Unfortunately, the stem cell debate has been characterized as a conflict between science (as though science is always right) and religious "kooks" (as though religious folk are never right). In choosing sides, it is, indeed, easier to imagine lunch with a researcher who wants to resurrect Christopher Reeve (whom Obama couldn't resist mentioning) and make him walk again, than with the corner protester holding a fetus in a jar. (Note: I don't believe I've ever heard of an abortion protester "holding a fetus in a jar".)Read the entire essay here.
The insistence on using embryonic stem cells always rested on the argument that they were pluripotent, capable of becoming any kind of cell. That superior claim no longer can be made with the spectacular discovery in 2007 of "induced pluripotent stem cells" (iPS), which was the laboratory equivalent of the airplane. Very simply, iPS cells can be produced from a skin cell by injecting genes that force it to revert to its primitive "blank slate" form with all the same pluripotent capabilities of embryonic stem cells.
The iPS discovery even prompted Dr. Ian Wilmut, who cloned Dolly the sheep, to abandon his license to attempt human cloning, saying that the researchers "may have achieved what no politician could: an end to the embryonic stem cell debate." And, just several days ago, Dr. Bernadine Healy, director of the National Institutes of Health under the first President Bush, wrote in U.S. News & World Report that these recent developments "reinforced the notion that embryonic stem cells ... are obsolete."
Many scientists, of course, want to conduct embryonic stem cell research, as they have and always could with private funding. One may agree or disagree with their purposes, but one may also question why taxpayers should have to fund something so ethically charged when alternative methods are available.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
As my Grandfather would have said, "Now, there's stem cells and there's stem cells...."
Real Clear Politics has an essay by Kathleen Parker regarding President Obama's recent "lifting" of the stem cell ban by the US Government. Here are a few pertinent excerpts: