Using Stem Cells from Embryos Will Make Human Flesh Profitable.

Unless there is a scientific discovery that removes the perceived need for embryonic stem cells, the debate over their use in research is not going away any time soon. Even though the Bush administration is poised to make a decision on federal funding of this research, it stands to reason that embryo research will, like abortion, be the next interminable controversy, albeit along very different battle lines–lines where economics is the unifying force for immoral policy.

It has been two and a half years since stem cells were first isolated and grown from human embryos by James A. Thompson of the University of Wisconsin and John D. Gearhart of Johns Hopkins University. In that time the United States has failed to resolve the fight over federal funding of the research. In Germany, a nation that is usually one of the strongest in Europe in defending human dignity, some politicians have begun to show weakness when the promises of stem cells are dangled before them.

In the United States the debate has been getting emotional. Patients-advocacy groups have been trotting out on the public stage people who suffer from some of the terrible ailments that stem cell research is promising to address. Hollywood celebrities such as Christopher Reeve (most famous for his portrayal of Superman) who has a broken spine from a equestrian accident, Michael J. Fox who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and Mary Tyler Moore who is a diabetic, are testifying before Congress and lobbying the public in support of destructive human embryo research using their . Mr. Reeve and Mr. Fox are putting personal fortunes and their celebrity fundraising power into foundations which help to underwrite their cause. All this while they play on the favor of fans.

For those who support all types of stem cell research, the goal is simple. Open up every possible door of research in hopes of finding a cure for otherwise incurable conditions. It is a noble goal…a loving goal. But it is one that is fraught with danger.

For those unfamiliar with stem cell research, stem cells are “precursor” cells, less-specialized cells which give rise to the more specialized cells of the body such as brain, blood, skin, etc. There are two types of stem cells, typically referred to as “embryonic” and “adult.” Embryonic stem cells come from embryos in the first few days after fertilization and are the least specialized stem cells. The cells are extracted from the embryo’s inner mass, destroying the embryo in the process. Scientists hope to learn how to steer these cells to become the specific specialized cells a particular patient might need.

There are many obstacles which lie in the path of getting these cells to work. Scientists must learn how to steer them properly, keeping them from “overgrowing” and turning into a cancer, and prevent possible immune rejection if the cells come from an embryo with a different genetic makeup. The last of these problems is one reason why Britain has moved to allow “therapeutic” cloning (cloning with the intention of destroying the resulting embryo for “therapeutic” use) and some in the United States only want to ban “reproductive” cloning (cloning with the intention of bringing a cloned baby to term). If using stem cells from embryos becomes a reality, a patient might clone himself to obtain the stem cells for implantation and thereby avoid tissue rejection. Yet, the question remains, how many patients might be willing to kill their twin to achieve their medical miracle?

In contrast to embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells are more specialized and give rise to the cells that do the everyday work of life. In contrast what their name implies, adult stem cells are not only found in adults, but in everyone from the youngest child to the eldest senior. When first isolated, it was believed that adult stem cells could not change to be different types of cells and tissues. However, adult stem cells have been found to be very malleable. They have been able to change from brain cells to blood cells, and from blood cells to muscle, nerve, or liver cells. In addition, adult stem cells have proven much more effective for medical treatment than embryonic cells. Several adult stem cell therapies are in clinical trials in the United States, while no clinical trials using embryonic cells have been introduced.

One of the primary arguments for doing research on embryonic cells is that adult stem cells have not been isolated in every type of tissue. If adult cells cannot be identified in all types of tissue, it would seem necessary to use embryonic cells that theoretically have the capacity to become any type of tissue. This argument seems premature at best given that research is continually identifying new adult stem cell types (one of the latest being in fat) and discovering new ways to manipulate the cells. In addition, PPL Therapeutics, the firm that produced the sheep clone Dolly, has indicated a breakthrough in the stem cell research field–the ability to turn ordinary cells into adult stem cells. Many in the research community are waiting in anticipation for PPL’s release of data, which will likely happen once they receive a patent on their discovery. Kevin Fitzgerald, a cancer researcher with Georgetown University in Washington, DC, says that if true, this discovery alone could end the need to pursue embryonic stem cells altogether.

But until a scientific white knight arrives, this debate will continue. And, unfortunately for the public trying to understand the issues, the frequent references to abortion in public debate on stem cell research is misleading. Other than the fact that human life ends in both cases, there are many other differences that should be considered when evaluating the issue.

No one except extreme reproductive rights activists are happy that abortion takes place. It is usually viewed in society as a necessary evil. Surveys in the United States reveal that about 70% of the public believe that abortion is the killing of a human being while a similar percentage believes it also ought to be legal. One reason for the seeming contradiction is a belief that the mother has right to autonomy over her own body (the right to do what she thinks is best for herself). In the conflict of rights between child and mother, the mother wins.

Unless scientists have developed some sort of “right to research” or patients have developed a “right to be cured,” there is no conflict of rights between embryos and anyone else. The determination of whether research on embryos or embryo parts should be legal should rest on our understanding of human life, human dignity, and what protections human beings should receive rather than from any perceived benefit dependent upon the abuse of human life.

When a woman has an abortion, she does not gain anything of benefit. Other than in cases of fetal abnormality, abortion is usually an attempt to restore the mother’s life and body back to the point prior to pregnancy. No woman gets pregnant so she has the opportunity to get an abortion. Regardless of the perceived rightness or wrongness of abortion, the practice does not turn human life into a commodity.

On the other hand, embryonic stem cell research provides gain, both to the researcher as well as, potentially, the patient. Through this research, human life is destroyed for its parts, which can then be bought and sold as a therapeutic agent. The world recoils in disgust at the global black market in human organs. Recent Congressional testimony reports that the Chinese government is participating in this trade by selling the organs of prisoners. This disgust is appropriate because the commodification of human beings, beginning with the small, weak, or defenseless, is not only immoral, but threatens us all. If democratic, capitalist societies allow living human parts to become a commodity, how long before those who stand to make a profit from such sales begin pushing for laws to expand the definition of what human flesh can be traded?

The Germans debate on this issue is helpful to analyze. Ever since the fall of the Third Reich, Germany has been a stalwart upholder of human rights, remaining quite conservative on issues while much of Europe begins legalizing all sorts of inhumane activities. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, president of Deutche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the central public funding organization for academic research in Germany, said in a recent interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “We don’t want to work with embryos that have been produced for research purposes” because of the problem of turning human beings into a commodity. Mr. Winnacker misses the point that any research on embryos, and the therapies which may result, require their destruction and turn human life into a commodity because monetary value is now found in the living parts of human beings. This is not only true of embryos. For most people, their individual organs are worth more on the black market than the value of their life insurance plan.

It should be said that doing research on embryonic parts is good science. But so is taking random people in the population, giving them a deadly disease, and watching the progression. There are certain things we just don’t do because they undermine our society and assault our humanity. During the annual “Berlin Speech” on May 18th, German President Johannes Rau spoke ardently in defense of human dignity and against the subjection of human life to economic interests saying, “Surely we can agree that an ethically unjustifiable act does not become allowable simply by promising economic benefit.” If economics begin determining our ethics, if money is our ruler for how we treat our neighbor, we will slowly begin to cannibalize ourselves. The only protection from harm will become wealth and power.

The potential for economic benefit has become the impetus for building coalitions that are defying ideological divisions and party politics. Free-market capitalists and investors have joined with patient advocates and scientists to favor an unrestrained biotech future. The recent German Parliament debate on bioethics is just one illustration of the political upheaval that biotechnology is generating. Many worry about being left behind in the biotechnological revolution. But willingness to make economic criteria primary in social ethics, as German Chancellor Gerard Schroder recently suggested, undermines the very social structures that support that economic system.

The legalization of abortion has caused many social problems of its own. But those problems are fundamentally different and pale in significance to the risk society takes when humanity becomes an object of trade and our moral foundation become a product subject to market forces. The current debate should focus on how to lead the world away from this cesspool of depravity rather than joining in and grasp for profits. Contrary to popular opinion in the west, there are some things money cannot buy.

Stem Cells & Our Moral Culture.

In the midst of the debate over using embryonic stem cells in research, a more fundamental issue has often been overlooked. It is a reality that will not only affect the outcome of this debate, but of numerous moral quandaries in the days ahead. It is the issue of our moral culture–that is, how we think about and seek to resolve moral issues. Our moral culture is ultimately more significant than is a given moral issue because it directly influences the decisions that are made regarding all such issues. It serves as the lens through which we understand much of life and our sense of goodness, justice and the morally right. It impacts not only individuals’ thinking, but the larger cultural ethos and its perspectives on a myriad of moral issues.

If we listen closely to the moral discourse arguing that embryonic stem cells should be employed in medical research, we get a glimpse into the prevailing moral culture of our time. At its heart is a utilitarian calculus, combined with an unlimited emphasis on the virtue of compassion and undergirded by a worldview of what we might call “spiritualistic naturalism.”

Utilitarian Calculus

In addition to being a conscious commitment of certain ethicists, utilitarianism is also a subconscious commitment of the masses and a powerful moral impetus that will likely shape thinking and action for years to come. Utilitarianism emerged in the nineteenth century as an attempt to establish the field of ethics as a scientific exercise distinct from religion or any worldview commitments. Contrasting their ethical system with the prevailing “principle ethics” of the day, people like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill argued that the foundation for ethics was consequences of a particular kind: namely, the greatest good (defined as happiness or pleasure) for the greatest number of people. In this formulation, ethics could actually be quantified and freed from dependence on any prior commitment to ethical norms (such as love, justice, or human dignity) or metaphysical outlooks, including religious ones. Here was an ethic for the entire society that could unite all peoples, whatever their religious or worldview commitments.

When we look at the arguments supporting the use of embryonic stem cells, they invariably incorporate utilitarian sentiments. Using both sophisticated and populist argumentation, proponents contend that the end result of sacrificing embryos to harvest their stem cells would be so overwhelmingly positive for a large number of suffering people that it must be the right thing to do. The moral calculus points to the alleged potential good of treating or healing illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or diabetes. According to a commonly-heard argument, without the use of embryonic stem cells critical research cannot move forward, and the amelioration of human suffering and the saving of lives will be thwarted. The end goal of healing justifies the destruction of human embryos to procure stem cells. Healing is regarded as the “greatest good” which will usher in the most happiness or pleasure for the greatest number of people. Therefore, it should be pursued at the expense of embryonic life.

At the popular level the utilitarian argument is evident in the following statement by a 41-year-old man who has fought diabetes for 23 years: “It seems to me that it’s an easy choice to make–take a shot at saving lives and making life easier for people” (Associated Press, 7-11-01) The utilitarian calculus is at the heart of a letter from the Association of American Medical Colleges to President Bush. While acknowledging that some people consider embryonic stem cell research to be wrong because of the ethical issues it raises, the AAMC states, “We are persuaded otherwise by what we believe is an equally compelling ethical consideration, namely that it would be tragic to waste the unique potential afforded by embryonic stem cells, destined to be discarded in any case, to alleviate human suffering and enhance the quality of life” (http://www.aamc.org/research/stemcell, 5-10-01).

Utilitarianism, however, has always faced some critical problems and objections. First, it is not at all evident why human happiness or pleasure for the greatest number of people should be regarded as the defining end of moral action. Utilitarianism purports to rely upon an amoral criterion in weighing the consequences of human action, but happiness is hardly an amoral criterion. Second, this approach to ethics argues that the sought end (happiness or pleasure for the greatest number of people) justifies the means of achieving that end. The problem with this is that some means to obtaining this goal are clearly morally suspect. In the late 18th century, Thomas Malthus justified the dying off of large numbers of poor and hungry people for the good end of curbing population growth. Utilitarians assume that no means are problematic as long as the end result justifies them. And third, utilitarianism has to make some difficult factual judgments when it comes to calculating the greatest good for the greatest number. It assumes an objectivity in making this assessment. With regard to embryonic stem cell research, it assumes that embryonic stem cells will prove to have significant therapeutic value; however, this is still only a projection (though not without some warrant given the animal research done thus far). Also of interest is the fact that proponents tend to downplay the potential of adult stem cells, which have already proven to be therapeutic in clinical trials. This should tell us something about the objectivity (or lack thereof) of weighing consequences.

The Virtue of Compassion

The second major approach to defending the use of human embryos for harvesting stem cells extols the virtue of compassion. Virtue ethics tends to focus less on moral actions and more on internal moral dispositions or character, from which actions naturally flow. For a number of ethical issues today (e.g., abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and homosexuality), compassion as a virtue has become the moral trump card. It is heralded as the virtue above all virtues, for to subjugate compassion to any other moral claim is to exhibit an insensitivity toward and a lack of empathy for others.

With regard to embryonic stem cell research, the public campaign for federal funding was carried primarily by actors such as Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox, who utilized media blitzes to appeal to people’s passions. Seeing Reeve in his wheelchair hardly evoked solid ethical reflection, but instead moved the masses to feel compassion for him. A letter to President Bush signed by a group of Nobel Laureates urging funding for research with human embryos exalted the virtue of compassion over all other values. While it “recognized the legitimate ethical issues raised by this research,” it also asserted that “it would be tragic to waste this opportunity to pursue the work that could potentially alleviate human suffering” (http://www.washingtonpost.com, 2-21-01). Alleviating human suffering strikes a chord in American culture, for in this “happiness-oriented land” we seek above all else to wipe away pain and discomfort. Thus, as one scientist put it, it really is quite simple to decide whether to protect a “mass of cells in a dish” or to protect a “43-year-old father of two” (Quoted by Amy Laura Hall, “Letter to President Bush,” 2-23-01).

While appeals to compassion are becoming increasingly common in public debate, regarding compassion as the moral trump card is problematic. Oliver O’Donovan of Oxford University rightly reminds us that the virtue of compassion can never stand alone. “Compassion is the virtue of being moved to action by the sight of suffering…. It is a virtue that circumvents thought, since it prompts us immediately to action. It is a virtue that presupposes that an answer has already been found to the question, ‘What needs to be done?'” (Begotten or Made, p. 11). The appeal to compassion overlooks divine givens in which there are inherent meaning and worth within the created realities of this world. Compassion, conversely, brings its own meaning to the suffering situation in such a way that all else becomes secondary, for it appeals primarily to our emotions. Socrates was certainly right when he warned us that ethics cannot be built on emotions–not because they are unimportant, but because they alone cannot be trusted to discover the human right and good within the perils of human finitude and fallenness.

In the final analysis, compassion as the moral trump card is one more example of how our culture seeks to determine what is right, good and just on the basis of what will secure self-enhancement or self-actualization. Of course, compassion should indeed be reflected in the habits and actions of all persons. We can never be indifferent to human need and must in fact seek ethically legitimate solutions to disease and suffering. However, when set apart from the moral givens of a loving, gracious Creator, compassion will lead us to the abyss of moral nihilism.

Spiritualistic Naturalism

Underlying all moral principles and virtues is a larger narrative or worldview. Humans never develop their ethical norms in a vacuum, but always in relation to their understandings of transcendence and human nature, perspectives on what is fundamentally wrong in the world, beliefs about how that wrong should be rectified (i.e., salvation), and perceptions of the course of human history. How we put “our world” together invariably determines which moral principles or virtues we espouse and which ones we reject. I Almost Flunked English But Went On To Make Millions of Dollars Writing Sales Copy.

In contemporary American culture, we seem increasingly to be reflecting a worldview that might be termed “spiritualistic naturalism.” Though institutional religion may be on the decline, spirituality seems to be flourishing. Indeed many people today say they are not religious, but are deeply spiritual. However, their spirituality is often not grounded in a strong sense of transcendence and divine givens. Rather, it is, as sociologist Robert Wuthnow puts it, “a new spirituality of seeking… [in which people] increasingly negotiate among competing glimpses of the sacred, seeking partial knowledge and practical wisdom” (After Heaven, p. 3). In their search for fleeting moments of sacred encounter, today’s spiritualists tend toward a fragmented worldview which bears little resemblance to classical supernaturalism–which holds that God not only created the world, but provided meaning, significance and content to it. There is in the classical theistic worldview a sense that God has spoken and that we must therefore respond by seeking life’s full meaning and the morally good.

In contrast, spiritualistic naturalism functions without recourse to moral and world- view givens, seeking instead experiences that engender a sense of spirituality with minimal content, essence, and direction. In spiritualistic naturalism, meaning is self-made and moral direction is derived from within a self that defines the good, the right, and the just. Subjectivity takes the place of providential design and direction. It is a naturalism in that functional transcendence plays no meaningful role in the moral direction of people’s lives, but it is a spiritualism in that spiritual experiences that evoke a sense that people are not alone in this world–and that enhance their selfhood and compassion for others–are sought. Utilitarianism flows from the naturalistic side of this worldview and compassion from its spiritualistic side.

Thus, in the moral discourse about embryonic stem cells the utilitarian calculus and the virtue of compassion emerge out of this particular worldview. The well-being of human embryos has for many taken a backseat to the greatest happiness of the whole, precisely because of an ethos that minimizes inherent meaning in life and the existence of God-given directives. Compassion has become the moral trump card because it is an emotional response that reflects the “fleeting moments” spirituality of our time. Collecting Follow-Up Information Can Be a Life Or Death Experience.

Spiritualistic naturalism may well be the emerging worldview of Western culture. Unlike old naturalisms it seeks a spiritual ethos, albeit one in which God is functionally absent in the formation of moral character and the adjudication of moral decisions. Because of its spirituality, this form of naturalism tends to blind us to its true reality–a worldview in which the human subject reigns supreme and becomes the ultimate arbiter of the good, the just, and the right. It is this worldview which tends to render moral issues amoral, as when Panayiotis Zavos, the aspiring cloner, told Time magazine, “Ethics is a wonderful word, but we need to look beyond the ethical issues here [with regard to cloning]. It’s not an ethical issue. It’s a medical issue. We have a duty here. Some people need this to complete the life cycle, to reproduce” (Time 2-19-01, p. 50). Similar sentiments have led the masses of our culture to embrace the use of embryonic stem cells for the greater good–out of a sense of compassion–precisely because there are no perceived providential renderings to order our lives.

This is the ethos in which we now find ourselves. We must recognize it for what it is and bear witness to a better way.

What Would Reagan Do?

In 1984 President Reagan published a small book, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation that included postscripts by his surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, and the British writer Malcolm Muggeridge. It was the first book published by a sitting president. Reagan’s contribution to the volume had been published in the spring of 1983 in the Human Life Review, but he saw fit to republish it so that his argument could reach a wider audience.

On June 5, 2004, President Reagan died of pneumonia after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His death brought an avalanche of media coverage, including commentary by the late president’s friends and foes, and apparently neutral observers in the press. Despite all of that, his position on abortion was rarely mentioned in the mainstream media. I did, however, hear several mentions of Nancy Reagan’s support of embryonic-stem-cell research — an endorsement based on that research’s purported promise of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.

In fact, Ron Reagan, the son of Mrs. Reagan and her late husband, will be offering a prime-time address at the Democratic Convention tonight in which he will defend such research. 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Analyzing a Deal.

We can certainly understand why Mrs. Reagan takes the position she does. For a decade she suffered as she saw her beloved husband’s mental facilities deteriorate, until he could no longer recognize her, his children, or their closest and dearest friends. If the president had died of a heart attack or even cancer, it would have been painful for his family, but it wouldn’t have approached the anguish of witnessing the protracted escaping of talent, memory, and wit from a man who had those things in abundance. No one can blame Mrs. Reagan for employing her public reputation and reservoir of good will to promote the scientific research she believes will spare other families from the misfortune that she and hers have suffered.

But as I listened to the commentators extolling Mrs. Reagan’s cause, I asked myself the question: What would Ronald Reagan do? So I pulled out my copy of Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, to apply the implications of President Reagan’s argument to the sort of research his widow now advocates.

Ronald Reagan’s work on abortion is animated by his understanding of human equality. He found it in the ideas of the Declaration of Independence, and in reality in President Lincoln’s project of “a new birth of freedom.” For President Reagan, what mattered in the abortion debate — what is doing the moral work, so to speak — is whether the unborn is a member of the greater human family, not whether it exhibits the characteristics we find in that family’s healthy adult members. “[W]e live in a time,” he wrote, “when some do not value all human life. They want to pick and choose what individuals have value. Some have said that only those individuals with ‘consciousness of self’ are human beings…. Obviously, some influential people want to deny that every human life has intrinsic, sacred worth. They insist that a member of the human race must have certain qualities before they accord him or her status as a ‘human being.’”

Reagan saw in this debate what Lincoln saw in the issue of slavery: Are the slaves truly human beings in possession of the same nature as their owners? If so, then they are not meant to be property, but are bearers of rights, entitled to the same protections under the law as all beings who possess that nature. For Reagan, in turn, the question was: Does the unborn fetus possess the same nature she will possess as she grows and develops into an infant, a child, an adolescent, a young adult, a middle-ager, a senior citizen?

President Reagan saw the deep connection between our human nature and the rights that spring from it, which a just government is obligated recognize. The unborn — from zygote to blastocyst to embryo to fetus — is the same being, the same substance, that develops into an adult. The actualization of a human being’s potentials — that is, her “human” appearance and the exercise of her rational and moral powers as an adult — is merely the public presentation of functions latent in every human substance, from the moment it is brought into being. A human may lose and regain those functions throughout her life, but the substance remains unchanged. Real Estate Foreclosures: Four Tips for Investing.

As Reagan understood, if one’s value is conditioned on certain accidental properties, then the human equality affirmed by the Declaration and advanced by Lincoln — the philosophical foundation of our constitutional regime — is a fiction. In that case there is no principled basis for rejecting the notion that human rights ought to be distributed to individuals on the basis of native intellectual abilities or other value-giving properties, such as rationality or self-awareness. One can only reject this notion by affirming that human beings are intrinsically valuable because they possess a particular nature from the moment they come into existence. That is to say, what a human being is, and not what he does, makes her a subject of rights. But this would mean that, like slavery, the nation ought to discard the right to abortion, for it is as inconsistent with our fundamental principles as was slavery.

Stem cells are found in all animals, including human beings. In adults, stem cells serve the function of repairing damaged tissue. In the early embryo — before its cells differentiate into the cells of particular organs — stem cells are are called totipotent cells, because they “retain the special ability to develop into nearly any cell type,” according to a 1999 report of Bill Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC). The embryo’s germ cells — cells that “originate from the primordial reproductive cells of the developing fetus” — have similar properties. Whatever the potential of human stem-cell research, the real issue that animates opponents and raises deep ethical questions is how these cells are obtained and from what entity they are derived.

The NBAC report focused on four potential sources of human stem cells-all raising severe ethical issues: from “human fetal tissue following elective abortion,” from human embryos created by IVF that are either no longer needed by couples seeking infertility treatment or have been donated for the sole purpose of providing research material, and from “potentially, human (or hybrid) embryos generated asexually by somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning techniques.” The 4 Ws of Junk E-mail. With the exception of the first source — which is controversial for other reasons — an embryo’s stem cells can only be extracted at the cost of killing that embryo.

