Friday, September 01, 2006

Stem-Cell Research : A Tale of Two Letters

Yesterday it was a tale of two letters in the Omaha World-Herald Public Pulse.

Here is my letter:

In his Aug. 28 Midlands Voices commentary, embryonic stem-cell research advocate Rik Bonness suggested that adult stem cells have done little more than cure a few blood disorders.

On the Internet, please go to the Do No Harm website for video of people telling about successful treatments with adult stem cells for a variety of conditions. I have met them. They suffered from paralysis, brain damage, cerebral palsy, heart damage and leukemia. Only one of those conditions is a blood disorder.

Mr. Bonness said 80 Nobel laureates have lauded the potential of embryonic stem-cell research. Beware of assertions about what "numerous experts" think on stem-cell research. The medical science community is as confused as the general public.

Success with adult stem cells is hyped as success with "stem cells" without identifying them as "adult." Then people are told that they oppose such progress if they oppose embryonic stem-cell research. It's insidious but effective.

Perhaps some prize-winning scientists are willing to ignore the humanity of embryos and destroy them for research. That doesn't make it right. Fortunately, there is an ethical alternative.

Don't take my word for it. Go to the link above and hear it from beneficiaries of adult stem-cell research.

This was the next letter:

In his Aug. 28 commentary, Rik Bonness expressed the frustration of hopeful parents waiting for researchers to be free to solve a myriad of health questions via embryonic stem-cell research.

Here is an example. If your auditory nerve is damaged, it does not regenerate, unlike many other cells. In my case, a tumor choked off the blood supply to an auditory nerve. Only inside the pinpoint group of cells that will become a human being is there a signal that tells those cells to "go create an auditory nerve." But after that, it's no longer an option.

On Jan. 17, 1994, when I had my tumor removed, I made a wager with myself that within 10 years scientists would learn that secret by studying embryos. And that the magic message inside could be injected from a hypodermic into my auditory nerve and my hearing would be restored.

No adult stem cell can tell researchers that secret. It is locked inside the dividing embryo. Maybe now that cells can be extracted without injuring the embryo, researchers again will be free to find these answers.

Keep your fingers crossed.

The Pulse writer said researchers were "waiting to be free to solve a myriad of health questions via embryonic stem-cell research." There is nothing restricting that process. Researchers always want more federal funding for more kinds of research, but researchers are free to go any direction they want in stem-cell research.

She said she had a condition that only embryonic stem-cell research could fix. Did she mean only embryonic stem cells could be put in her body to fix the problem? Then she must support cloning, because she would need embryonic stem cells with matching DNA.

She said the secret to healing her -- getting the right type of to cell to activate -- was "locked inside" the embryo. Adult stem-cell researchers have isolated genes that control "differentiation," the capacity of stem cells to activate and deactivate and set in motion the development of body parts. They are finding ways to reprogram adult stem cells to make them the functional equivalent of embryonic stem cells.

Don't "keep your fingers crossed" as the Pulse writer suggested. Instead, push for more emphasis on adult stem-cell research.

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