them and suffer by their sides. On the other hand, we have tiny bundles of unfertilized cells existing in Petri dishes. Supporters of the legislation should explain to the afflicted and their loved ones why they care more about those cell bundles than they do about the people.

 

As with many in the pro-ESCR camp Danforth claims embryos have no value because they are “tiny.” What does their size have to do with it? Does the fact that we are large bundles of cells make us more valuable? Clearly not! Size is not morally relevant.

 

He is simply wrong to say we have “tiny bundles of unfertilized cells existing in Petri dishes.” They are embryos. Since at this point in time no one has been able to clone a human embryo, the only way embryonic stem cells can exist in a Petri dish is if they were extracted from a fertilized embryo. Even if these embryos were not produced by fertilization because they were cloned, the fact would remain that the product is the same: a human embryo. Either Danforth is biologically ignorant, or purposely deceptive. He is splitting hairs for political purposes. His statement makes as much sense as saying “If you were not delivered in a hospital you were not born.” In the same way that the location of your birth does not determine if you were born, the means by which you came into existence (fertilization, cloning) does not determine your status as a valuable human being.

 

Last but not least, Danforth committed the same error committed by William Neaves, Robert Bailey, and others, when he refers to embryos as a bundle of cells. They are no mere bundle of cells, but a whole human organism actively directing its own growth towards maturation according to its own kind.

« Previous PageNext Page »