Given President Reagan’s writings and beliefs, it is clear to me that he would oppose research with stem cells derived from human embryos, no matter what the potential benefits of such research might be. He would see the moral incoherence of using an embryo to acquire its stem cells, thus ending one human being’s life so that another can reacquire the capacities the younger human being was not allowed to develop. 8 Ways To Defend Yourself From False Spam Complaints.

Ironically, the President’s son, Ron, in a June 23 interview on Larry King Live, inadvertently offered an insight into the depth and clarity of his father’s convictions that would lead one to think that Ron has not taken seriously his father’s published work on the nature of the unborn: “My father used to just say what he meant. If he felt something, felt it strongly, he’d go out and talk about it. I never got the feeling that there were different rules for him and the rest of us.”

Nevertheless, there is a way that Mrs. Reagan can honor both her late husband’s memory as well as his deeply held convictions about the nature of the unborn. She can shift her focus away from embryonic-stem-cell research and support the promotion of research on adult stem cells. It seems to have much promise, as Wesley J. Smith has pointed out on NRO.

During the week following Reagan’s death, several commentators asked how President Bush would handle the delicate situation of publicly assessing Mrs. Reagan’s policy recommendations. But they were making the wrong inquiry. The important question is not, “What will President Bush do?” but “What would President Reagan do?,” since it is on behalf of his memory that Mrs. Reagan is making her case. It is that question that must be respectfully asked of Mrs. Reagan and those who agree with her.

President Reagan, in his usual winsome fashion, knew how to convey the moral power of this reasoning: “Abortion concerns not just the unborn, it concerns every one of us. The English poet, John Donne, wrote: ‘… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’”

Healing Eyes with Stem Cell Transplants.

A cornea and external eye disease specialist at the Medical College of Wisconsin Eye Institute is breaking new ground in the treatment of eyes damaged by injury or disease by transplanting stem cells directly onto the cornea. The transplanted corneal stem cells divide and multiply, replacing missing cells and warding off a skin-like tissue (the conjunctiva) that in some cases invades the cornea and covers it like a blanket.

While the new procedure is still in its infancy, it has shown great promise in managing corneal disease for people who suffer limited vision or blindness. In the case of Michael Jent, a maintenance engineer who was severely burned on the job by the highly caustic chemical sodium hydroxide, the procedure has restored enough vision in one eye to enable him to walk without a white cane and even to drive.

“A stem cell is a cell that can go on to become, basically, a different cell,” said E. Lee Stock, MD, Medical College Professor of Ophthalmology, who is leading the work in corneal stem cell transplants at the Eye Institute. “Basic stem cells are embryonal cells that then go on to become all of the cells of the body.”

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell or – in this case – a corneal cell.

Good Transplant Territory
The cornea itself is a very successful tissue to transplant, consisting as it does of three clear layers and no blood vessels. As cornea transplants have become more common and “tried and true,” and are currently performed without the need to match donor cells to recipient cells, Dr. Stock and colleagues with expertise in transplanting other types of stem cells elsewhere in the body are moving into a new frontier by taking advantage of lessons learned and the fact that the cornea is such good territory for stem cell work.

Keeping the cornea clear of conjunctiva, the mucous membrane that lines the inner surface of the eye and eyelids, is the essential goal of corneal stem cell transplants.

“If you injure your cornea – for instance by a sodium hydroxide burn – the cells should start to grow and bring new corneal cells in,” notes Dr. Stock. “However, if the cells are destroyed, then the conjunctiva will grow over. Then, instead of having a clear cornea that you can see through, you have a cornea that is protected but doesn’t transmit light. 5 Insider Secrets to Writing Million Dollar Sales Letters.

“What we have to do is to find a new cell to replace the damaged ones, but it has to be a stem cell or equivalent. We just take the same cells from a donor and we put them in place of the cells that have been damaged.”

Work in Progress
Corneal stem cell transplants are complicated and must often be repeated to achieve optimum results for the patient. As the procedure is refined, and as the quality and quantity of available stem cells increases, Dr. Stock said, outcomes will improve. Dr. Stock uses devices and techniques still in development to remove stem cells from donor corneas and then transplant them to the eyes of patients.

“In our early transplants we just took a few pieces and sutured them in place,” said Dr. Stock. “We got it to look more normal, but it still wasn’t cornea. What I started to do was, instead of taking little pieces, used a (specimen) that looks like a section of a tire that goes around that whole part of the eye – where the stem cells are – then took out the abnormal cells and put in the new ones. “

Dr. Stock noted the work of Dr. Ed Holland in Cincinnati, who has applied stem cells in patients with aniridia. “Aniridia is a disease where the patient doesn’t have an iris; it’s hereditary, but also they don’t have normal corneal stem cells and they get vascularization (abnormal or excessive formation of blood vessels) of the cornea.

“In aniridia you get a clouded cornea in addition to all the other problems and you have stem cell deficiency,” he said. “What Dr. Holland suggested was doing the same thing as I described but instead of taking a ‘tire’ he did three halves to give more cells, and so we switched to that technique.”

The number of people who will benefit from corneal stem cell transplants is not very large as yet, but the difference the procedure can make in the lives of those candidates can be profound. “We’re averaging one (stem cell transplant) every month or two,” said Dr. Stock. “It’s effective to a certain extent. For instance, in Michael Jent’s case it’s hard to judge because he’d probably be totally blind without it. His vision is not great vision, but for him it’s the difference between being mobile and immobile. The vision isn’t as good as we’d like it to be, but he’s happy to be able to get around.”

Regarding the present and the promise of corneal stem cell transplantation, Dr. Stock is pleased with the progress so far. “On the whole it is successful, despite a lot of difficulty. I think the future is really great because, first of all, we collaborate with the stem cell people and they’re always making more inroads. They’ve been getting better cells, more concentrated cells, and there are other ways to do this even now – such as growing the cells in a culture first and then transplanting them. That’s not been proven yet, but has a lot of potential for improving things even more.”

The Basics About Stem Cells.

In August of last year, President Bush approved the use of federal funds to support research on a limited number of existing human embryonic stem cell lines. The decision met with notably mixed reactions. Proponents of embryonic stem cell research argue that restricting federal funding to a limited number of cell lines will hamper the progress of science, while those opposed insist that any use of cells derived from human embryos constitutes a significant breach of moral principles. It is clear that pressure to expand the limits established by the President will continue. It is equally clear that the ethical positions of those opposed to this research are unlikely to change.

Regrettably, much of the debate on this issue has taken place on emotional grounds, pitting the hope of curing heartrending medical conditions against the deeply held moral convictions of many Americans. Such arguments frequently ignore or mischaracterize the scientific facts. To arrive at an informed opinion on human embryonic stem cell research, it is important to have a clear understanding of precisely what embryonic stem cells are, whether embryonic stem cells are likely to be useful for medical treatments, and whether there are viable alternatives to the use of embryonic stem cells in scientific research.

Embryonic development is one of the most fascinating of all biological processes. A newly fertilized egg faces the daunting challenge of not only generating all of the tissues of the mature animal but organizing them into a functionally integrated whole. Generating a wide range of adult cell types is not an ability unique to embryos. Certain types of tumors called teratomas are extraordinarily adept at generating adult tissues, but unlike embryos, they do so without the benefit of an organizing principle or blueprint. Such tumors rapidly produce skin, bone, muscle, and even hair and teeth, all massed together in a chaotic lump of tissue. Many of the signals required to induce formation of specialized adult cells must be present in these tumors, but unlike embryos, tumors generate adult cell types in a hopelessly undirected manner. Are You A Senior Person? Check Out – You May Qualify For The Useful VA Loans?

