While the media informs us the nation and the international community are in an uproar over President Bush’s first veto – expansion of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), an actual investigation of the facts tends to deflate much of the hype involved in the stem cell debate.
First, embryonic stem cell research is not banned in the United States. The US leads the world in ESCR funding, and has the largest number of established embryonic stem-cell lines available for research. In 2004, the U.S. government spent $24 million on human ESCR. Bush’s veto merely kept in place the expansion of research beyond the ESCR lines already destroyed.
Second, not surprisingly very few of the media hype stories about ESCR mention the very risky side-effects. Those who have done little research believe that you can simply get a shot of ESC’s and it will cure diseases. That is far from being the case.
A explains in the comment section on one of his posts on ESCR, the fact that an embryo is a human being is not up for discussion. Human being is a scientific term and the only plausible beginning point for that is at the moment of conception. A human person is a philosophical term and can be debated, but without a doubt ESCR destroys human beings. Some may question if they are actually persons, but it is a fairly bad group of characters who have tried to deny personhood to those already classified as human beings.
So while the media and many scientists have downplayed the risks involved, they have oversold the potential benefits of ESCR. Those in favor love to point to Nancy and Ron Reagan as they implore Republicans to allow for the research that could have saved President Reagan. The only problem is stem cells hold no promise of a cure for Alzheimer’s.
Stem cells can morph into any cell type. Researchers hope that by guiding them into specific cell types they can be used to treat diseased or injured tissue. But Alzheimer’s is a whole-brain disease. It doesn’t affect a subset of cells that could be replaced to produce a cure.
While ESCR has of yet produced no successful treatment, one type of stem cell research has brought about the successful treating of 65 different human diseases, including paralysis. Why is there no flood of stories on these success stories? Why is no one calling for increased funding? Because the success stories are from adult stem cell research (ASCR).
Here are just a few of the success stories from ASCR, which harvests stem cells from humans without destroying them. A woman who had been a paraplegic for 19 years recovered feeling in her body and improved on an almost daily basis. This research has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Cythotherapy.
Keon Penn was essentially cured of sickle cell anemia using stem cells from umbilical cords.
Citizen Link has a list of several documented cases of individuals being cured of or at least positive research on Acute Myloid Leukemia, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Paralysis/Spinal Cord Injury (60 documentable cases), Parkinson’s Disease, Sickle Cell Anemia and Stroke.
Proponents of ESCR claim that ASCR does not hold the same promise because ESC’s mutiply better and are able to develop into all types of cells. Those beliefs are either grounded on either bias or ignorance of the latest research.
Dr. John Huard, director of the Growth and Development Laboratory at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, confirms that adult stem cells have the same ability to multiply. This publication appears in the July 2005 edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell.
Dr. Mariusz Ratajczak, director of the stem-cell biology program at University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, has recently completed research which indicates adult stem cells have the same ability to transform as ESC’s. Several other labs have followed suit with similar findings. Ratajczak’s team coaxed stem cells from adult mice to change into brain, heart, nerve and pancreatic cells – mimicking embryonic stem cells.
I’m doubtful if ASCR will lead to the magic bullet we long for with so many of these terrible diseases, but I do know that it is a safer and much more ethical way to work toward the cure. Why is there a need for the destruction of human embryos when we have adult stem cells that can do all the things that embryonic stem cells can do and have a proven track record of success?