Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stem Cells - You've got options

With stem cell research back in the news, I'm reposting this, which I posted elsewhere a few years back. Please forgive the tone. Back then, no one read my blog. I know, things haven't changed that much...

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Michael Bloomberg, the Republican mayor of New York, anonymously donated $100 Million to Johns Hopkins University, according to an insider speaking on the condition of anonymity. (Anonymity must be the in thing right now, except that no one abides by it. So who spilled the beans? Apparently there's no reason we shouldn't know.)

Part of his donation is going to fund stem cell research, a controversial medical field that many Republicans are against. The Democrats are standardly liberal and progressive, so they'll run with anything mostly. But it does divide the Republicans. Senator Bill Frist has dissented from the President on this policy. President Bush has limited embryonic stem cell research to some 70 or so current lines. (I don't know what that means really.)

But what you aren't being told is this: there are 5 types of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are the most famous and controversial because they destroy life in the process of research. Second, are fetal stem cells, taken from aborted children's eventual genitalia, also requiring death. Both of these are controversial for ethical reasons; many believe that it is wrong to destroy babies and potential lives while others simply argue that it opens the door to decisions that will be unethical down the road. But there are 3 types of stem cells that are perfectly acceptable for either objector. Adult stem cells have been isolated from bone marrow, brains, breasts, lungs, teeth, and other parts, posing no threat to any life. Umbilical cord stems cells and placenta stem cells are also available for research, and these are thrown out after birth but could be used for advancing stem cell research.

Now the one advantage embryonic stem cells have over others is their potential to become any type of stem cell, like seeds you could plant and grow any type of tree. However, these stem cells have failed to turn potential into product, into any medically beneficial results. They are supported based on potential not actual results. (This article never states embryonic stem cells have anything more than a potential, but criticizes marrow stem cells, which have, for not being able to differentiate. He says that embyonic stem cells "do" differentiate, but it's more accurate to say they "do in the process of forming a baby, but we haven't made them do that effectively yet." A perfect example of bias reporting by limiting the information.)

On the other hand, adult stem cell research has already produced results leading to cures for previously incurable diseases. Plus, they can be taken from the individual needing the medical help, and using theirs means it's an identical DNA match. Adult stem cells are no more difficult to harvest and require less sacrifice and indeed more choice for the person choosing to supply them. And we're all about choosing our own destiny right?

Why don't they tell us this? I have no idea. The ideological connections between embryonic stem cell research and abortion could be made. Using medically-driven arguments to justify aborting babies becomes a noble cause in the minds of some. But there really isn't much logical justification for it when adult stem cells are producing the results that embryos are only promising.

And, just like ensuring Michael Bloomberg's anonymity, that's a promise we can't trust.

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