If a developing embryo is not to end up a mass of disorganized tissues, it must do more than generate adult cell types. Embryos must orchestrate and choreograph an elaborate stage production that gives rise to a functional organism. They must direct intricate cell movements that bring together populations of cells only to separate them again, mold and shape organs through the birth of some cells and the death of others, and build ever more elaborate interacting systems while destroying others that serve only transient, embryonic functions. Throughout the ceaseless building, moving, and remodeling of embryonic development, new cells with unique characteristics are constantly being generated and integrated into the overall structure of the developing embryo. Science has only the most rudimentary understanding of the nature of the blueprint that orders embryonic development. Yet, recent research has begun to illuminate both how specific adult cells are made as well as the central role of stem cells in this process.

The term “stem cell” is a general one for any cell that has the ability to divide, generating two progeny (or “daughter cells”), one of which is destined to become something new and one of which replaces the original stem cell. In this sense, the term “stem” identifies these cells as the source or origin of other, more specialized cells. There are many stem cell populations in the body at different stages of development. For example, all of the cells of the brain arise from a neural stem cell population in which each cell produces one brain cell and another copy of itself every time it divides. The very earliest stem cells, the immediate descendants of the fertilized egg, are termed embryonic stem cells, to distinguish them from populations that arise later and can be found in specific tissues (such as neural stem cells). These early embryonic stem cells give rise to all the tissues in the body, and are therefore considered “totipotent” or capable of generating all things.

While the existence of early embryonic stem cells has been appreciated for some time, the potential medical applications of these cells have only recently become apparent. More than a dozen years ago, scientists discovered that if the normal connections between the early cellular progeny of the fertilized egg were disrupted, the cells would fall apart into a single cell suspension that could be maintained in culture. These dissociated cells (or embryonic stem cell “lines”) continue to divide indefinitely in culture. A single stem cell line can produce enormous numbers of cells very rapidly. For example, one small flask of cells that is maximally expanded will generate a quantity of stem cells roughly equivalent in weight to the entire human population of the earth in less than sixty days. Yet despite their rapid proliferation, embryonic stem cells in culture lose the coordinated activity that distinguishes embryonic development from the growth of a teratoma. In fact, these early embryonic cells in culture initially appeared to be quite unremarkable: a pool of identical, relatively uninteresting cells.

First impressions, however, can be deceiving. It was rapidly discovered that dissociated early embryonic cells retain the ability to generate an astounding number of mature cell types in culture if they are provided with appropriate molecular signals. Discovering the signals that induce the formation of specific cell types has been an arduous task that is still ongoing. Determining the precise nature of the cells generated from embryonic stem cells has turned out to be a matter of considerable debate. It is not at all clear, for example, whether a cell that expresses some of the characteristics of a normal brain cell in culture is indeed “normal”—that is, if it is fully functional and capable of integrating into the architecture of the brain without exhibiting any undesirable properties (such as malignant growth). Nonetheless, tremendous excitement accompanied the discovery of dissociated cells’ generative power, because it was widely believed that cultured embryonic stem cells would retain their totipotency and could therefore be induced to generate all of the mature cell types in the body. The totipotency of cultured embryonic stem cells has not been demonstrated and would, in fact, be difficult to prove. Nonetheless, because it is reasonable to assume embryonic stem cells in culture retain the totipotency they exhibit in embryos, this belief is held by many as an article of faith until proven otherwise.

Much of the debate surrounding embryonic stem cells has centered on the ethical and moral questions raised by the use of human embryos in medical research. In contrast to the widely divergent public opinions regarding this research, it is largely assumed that from the perspective of science there is little or no debate on the matter. The scientific merit of stem cell research is most commonly characterized as “indisputable” and the support of the scientific community as “unanimous.” Nothing could be further from the truth. While the scientific advantages and potential medical application of embryonic stem cells have received considerable attention in the public media, the equally compelling scientific and medical disadvantages of transplanting embryonic stem cells or their derivatives into patients have been ignored.

There are at least three compelling scientific arguments against the use of embryonic stem cells as a treatment for disease and injury. First and foremost, there are profound immunological issues associated with putting cells derived from one human being into the body of another. The same compromises and complications associated with organ transplant hold true for embryonic stem cells. The rejection of transplanted cells and tissues can be slowed to some extent by a good “match” of the donor to the patient, but except in cases of identical twins (a perfect match), transplanted cells will eventually be targeted by the immune system for destruction. Stem cell transplants, like organ transplants, would not buy you a “cure”; they would merely buy you time. In most cases, this time can only be purchased at the dire price of permanently suppressing the immune system.

The proposed solutions to the problem of immune rejection are either scientifically dubious, socially unacceptable, or both. Scientists have proposed large scale genetic engineering of embryonic stem cells to alter their immune characteristics and provide a better match for the patient. Such a manipulation would not be trivial; there is no current evidence that it can be accomplished at all, much less as a safe and routine procedure for every patient. The risk that genetic mutations would be introduced into embryonic stem cells by genetic engineering is quite real, and such mutations would be difficult to detect prior to transplant.

Alternatively, the use of “therapeutic cloning” has been proposed. In this scenario, the genetic information of the original stem cell would be replaced with that of the patient, producing an embryonic copy or “clone” of the patient. This human clone would then be grown as a source of stem cells for transplant. The best scientific information to date from animal cloning experiments indicates that such “therapeutic” clones are highly likely to be abnormal and would not give rise to healthy replacement tissue.

The final proposed resolution has been to generate a large bank of embryos for use in transplants. This would almost certainly involve the creation of human embryos with specific immune characteristics (“Wanted: sperm donor with AB+ blood type”) to fill in the “holes” in our collection. Intentionally producing large numbers of human embryos solely for scientific and medical use is not an option most people would be willing to accept. The three proposed solutions to the immune problem are thus no solution at all.

The second scientific argument against the use of embryonic stem cells is based on what we know about embryology. In an opinion piece published in the New York Times (“The Alchemy of Stem Cell Research,” July 15, 2001) a noted stem cell researcher, Dr. David Anderson, relates how a seemingly insignificant change in “a boring compound” that allows cells to stick to the petri dish proved to be critical for inducing stem cells to differentiate as neurons. There is good scientific reason to believe the experience Dr. Anderson describes is likely to be the norm rather than a frustrating exception. Many of the factors required for the correct differentiation of embryonic cells are not chemicals that can be readily “thrown into the bubbling cauldron of our petri dishes.” Instead, they are structural or mechanical elements uniquely associated with the complex environment of the embryo.

Cells frequently require factors such as mechanical tension, large scale electric fields, or complex structural environments provided by their embryonic neighbors in order to activate appropriate genes and maintain normal gene–expression patterns. Fully reproducing these nonmolecular components of the embryonic environment in a petri dish is not within the current capability of experimental science, nor is it likely to be so in the near future. It is quite possible that even with “patience, dedication, and financing to support the work,” we will never be able to replicate in a culture dish the nonmolecular factors required to get embryonic stem cells “to do what we want them to.”

Failing to replicate the full range of normal developmental signals is likely to have disastrous consequences. Providing some but not all of the factors required for embryonic stem cell differentiation could readily generate cells that appear to be normal (based on the limited knowledge scientists have of what constitutes a “normal cell type”) but are in fact quite abnormal. Transplanting incompletely differentiated cells runs the serious risk of introducing cells with abnormal properties into patients. This is of particular concern in light of the enormous tumor–forming potential of embryonic stem cells. If only one out of a million transplanted cells somehow failed to receive the correct signals for differentiation, patients could be given a small number of fully undifferentiated embryonic stem cells as part of a therapeutic treatment. Even in very small numbers, embryonic stem cells produce teratomas, rapid growing and frequently lethal tumors. (Indeed, formation of such tumors in animals is one of the scientific assays for the “multipotency” of embryonic stem cells.) No currently available level of quality control would be sufficient to guarantee that we could prevent this very real and horrific possibility.

