Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scudder Tells a Whopper on Stem Cell Research

I submitted the following to the Lincoln Journal Star.

The Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research is a nonprofit organization prohibited by law from endorsing candidates. However, NCER is not required to sit idly by while a mess is being made of the basic facts of stem cell research.

According the KOLN/KGIN Channel 10/11 web site, in a recent debate with candidate Tim Clare in the race for the District 1 seat on the NU Board of Regents, candidate Earl Scudder said: "There are a number of diseases and conditions that have only been demonstrated to be treatable with embryonic stem cell research. One is Alzheimer's, another is Parkinson's disease, diabetes, spinal chord injuries."

That’s right out of Alice in Wonderland – down is up and up is down. The scientific truth is exactly the opposite of Mr. Scudder’s assertion.

It brings to mind the June 10, 2004, Washington Post story, “Stem Cells an Unlikely Therapy for Alzheimer's.” The story noted the unlikelihood that embryonic stem cells would ever be effective in treating Alzheimer’s. Then came this brazen statement in defense of exploiting Nancy Reagan and whipping people into a fever about embryonic stem cells someday curing Alzheimer’s:

"To start with, people need a fairy tale," said Ronald D.G. McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Maybe that's unfair, but they need a story line that's relatively simple to understand."

Here’s something relatively simple to understand: There have been NO successful treatments of any conditions in humans with embryonic stem cells. There are no human clinical trials underway because two decades of experiments with embryonic stem cells in lab animals have produced disastrous results such as tumors and other abnormalities. No one dares put an embryonic stem cell in a human.

There are many successful treatments in humans with stem cells. They are all with non-embryonic stem cells, commonly known as adult stem cells. Adult stem cells have produced all the progress in research on various diseases, including the ones singled out for emphasis by Mr. Scudder. Breakthroughs that keep surfacing in the news have nothing to do with embryonic stem cells. It’s all with adult stem cells, or even regular body cells.

It becomes clearer with every breakthrough that resources should be directed to what works, and shows the most promise, without posing ethical problems. Even James Thomson, the leading pioneer of human embryonic stem cell research, is shifting his business interests and career focus away from embryonic stem cell research.

Are advocates of embryonic stem cell research feeding Mr. Scudder whatever emotion-stoking falsehoods they believe are necessary to win an election? It appears that Mr. Scudder is being manipulated into an absurd position by people more interested in political sleight-of-hand than scientific reality.

Chip Maxwell
Executive Director
Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was directed to your blog, and I am glad I visited. This very topic is near to my heart. Here in District 1 SE Nebraska, we are in the heat of a legislative race in which the democratic candidate is trying to make this door swing both ways. He claims to be "pro-life," and yet supports embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia. I have written my letters to the editors of local newspapers in the hopes of clarifying this for our pro-life voters. I appreciate you comments here.