As published in my Op-Ed piece for the Reno Gazette Journal on July 5, 2007, with links added, and additional examples included, due to lack of word limit.
President Bush recently vetoed “The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007” which would use taxpayer funds for the destruction of human embryos for research. In addition to the moral convictions that form the basis for objections to human Embryonic Stem Cell Research (hESCR), there are solid scientific reasons and alternate successes to support an objection to this line of inquiry. It is illogical to say that the president’s veto shatters hope for sufferers.
There is a growing list of leading researchers who believe that medical advances are not likely to be found using hESCR, including Don Landry, Department of Medicine Chairman at Columbia and Stanford’s Bill Hurlbut. There are more than 70 benefits using non-embryonic stem cells and more than 700 clinical trials. There are no human embryonic benefits or trials.
Embryonic Stem Cells naturally divide and change rapidly. When these very adaptable cells find themselves in the slowly developing adult body, they do not have the restraint to grow at the right rate or into the correct cell type for their environment. The cues needed for their development are found in the fetal environment. When used in animal studies, these cells create what is known as a teratoma (a tumor made up of bone, hair, tooth and other foreign tissues).
The frequency of teratomas make it too dangerous to use Embryonic Stem Cells in human, clinical trials- the cure is worse than the disease. MIT’s James Sherley says, “figuring out how to use human embryonic stem cells directly by transplantation into patients is tantamount to solving the cancer problem.”
But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope for sufferers. Real medical breakthroughs are being made using non-embryonic stem cells. Standing with the president when he announced his veto was Kaitlyn McNamara. Kaitlyn received a new bladder manufactured from her own stem cells by Dr. Atala at Wake Forest Medical Center. Since her bladder was engineered from her stem cells, it’s unlikely that her body will reject her new bladder as would almost certainly happen if it was engineered using embryonic stem cells.
This is the tip of the iceberg. Harvard researchers have used adult stem cells to cure diabetes in mice in the United States, and humans in Brazil have been taken off insulin using a similar approach using adult stem cells. Other advances using non embryonic stem cells include spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, incontinance and heart disease. Researchers have used non embryonic stem cells and other cells to create heart, lung and liver tissue. Stem cells have helped in cardiac repair.
This doesn’t even account for the advances outside stem cell research including the just announced possibility of treating Parkinson’s with gene therapy and a vaccine for Alzheimer's to attack plaque build up!
During June-in a corroborated study, scientists re-programmed skin cells to function as embryonic stem cells. If used therapeutically, it would provide tissue that is not likely to be rejected by the patient. Federal funding is available to proceed on these cells that were not derived from an embryo.
The basic science advances to be gleaned from Embryonic Stem Cells can be accomplished using animal embryonic stem cells.
Critics won’t agree with Nevada LIFE and pro-life moral objections that this undermines human dignity and attacks the inherent value of human beings, but there is clearly hope beyond human embryonic stem cell research.