The final argument against using human embryonic stem cells for research is based on sound scientific practice: we simply do not have sufficient evidence from animal studies to warrant a move to human experimentation. While there is considerable debate over the moral and legal status of early human embryos, this debate in no way constitutes a justification to step outside the normative practice of science and medicine that requires convincing and reproducible evidence from animal models prior to initiating experiments on (or, in this case, with) human beings. While the “potential promise” of embryonic stem cell research has been widely touted, the data supporting that promise is largely nonexistent.

To date there is no evidence that cells generated from embryonic stem cells can be safely transplanted back into adult animals to restore the function of damaged or diseased adult tissues. The level of scientific rigor that is normally applied (indeed, legally required) in the development of potential medical treatments would have to be entirely ignored for experiments with human embryos to proceed. As our largely disappointing experience with gene therapy should remind us, many highly vaunted scientific techniques frequently fail to yield the promised results. Arbitrarily waiving the requirement for scientific evidence out of a naive faith in “promise” is neither good science nor a good use of public funds.

Despite the serious limitations to the potential usefulness of embryonic stem cells, the argument in favor of this research would be considerably stronger if there were no viable alternatives. This, however, is decidedly not the case. In the last few years, tremendous progress has been made in the field of adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells can be recovered by tissue biopsy from patients, grown in culture, and induced to differentiate into a wide range of mature cell types.

The scientific, ethical, and political advantages of using adult stem cells instead of embryonic ones are significant. Deriving cells from an adult patient’s own tissues entirely circumvents the problem of immune rejection. Adult stem cells do not form teratomas. Therapeutic use of adult stem cells raises very few ethical issues and completely obviates the highly polarized and acrimonious political debate associated with the use of human embryos. The concern that cells derived from diseased patients may themselves be abnormal is largely unwarranted. Most human illnesses are caused by injury or by foreign agents (toxins, bacteria, viruses, etc.) that, if left untreated, would affect adult and embryonic stem cells equally. Even in the minority of cases where human illness is caused by genetic factors, the vast majority of such illnesses occur relatively late in the patient’s life. The late onset of genetic diseases suggests such disorders would take years or even decades to reemerge in newly generated replacement cells.

In light of the compelling advantages of adult stem cells, what is the argument against their use? The first concern is a practical one: adult stem cells are more difficult than embryonic ones to grow in culture and may not be able to produce the very large numbers of cells required to treat large numbers of patients. This is a relatively trivial objection for at least two reasons. First, improving the proliferation rate of cells in culture is a technical problem that science is quite likely to solve in the future. Indeed, substantial progress has already been made towards increasing the rate of adult stem cell proliferation. Second, treating an individual patient using cells derived from his own tissue (“autologous transplant”) would not require the large numbers of cells needed to treat large populations of patients. A slower rate of cell proliferation is unlikely to prevent adult stem cells from generating sufficient replacement tissue for the treatment of a single patient. Real Estate Foreclosures: Four Tips for Investing.

The more serious concern is that scientists don’t yet know how many mature cell types can be generated from a single adult stem cell population. Dr. Anderson notes, “Some experiments suggest these [adult] stem cells have the potential to make mid–career switches, given the right environment, but in most cases this is far from conclusive.” This bothersome limitation is not unique to adult stem cells. Dr. Anderson goes on to illustrate that in most cases the evidence suggesting scientists can induce embryonic stem cells to follow a specific career path is equally far from conclusive. In theory, embryonic stem cells appear to be a more attractive option because they are clearly capable (in an embryonic environment) of generating all the tissues of the human body. In practice, however, it is extraordinarily difficult to get stem cells of any age “to do what you want them to” in culture.

There are two important counterarguments to the assertion that the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells is less than that of embryonic stem cells because adult cells are “restricted” and therefore unable to generate the full range of mature cell types. First, it is not clear at this point whether adult stem cells are more restricted than their embryonic counterparts. It is important to bear in mind that the field of adult stem cell research is not nearly as advanced as the field of embryonic stem cell research. Scientists have been working on embryonic stem cells for more than a decade, whereas adult stem cells have only been described within the last few years. With few exceptions, adult stem cell research has demonstrated equal or greater promise than embryonic stem cell research at a comparable stage of investigation. Further research may very well prove that it is just as easy to teach an old dog new tricks as it is to train a willful puppy. This would not eliminate the very real problems associated with teaching any dog to do anything useful, but it would remove the justification for “age discrimination” in the realm of stem cells.

The second counterargument is even more fundamental. Even if adult stem cells are unable to generate the full spectrum of cell types found in the body, this very fact may turn out to be a strong scientific and medical advantage. The process of embryonic development is a continuous trade–off between potential and specialization. Embryonic stem cells have the potential to become anything, but are specialized at nothing. For an embryonic cell to specialize, it must make choices that progressively restrict what it can become. The greater the number of steps required to achieve specialization, the greater the scientific challenge it is to reproduce those steps in culture. Our current understanding of embryology is nowhere near advanced enough for scientists to know with confidence that we have gotten all the steps down correctly. If adult stem cells prove to have restricted rather than unlimited potential, this would indicate that adult stem cells have proceeded at least part way towards their final state, thereby reducing the number of steps scientists are required to replicate in culture. The fact that adult stem cell development has been directed by nature rather than by scientists greatly increases our confidence in the normalcy of the cells being generated. Houston Divorce Lawyer Answers Common Questions About Mediation.

There may well be multiple adult stem cell populations, each capable of forming a different subset of adult tissues, but no one population capable of forming everything. This limitation would make certain scientific enterprises considerably less convenient. However, such a restriction in “developmental potential” would not limit the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells for treatment of disease and injury. Patients rarely go to the doctor needing a full body replacement. If a patient with heart disease can be cured using adult cardiac stem cells, the fact that these “heart–restricted” stem cells do not generate kidneys is not a problem for the patient.

The field of stem cell research holds out considerable promise for the treatment of disease and injury, but this promise is not unlimited. There are real, possibly insurmountable, scientific challenges to the use of embryonic stem cells as a medical treatment for disease and injury. In contrast, adult stem cell research holds out nearly equal promise while circumventing the enormous social, ethical, and political issues raised by the use of human embryos for research. There is clearly much work that needs to be done before stem cells of any age can be used as a medical treatment. It seems only practical to put our resources into the approach that is most likely to be successful in the long run. In light of the serious problems associated with embryonic stem cells and the relatively unfettered promise of adult stem cells, there is no compelling scientific argument for the public support of research on human embryos.

Stem cell research: Hope or hype?

A year and a half after Toni Redmond was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, she died an excruciating death. Tonia Zampieri of Manchester watched the neuromuscular disease break down her once-so-active mother.

When Redmond, 56, passed away earlier this year, she was constrained to her bed, only left with the blink of her eyes to communicate.

The cause of the disease that ruthlessly takes away patients’ ability to walk, talk, swallow and eventually breathe yet leaves them painfully aware of their body’s degeneration, is a mystery to the medical community.

Redmond thought the answer could be found in stem cell research and so do a world of scientists.

“My mom was always very hopeful,” said Zampieri, now in charge of the development of public awareness for the New England Chapter of the ALS Association.

But how to find cures for the nearly 150 million Americans who suffer from diseases and handicaps like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and spinal cord injury is surrounded by a cloud of controversy in which politics and big business play as large a role as science.

There is the research on human embryonic stem cells promoted by Hollywood stars like Michael J. Fox and the late Christopher Reeve, but opposed by pro-life advocates, since it requires the destruction of a living embryo.

Human embryonic stem cells are considered unique as they are the only cells proven to have the potential to give rise to any of the body’s 200 cell types, leading scientists to believe the cells could replace or repair organs and tissues damaged by some of today’s most devastating diseases and disabilities.

