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Archive for the ‘Embryonic Stem Cell Research’ Category

Suppose we woke to the following headline with our morning coffee: Obama Administration to Fund 13 New Experimental HIV Drugs., followed by this secondary header- Activist Groups Outraged at Funding ‘Useless’ Class of Drugs over Proven Entity.

Indeed, suppose the story went on to describe how the President and the Democrats remained wedded to funding a class of drugs whose side-effects were so horrendous in animal research models that use in humans would be unthinkable.

Further suppose that the classes of drugs that have shown dramatic efficacy went underfunded, and were even ridiculed by the President and his fellow travelers. Imagine that states such as California floated $3 Billion bonds to float such useless research into drugs that couldn’t make it out of animal trials over drugs working in human HIV/AIDS patients. Imagine the outrage coming from the scientific and medical communities, from AIDS activists, AIDS patients and their loved ones.

There would be calls for Congressional hearings. There would be protests that would make the HIV protests of the 1980′s look tame by comparison.

Certainly people would wonder why. Why would the federal and state governments obstinately sink tens of billions of dollars into such fruitless research and allow other nations to capitalize on the existing research bearing good fruit?

Absent a mass delusion as an explanation, people would be looking for a smoking gun.

Thus it is with Embryonic Stem Cells (ESC”s) vs. Adult Stem Cells (ASC’s). Thus it has been this week with President Obama. Read it here.

When ESC proponents want to advance funding of these cell lines, they NEVER specify ESC v. ASC. Rather, they throw around the generic term ‘Stem Cells’ when speaking of their promise and current use in therapeutics. Recall that ESC’s are derived from tearing apart a human in its embryonic stage of development. ASC’s are derived from adults.

ESC’s have consistently shown themselves to be uncontrollable, growing wild and forming tumors in animals. They have yet to clear that hurdle before moving into human clinical trials. In India, one physician using ESC’s is purported to have her patients recovering slight function after spinal cord injuries. She will not divulge her methodology, and so remains highly suspect.

ASC’s, in contrast, have over a hundred therapeutic applications, none involving tumor formation. Some of these lack FDA approval and must be obtained overseas. They have been published in peer-reviewed journals.

So why the obstinate refusal to put the bulk of the money into ASC’s?

Abortion.

Obama and Co. cannot afford for people to begin developing sensitivity to the plight of embryonic humans, lest that awakening to the dignity of humans in the embryonic stage spill over into increased consciousness over abortion. That would mean the Democrats losing their central organizing principle, their raison d’etre. Pressing ahead with ESC’s is a buttress to support abortion.

It’s high-tech cannibalism.

It’s also already obsolete. Recently, we’ve been able to take skin cells from a patient and induce them into an ESC-like state. These are called Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC’s). These have the advantage of being from the patients themselves, with no risk of tissue rejection. They are abundant, easy to obtain, easy to induce to pluripotency. Why not fund these instead?

Abortion.

Abortion has poisoned the body politic. It has claimed 52 million lives in the US since 1973. It has ruined countless millions of women’s lives, and now it is corrupting science.

Where are the denunciations of this wastefulness from the scientific and medical communities? Would this be allowed to stand if it were our HIV analogy instead? Not likely.

Abortion destroys everything it touches. That’s a good thing, as it will force us to eventually seek less recourse to it because of the wastefulness it unleashes on any society evil enough to seek its embrace.

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Image via servitokss.com

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I have an opinion article The Ruins of Embryonic Stem Cell Research appearing today on Headline Bistro. The article takes a critical look at the collapse of embryonic stem cell research through the ruinous experience of California.

A little about Headline Bistro from their site:

Headline Bistro is a service of the Knights of Columbus dedicated to bringing readers the top, daily headlines that Catholics need to know.

We seek to present the news from the perspective of Catholics who want to know what’s happening in the Church, nation and world around them.

From election coverage and breakthroughs in science, to breaking news and opinions around the globe, Headline Bistro is the one-stop site that serves up those headlines quickly while providing further resources on social issues that are important to Catholics, such as the sanctity of life and marriage.

We invite you to spend time with us each day, reading the morning headlines, exploring the resources, getting the latest from the Catholic blogosphere and new media producers and sampling worldwide columnists’ opinions on the news.

There’s a lot here, but it’s all rich and all worth it – because Catholics need to know.

Their news, columns and opinion pieces are all very relevant and thought-provoking. Check them out.

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Human embryo having one cell suctioned off (R).

Why, in the face of hundreds of extant therapeutic applications from Adult Stem Cells (ASC), would researchers wish to pursue embryo-destructive research when Embryonic Stem Cells (ESC) haven’t made it out of animal trials because of their tumor-forming propensities?

As a Molecular Biologist, I am asked this question frequently by pro-lifers. Though I am adamantly opposed to embryo-destructive research, I’ll answer for them.

The answer is simple: They just want to know. Period. End of story.

A common misperception about scientists is that all of us are oriented toward therapeutic discoveries. Not so.

Many scientists are indeed oriented toward therapeutic applications, a great many are not. They practice basic research. That is, research with the sole purpose of discovering how things work. These are the ‘pure’ scientists, not oriented toward a given or serviceable outcome. Knowledge simply for the sake of knowledge.

Don’t knock it. It’s vital. Therapeutic advances grow out of the body of basic scientific research. In my graduate studies in molecular microbiology, I discovered quite by accident a whole new dimension of E. coli’s cellular physiology. It was genuinely exciting stuff for a new researcher, to unlock the secrets of nature through the rigorous and diligent application of the scientific method. It turns out that my discovery has all sorts of food safety and medical applications as well. Having presented the research at conferences, a few papers on it should get published this year.

Even if my work had no practical application, it is extremely gratifying to be able to offer the scientific community another piece of the puzzle. I am a basic researcher at heart. In the lab I live for this stuff.

So it’s not difficult to understand other molecular and developmental biologists who have the burning desire to know exactly how we are made in the womb. As a scientist who has studied developmental biology in grad school, I share that burning desire to know the awesome complexity and intricacy of the developmental process. It’s fascinating material.

As a Catholic Christian I’m not willing to kill babies in order to find out. Therein lies the dilemma.

Consider the picture with this post. Absent a Christian anthropology, it’s not hard to see where many of my peers do not consider the early embryo a human person. Without the eyes of faith guided by reason, all one sees is a clump of cells. We know, however, from work done on other animals that developmental pathways become extremely complex once one moves away from the simple cluster of cells seen here, and into the more advanced stages of growth and development

In the wiring-up of the nervous system, cells from the tail end of the spinal cord secrete chemicals that diffuse to the brain end of the spinal cord, inducing nerve cells to grow in that direction. Along the way the projection of the growing nerve cell, called the growth cone, is guided by molecules on the surface of other cells. This is precisely the developmental stage that will be needed to glean the information necessary in spinal cord injury repair therapeutics.

What will we do when we have deduced the answers at the simpler level of development, but now require an organism with a developing nervous system, the point where spinal cord injury repair can be tested? Having proceeded so far down this path, what rationale will be called upon for scientists to stop so much closer to potential therapies? The scientific community won’t hear of it. And really, at that point why should they? The principle that all human life is sacred will have long-since been compromised into obscurity. All we’ll be left with is an argument over the details. Dogs fighting over the carcasses of our own young.

I want to know these answers as much as the fiercest proponent of ESC research. I’m just not willing to sell out the innocent for my answers. If I don’t get them here, I’ll have eternity to get them from The Source.

In this battle over ESC and ASC, we do well to lobby lawmakers on where the entire source of therapeutic benefits resides, namely ASC’s. It’s even more important to educate the public in this regard. We also need to understand the lobby of university researchers who have a very different motive for this research. Money is also a major issue. When funding is set aside for a given line of inquiry, cash-strapped departments line up like refugees at an oasis in the desert. Promises of potential therapeutic applications are added to research funding proposals to gussy them up.

For the college, it’s the money. For the basic researcher it’s the money, the knowledge, and publications. For the applied researcher it’s the cure. For the politician, it’s cynically using the scientific community to lay down a noble-looking smokescreen in order to protect abortion by treating embryos as fungible laboratory substrate.

Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General under President Clinton, once famously declared:

“We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children.”

In truth, America is just beginning a love affair with the fetus through advanced imaging systems. Had we a love affair with the fetus, abortion would be illegal, and there would be no debate over embryo-destructive research.

It seems that pro-choice politicians have seized upon embryo-destructive research as the means to realize Elder’s fondest desire.

