Monday, September 15, 2008

Stem Cell Research: More Proof That Embryos Aren't Needed

Click below for an excerpt from a column in the September issue of Nebraska Family Times.

The good news keeps on coming for those of us who love stem cell research, but don’t want embryos destroyed to do it.

Quick review. There are two categories of stem cells, adult and embryonic. We all have adult stem cells in our bodies. They are master builder cells used by the body to make repairs.

Attention has increased on embryonic stem cells because, in theory, they are more flexible than adult stem cells. The problem is that harvesting stem cells from embryos destroys the embryos. Harvesting adult stem cells does not harm the donor.

One thrust of adult stem cell research has been manipulating the genes of adult stem cells to turn them into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells. This was accomplished last year. In fact, it was a regular body cell – not even a stem cell – that was turned into the equivalent of an embryonic stem cell. The next step would be to coax that new stem cell into becoming the type of cell desired to cure a problem in the body.

Even the cloner of Dolly the Sheep announced that, after this breakthrough involving “direct reprogramming” of the genes in a cell, there was no reason to pursue cloning and destruction of embryos.

That hasn’t stopped some voices from continuing to clamor for cloning and embryo-destructive research. But their argument just got a lot tougher.

In August, researchers announced that, in mice, they succeeded in turning a regular body cell into the desired cell. By reprogramming the genes of the cell in a new way, they were able to skip the middle step of turning the body cell into a stem cell, and then turning the stem cell into the desired cell.

I say this often, but it bears repeating every time we get fresh evidence of it: destruction of embryos is not necessary to succeed at stem cell research. The stem cell research that actually works does not require destruction of embryos and poses no ethical problems.

1 comment:

OmaSteak said...

While I can support the position of not destroying embryonic stem cells for research, I cannot support a total ban on cloning. I "own" my genetic material and should be able to have it replicated if/when that becomes a reality. Not for growing potential future transplant parts, etc. but for reproductive purposes. If I can afford to do it and it only uses my own genetic material, why should government restrict it? What is the great moral hazard such reproductive assistance holds? Just think of it...raising a carbon copy of yourself knowing full well what your innate capabilities/interests are and what a huge advantage that could be for your offspring. Not to mention this would be the ultimate way to avoid inheritance issues since the current you would be passing along assets to a much younger version of you, thereby compounding the advantages available for the new you. I'll be interested to see/hear Chip's response to this issue since IMHO it's the ultimate pro-life never die.