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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

In Favor of Stem Cell Research

As long as it doesn't destroy legitimat human life. Period.

This article in the Chicago Tribune (reprinted here in case you don't have a Trib subscription) hits on an incredible point: adult and other non-destructive stem cell research is providing major discoveries, but if you don't support the destruction of human life in the pursuit of stem cell research, you are some sort of short-thinking, religious nut.

Count me in with that group.

The idea of destroying human beings - with the full DNA and ability to become your un-born child's husband or wife, or the doctor or nurse who treats you as you suffer from Alzheimers in some lonely nursing home some day - in order to do research is almost as appalling as the apparent need of some in our society to impose legalized genocide on the unborn.

But, the media - and agents of the culture of death - are showing their true colors when the make the destruction of human life glorious while ignoring the area of the stem cell science where strides are actually being made.

A biased media and stem-cell therapy

Dennis Byrne. Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and consultant
Published December 6, 2004

The promise of stem-cell therapy is no fairy tale. The idea that stem cells could help someone like paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve walk again is no pipe dream.

On Thanksgiving Day, a South Korean woman, Hwang Mi-Soon, paralyzed for 20 years after a spinal-cord injury, rose from her wheelchair and, tearfully and with the help of a walker, took a few steps. Thanks to stem-cell therapy.

The doctors were cautious: Their work needs to be peer-reviewed and replicated. Still, the world has been waiting for this news. Stem-cell therapy has become the most hyped scientific advance since cold fusion. Californians voted to spend at least $3 billion of their money on it. Some politicians want to likewise spend our money. Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards said if Sen. John Kerry were elected president, "people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

So then why didn't Hwang make the front page of every American newspaper? Has nearly every American editor suddenly turned stupid?

Not likely. More likely it's because the stem cells used in Hwang's therapy were from umbilical cord blood instead of embryos. Why should that make a difference? Because if you favor embryonic stem cells, you are a smart, loving person. But if you favor cord cells, you are a Luddite. If you want to avoid the ethical, moral or religious difficulties posed by killing embryonic human life or by creating it solely for the purpose of prospecting, you are a cruel person who would let people suffer and die from horrible, painful diseases or injuries. Same goes for advocates of "adult" stem cells extracted harmlessly and without any ethical problems from living tissues of adults and children. In short: Good guys equal embryonic stem cells; bad guys equal adult and cord stem cells.

Unfortunately for Bush-haters, conservative bashers and others who have canonized embryonic stem-cell therapy, Hwang's miracle was pulled off with cord therapy--news that a biased media would prefer to ignore. I find it hard to believe that media bias explains such a news brownout, but what else could? Media ignorance on a stunningly massive scale about the significance of Hwang's cure? Or near-universal journalistic skepticism about the validity of the claims?

In fact, adult and cord stem cells hold as much, if not more, promise as the embryonic types. For years, it has been used to treat leukemia. The good news about adult and cord stem cell advances flows so steadily, it's hard to imagine how a journalist with any news judgment could ignore it.

Just last week, right under our nose, researchers at a Chicago meeting of the Radiological Society of North America disclosed that adult neural (nerve) stem cells injected in mice can repair brain cells damaged by a disease similar to multiple sclerosis. One of the Italian researchers, who used magnetic resonance imaging to watch the cells migrate to the damaged brain area, said such therapies "are a promising future alternative in the treatment of previously untreatable central nervous system disorders, multiple sclerosis included." Because MS afflicts about 400,000 Americans, you'd think that the news would deserve at least a mention. It's at least as important as the more widely reported news that Swiss voters had approved stem-cell research.

Meanwhile, recent major studies demonstrate that umbilical cord blood could save thousands of adults who have leukemia. Previously, cord blood had been considered suitable only for children because of a relatively small number of stem cells in each marrow donation. But two studies published in the Nov. 24 New England Journal of Medicine suggest that isn't a serious problem.

True, adult stem cells don't always live up to their promise, and that's reliably reported. University of Chicago researchers recently said bone marrow stem cells failed to regenerate damaged heart tissue in laboratory animals, thus, said a headline writer, "dashing" hopes of using "adult stem cells" to rebuild human hearts. Well, not quite true. Researchers still are looking into the use of a putative adult cardiac stem cell for the same purpose.

Companies that preserve cord stem cells for future use already have captured the eye of Wall Street. One company, CBR, asserts that cord blood has been used in lifesaving treatments since 1988 and has the potential for treating scores of diseases, including Alzheimer's and diabetes.

Just thought you'd like to know.


At 2:50 AM, Blogger Wesley Fryer said...

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