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Abortion and abortion’s apologists have succeeded in twisting and distorting even a once-objective, just-the-facts, and statistically-oriented discipline as Public Health. In the not-so distant past, pregnancy was defined in medical textbooks as the result of fertilization of egg by sperm. Now it’s defined as implantation of the embryo in the uterus. Semantics? Hardly.

This represents a fundamental shift that protects the in vitro fertilization industry. If pregnancy is defined by implantation, then there is hardly an ethical hurdle when it comes to sifting through dozens of embryo’s in search of the ‘most fit’. Some might call them ‘keepers’. The rest may simply be discarded.

The in vitro fertilization industry and its related embryonic stem cell research industry, which makes use of ‘leftover’ embryos in frozen storage, serve as a bulwark for abortion, appealing to utilitarian sentiments regarding the alleviation of emotional and physical suffering, respectively.

Even defining something as simple as infant mortality has become a semantic three-ring circus.

Case in point: CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics released a study this past November entitled, Behind International Rankings of Infant Mortality: How the United States Compares with Europe. The Bottom line is that the U.S. ranks 30/31 nations in the study in infant mortality rates.

A look at figure #1 in the study doesn’t inspire confidence as the study bills itself as a comparison between the U.S. and Europe, but goes on to include Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Cuba.

Table #1 inspires even less confidence as it details what constitutes ‘live births’ in the countries under study. The following countries take the most expansive definition of ‘live birth’ to include any birth of a living baby without regard to gestational age:

Austria, Denmark, England and Wales, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, United States.

Norway, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland are listed as having varying reporting criteria, including a 500 gram birthweight, gestational age, and in the Czech Republic, the added requirement that the infant survives the first 24 hours.

No mention at all of the remaining 12 countries in the study.

Additionally, the study claims, “Differences in national birth registration notwithstanding, there can also be individual differences between physicians or hospitals in the reporting of births for very small infants who die soon after birth.”

It’s difficult to compare nations to one another when the very definition of ‘live birth’ is up for grabs, when different nations take a more or less aggressive approach to saving the life of the neonate.

These approaches also have much top do with who is paying the bill. Governments with socialized medicine and flat economies have a powerful disincentive to attempt aggressive, costly life-saving measures, and may well be more apt to recommend abortion in cases where fetal anomalies are detected, further skewing the data.

Of course this study neglects to mention those realities.

They’re not politically correct.

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LifeNews.com reports on 12/1/09 that President Obama, who had terminated the President’s Council on Bioethics three months before it was set for its September term limit, has constituted a new Council that may be more ideologically aligned with himself. If so, this could mean an opening into human cloning.

To be fair, Presidents reserve the right to constitute the Councils as they see fit. That said, President George W. Bush created his Council with a 50/50 ideological split. We’ll see what Obama does.

Don’t look for cloning by name. Look for legislation that funds “somatic cell nuclear transfer technology”, which is cloning’s technical name. If we can support embryo-destructive research in the pursuit of therapeutics, we’ll support cloning to achieve the same end.

That’s the fruits of “The ends justify the means” thinking.

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From LifeNews.com:

“The Obama administration on Monday forced Americans to pay for another round of embryonic stem cell research involving the destruction of human life. National Institutes of Health chief Francis Collins approved taxpayer funding of 27 more lines of embryonic stem cells. The cells can only be obtained by destroying unborn children days after conception — at which point human embryos are unique human beings. The embryonic stem cells in question are 27 lines from Harvard University used in diabetes-related pancreatic cell experiments. Embryonic stem cell research has yet to be tried in human patients because of its failure when used on animals. The cells cause tumors and prompt the immune system to reject them. However, adult stem cell research has resulted in cures or treatments for more than 100 different diseases and conditions.”

By contrast, there are hundreds of therapeutic applications of Adult Stem Cell technology. So why the push for ESC’s when they consistently do not deliver?
They’re a bulwark for abortion. For the first time since Roe, we have the human embryo diconnected from the mother’s body. The smokescreen argument over the right to privacy no longer shields the embryo from the objective consideration of its human identity and status. It exists on its own.

Abortion’s proponents can’t afford to allow the development of sympathy for human beings in their embryonic stage of development. So a new denigration is needed. Cellular substrate for building therapeutic scaffolding. The problem is, it doesn’t work.

Pro-lifers need to seize this opportunity to discuss the human embryo’s dignity and intrinsic worth as it sits in the Petri dish. Then question why the real advances in adult cells aren’t being aggressively funded.

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