There are also adult stem cells, which despite their name, are found in both adults and children. They were once thought to only generate cells identical to the tissue in which they were harvested, but are now known to be much more versatile.

Brain stem cells can, for example, develop into blood and skeletal material whereas bone marrow stem cells can differentiate into cardiac muscle cells, fat, bone and cartilage.

Adult stem cells have for years been used to treat diseases like leukemia, lymphoma and immune deficiencies, and have recently shown clinical potential in the treatment of Parkinson’s, diabetes, advanced kidney cancer and spinal cord injury.

Six years after Dr. James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed the first human embryonic stem cell line in 1998, research has yet to produce results in humans.

But, said Lulu Pickering, president of the New Hampshire Biotechnology Council, “This is not hype. We’ve infinite potential to do something good. The industry is abuzz to use this technology and the potential is tremendous. The problem is the restriction on research.”

Political football

Months after Redmond’s death, the issue of human embryonic stem cell research rose to the fore of Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

Hammering away at what Kerry often labeled Bush’s “ban” on the research, the Democratic candidate pledged to lift all restrictions.

In April of 2001, Bush made — for the first time — federal funds available for human embryonic stem cell research but limited the research to embryonic stem cell lines derived before the law was signed into effect. There are no such limits on research done with private funding.

In a rally in Newton, Iowa, Sen. John Edwards told the crowd that with Kerry in the White House “people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”

His statement provoked both outrage and support, showing how polarized the issue had become.

“It’s not a good thing to make a political football out of it,” said Charles Carson, president of the Spinal Cord Society. “There is so much potential in both adult and embryonic stem cells, it should be free from all politicians monkeying around with it.”

To James Kelly, a paraplegic since an auto accident in 1997, Edwards’ claim was “as cruel as cruel can get.”

“I was upset over that. He was misleading and using millions of desperate humans for political gain. Embryonic stem cells offer nothing for spinal cord injury.”

Kelly, who began researching the issue five years ago and is about to start a foundation called Cures First has testified before the U.S. Senate and around the country. But unlike the people who usually testify alongside him, pleading for more money in human embryonic stem cell research, Kelly takes the opposite position.

“Although I sympathize with them, they’re in my opinion cutting their own throat. There’s so much money and so much hype involved. We’re diverting massive resources away from research that could help people in the forseeable future.”

Proposition 71 in California, that over the next 10 years will pour $3 billion in state bonds into mainly human embryonic stem cell research, represents to Kelly a misguided diversion.

The media focus and Hollywood’s hailing of the potential wonders of embryonic stem cells has left the progress of adult stem cell research out of the limelight even though, he said, it is saving lives right now.

“We’ve been told we need embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning to find a cure, but the bottom line is that it’s science for the sake of science,” said Kelly, who emphasized he is not religious as many other opponents of human embryonic stem cell research.

Progress

In July 2004, Dennis Turner who has suffered from Parkinson’s for 14 years testified before a Senate subcommittee about his improved condition after being treated with adult neural stem cells taken from a small tissue sample in his brain.

Extreme shaking of the right side of his body disappeared, and for four years following the treatment he was symptom-free.

At the same hearing, 19-year-old Laura Dominguez told the senators how doctors had given her no chance to ever walk again after she was left paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident three years ago.

But research and consultations with medical experts led her to Portugal, where she became the first American to have tissue removed from her olfactory sinus area and transplanted into her spinal cord, the site of injury.

Now, she said in her statement, she can contract her quadriceps and hamstring muscles, move her feet, feel down to her hip level, and with assistance and the use of braces, walk 1,400 feet.

Zampieri said one of her mother’s friends who also suffered from ALS went for a new treatment in Atlanta.

Desperate for a cure, she was one of 43 patients who paid $25,000 each to have umbilical cord blood infused. The blood is rich in adult stem cells, and in animal studies the treatment has proved to slow the progress of the disease and relieve some of the symptoms, according to Dr. Mitchell Ghen who performed the treatment.

Seventeen of the patients had their symptoms reversed although Redmond’s friend was not one of them.

But to the patients’ disappointment, the Federal Drug Administration put a stop to the treatments because Ghen had not filed an investigational new drug application that the agency had initially said he did not need. Sen. Joe Lieberman questioned the decision in a letter to the FDA.

Although there are still deficiencies in diabetes treatment with adult stems cells, 80 percent of 250 patients who received adult pancreatic stem cells from adult cadavers have been free from insulin shots or pumps for more than a year and adult stem cells have reversed diabetes in animals, according to studies cited by The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.

“There’re extremely interesting developments and I wouldn’t be surprised if adult stem cells turn out to be more valuable than embryonic stem cells,” said Alan Cherrington, president of the American Diabetes Foundation. “But it’d be silly to restrict research to only one of them.”

Dead end

Alzheimer’s disease is contrary to conventional thought one of the least-likely diseases to benefit from embryonic stem cell treatments, experts on the subject conceded to the Washington Post in June this year. Ronald Reagan’s death from the disease triggered an outpouring of support that had little to do with scientific evidence. Insider Secrets To Network Marketing Success.

“To start with, people need a fairy tale,” Ronald D.G. McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, told The Post. “Maybe that’s unfair, but they need a story line that’s relatively easy to understand.”

Charles Jennings, the executive director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, dismissed as “absurd criticism” claims that the growth of human embryonic stem cells are too difficult to control and that they are likely to be rejected by a patient’s immune system as they — unlike adult stem cells — are not matched genetically with the patient.

“This is a field in its infancy. There is clear evidence of the potential in mouse research,” Jennings said. “We have to careful not to raise false hope, but the sooner we start, the sooner we’ll see results.”

First he would like to see federal funding extended to research of new human embryonic stem cell lines. The 22 lines that are available for research with federal funds from the National Institutes of Health registry are not adequate, he said, as they only represent a healthy, white middle class.

Harvard scientists recently announced they had developed 17 new human embryonic stem cell lines but the effort had to be privately funded.

In 2002, 30 firms spent $208 million experimenting on embryonic and adult stem cells, according to the NIH, the federal government’s leading biomedical research organization. Last year, the NIH funded $383 million in adult stem cell research and $24 million in human embryonic stem cell research. How to Get Your Inner Forces All Moving Toward the Same Goal!

But with California about to pump nearly $300 million a year into the industry and with its eye set on top researchers worldwide, Jennings recognizes the institute is likely to lose a few of its scientists to the West Coast. Still, he hopes Harvard is attractive enough to retain most of them.

If scientists can figure out how human embryonic stem cells differentiate into specialized cells in the body, they may be able to reverse processes that today result in devastating diagnoses for millions of Americans, said Pickering at the Biotechnology Council.

“It’s a glorious thing,” she said. “But it’s hard work.”

Until a real cure materializes, the ALS Association in Manchester will keep getting calls from people willing to travel the world for the slightest chance of a miracle.

“People are desperate,” said Zampieri. “This is a disease I’d never wish on my worst enemy. There’s so much possibility out there that everything must be explored.”

Revelation of the Nerds: The religion of stem-cell research.

The hot new issue of 2004 was born in a lab dish. As Slate’s Timothy Noah documented last week, “stem cells” were mentioned 20 times at the Democratic National Convention, more than unemployment and abortion combined. John Kerry is raising the issue at practically every campaign stop. Polls suggest it could attract enough independents and Republicans to decide the election. Pundits are amazed. How has science trumped politics, ideology, and religion as a campaign issue?

I’ll tell you how: Science has become political, ideological, and religious.

The conceit of the stem-cell movement is just the opposite. “Here in America, we don’t sacrifice science for ideology,” Kerry declared Saturday as he devoted his weekly radio address to stem cells for the second time this summer. The Kerry campaign charged that President Bush “has politicized science” and promised that Kerry would choose “scientific research over politics.” In a prime-time speech at the Democratic convention, Ron Reagan, son of the late president, noted that opponents of embryonic stem-cell research, which entails the destruction of microscopic embryos, regard such destruction as “tantamount to murder.” Reagan concluded, “Their belief is just that, an article of faith, and they are entitled to it. But it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.”

For years, stem-cell researchers were indeed scientific, apolitical, and irreligious. That’s why they had no juice. On Aug. 9, 2001, when Bush authorized federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research but limited it to cell lines created before that date, there wasn’t much outcry for more freedom. So, the stem-cell lobby went to work. Patients whose diseases might be cured got organized. Biotech companies geared up. Hollywood big-shots lobbied Congress. Strategists boiled the issue down to handy slogans.

The stem-cell movement has become political. “Three years ago, the president enacted a far-reaching ban on stem-cell research,” Kerry asserted in his radio address. Repeating a pledge made by Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention, Kerry promised twice that he would “lift the ban on stem-cell research.” But no such ban exists. Embryonic stem-cell research is unrestricted in the private sector. State and local governments can fund it as they wish. The federal government spent nearly $200 million on adult stem-cell research last year and nearly $25 million on research involving the roughly 20 approved embryonic lines. As today’s Washington Post observes, what Bush actually did was “to allow, for the first time, the use of federal funds” for embryonic stem-cell research.

Why does Kerry call it a “ban on stem-cell research” instead of a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell lines derived after Aug. 9, 2001? Because the shorter phrase, while scientifically inaccurate in four egregious ways, is more politically effective.

The stem-cell movement has become ideological. One scientist who is organizing his colleagues for Kerry told the Post that stem-cell research has become an “icon” for broader complaints about Bush’s policies. He added that his group has adopted “ideology trumps science” as its theme. A Democratic political strategist told American Demographics, “It’s more than just stem-cell research—it’s the symbolism of announcing a plan to eradicate major diseases, and part of the Baby Boomers’ health care crisis.”

To protect the symbolism, facts must be shaded. Kerry’s pollsters must phrase the destruction of embryos in the past tense to dissociate this unpleasant necessity from the benefits of stem-cell research. The research must be insulated from comparative cost-benefit analysis by asking voters, through ballot measures, to designate billions of dollars exclusively for stem-cell work instead of other medical studies. California is now pursuing this; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wants other states to follow suit. Any limit on stem-cell funding must be vilified as immoral. Stem cells pose a choice “between true compassion and mere ideology,” Ron Reagan declared in his convention speech. In a statement yesterday, John Edwards warned critics, “It is against our national character to look the other way when people are suffering.”

Above all, the stem-cell movement has become religious. According to a poll taken in June by Results for America, a pro-stem-cell group, none of the diseases most susceptible to stem-cell therapy touches more than 17 percent of Americans (by affecting them, a family member, or a close friend). But throw in Alzheimer’s disease, and the number leaps to 28 percent. Seventy-two percent of respondents say they would be more likely “to support stem-cell research if you knew that experts think it may hold the key to curing the Alzheimer’s disease that afflicted President Reagan.” Kerry’s pollsters have seen the same effect. When they tell voters that “stem-cell research is being used by scientists trying to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease” as well as Parkinson’s and diabetes, 69 percent support the research.

The trouble is, the Alzheimer’s hype isn’t true. On June 10, the Post’s Rick Weiss reported that “given the lack of any serious suggestion that stem cells themselves have practical potential to treat Alzheimer’s, the Reagan-inspired tidal wave of enthusiasm [for stem cell research] stands as an example of how easily a modest line of scientific inquiry can grow in the public mind to mythological proportions. It is a distortion that some admit is not being aggressively corrected by scientists.” Why don’t scientists dispel the myth? “People need a fairy tale,” NIH researcher Ronald McKay told Weiss. “Maybe that’s unfair, but they need a story line that’s relatively simple to understand.”

Two days after Weiss’ article appeared, Kerry used his radio address to peddle the Alzheimer’s fairy tale. He spoke of “the limitless potential of our science” and of things unseen: “the cures that are there, if only [scientists] are allowed to look.”

He emphasized the power of will, hope, and belief in the absence of evidence.

There is a moment after you get the call from a doctor that you or a loved one must face a disease like Alzheimer’s where you decide that it can’t mean the end—that you won’t let it. So in our own way, we become researchers and scientists. We become advocates and friends, and we reach for a cure that cannot—that must not–be too far away. Some call this denial. But I’m sure that Nancy Reagan—the wife of an eternal optimist—calls it hope. … Millions share this hope, and it is because of their commitment that stem-cell research has brought us closer to finding ways to treat Alzheimer’s and many other diseases.

A month later, on the eve of her convention, Pelosi called stem-cell therapy “the biblical power to cure.” At the convention, Ron Reagan likened it to “magic.” Reps. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin trumpeted its “medical miracles.” Rep. James Langevin of Rhode Island, a paraplegic, proclaimed his “strong faith that we will find a cure.” “I believe one day I will walk again,” said Langevin, adding, “Embryonic stem cell research offers new dreams to so many people.” Democrats even engraved the myth in their platform: “Stem-cell therapy offers hope to more than 100 million Americans who have serious illnesses—from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to juvenile diabetes to Parkinson’s.”

In his radio address this weekend, Kerry blamed Bush’s stem-cell restrictions for “shutting down some of the most promising work to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s.” With the salesmanship of a faith healer, Kerry dangled promises no responsible scientist would countenance. “At this very moment, some of the most pioneering cures and treatments are right at our fingertips, but because of the stem-cell ban, they remain beyond our reach,” said Kerry. “To those who pray each day for cures that are now beyond our reach—I want you to know that help is on the way. I want you to hold on, and keep faith, because come next January, when John Edwards and I are sworn into office … we’re going to lift the ban on stem-cell research.”

Kerry’s appeals to faith and prayer don’t end there. He asks voters to believe, on the same spiritual basis, that science will create ethical boundaries for itself. “We must look to the future not with fear but with the hope and the faith that advances in medicine will advance our best values,” he pleaded in a recent speech promoting stem-cell research. “I have full faith that our scientists will go forward with a moral compass,” he added. All we must do, he advised, is “pursue the limitless potential of science—and trust that we can use it wisely.”

I want to have faith, John. I want to hope and dream. I want to believe in the magic and the miracles and the power of prayer. But if you want to preserve trust in science, stick to the evidence.

Remarkable Achievements In Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research has been dogged by widespread political and ethical controversies. However, one must admit that the immense prospects of the positive nature that stem cell research holds does manage to outweigh the negative aspects associated with the research. In recent times research in this area has brought forth remarkable achievements.

The medical researchers point out that stem cell therapy does have the potential to bring about a radical change in which human diseases are treated. Adult stem cell therapies like bone marrow transplants are finding effective usage in the treatment of leukemia. Stem cell therapy has also been found to have positive effects in the treatment of grave conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis whose cures had earlier seemed to be quite unthinkable. SIXTY DAYS TO YOUR FIRST BARGAIN PURCHASE.

There are many diseases (apart from the ones mentioned above) for which stem cell therapy is being looked upon as a potential treatment or preventive measure. The stem cell therapy can be used as a treatment procedure in cases of strokes, in heart, kidney and liver diseases, in arthritis and in diseases of the pancreas. Five Ways to Profit from Every Meeting with a Seller. It is being opined now that stem cell research may also be making it possible to offer some treatment for cancer. These successes apart, stem cell research offers a host of promises of making great medical advancements in the years to come.

Though there may have been disputations over stem cell researching and the techniques used in the creation and usage of stem cells yet the stem cell therapy and stem cell research are here to stay. The significant achievements of stem cells in recent years and the immense prospects that it holds are largely responsible for this.