I Wonder What the Coalition Has to Say About Her Story?

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Media Bias, Stem Cells

From the State Register-Journal in Springfield, IL, comes the story of this courageous young woman who will be speaking in favor of Adult Stem Cell (ASC) research, and in opposition to Embryonic Stem Cell (ESC) research:

Jacki said she wants to help other patients benefit from adult stem cells.

She said she is going to Washington to draw attention to the promise of treatments involving these cells, which already are used in the United States in bone marrow and umbilical cord-blood transplants.

She said she opposes the use of embryonic stem cells because embryos must be destroyed for those cells to be used.

"It is like an abortion," she said. "I don't think you need to kill a life to help somebody else whose already living. But adult stem-cell research I'm for, because it's not hurting anybody or affecting anybody. It's just using your own body to help yourself."

This girl's story is just amazing, and incredibly inspirational:

A former standout volleyball player, she spends at least an hour a day at her church, First Baptist in Waverly, where she practices walking with her braces.

When Jacki went through the surgery, she thought she would be walking without braces by now - an outcome that none of Lima's 80 patients has achieved since he began doing it in 2002. Now she would settle for more feeling in her trunk and legs.

The depression she said she sometimes feels doesn't discourage her for long, she said. But she has been disappointed lately by not being able to find a job in retail or at an office.

She said she has put her college plans on hold and has applied for jobs at many locations in Springfield and previously worked at an ice-cream shop in Waverly. She refuses to apply for federal disability payments.

"I'm motivated, and I do my best in everything I can, and I'm very independent," said Jacki, who drives and graduated fourth in her senior class of 21 at Waverly High School.

Of course, since her procedure involved adult, rather than embryonic, stem cells, the MSM will largely ignore it - and that is tragic, not just with respect to the stem cell issue, but also because of the character and determination of this young woman as she fights for her own betterment, and advocates for the benefit of others.

ESC Research Nearing Obsolescence?

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

The Missouri Roundtable blog reports that German scientists have acquired pluripotent stem cells from an adult mouse testis, the discovery of the presence of multi-lineage stem cells in amniotic fluid, and the development of a technique to acquire in large numbers blastomere-like stem cells (BLSCs), which have been demonstrated to be able to differentiate into most tissue types of the body, from peripheral blood.

If ESC researchers don't hurry up, their work will be rendered useless.

Definition Of Embryo Death Criteria May Open Doors For Stem Cell Research

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

From Medical News Today comes this interesting report that could perhaps avert some of the ethical controversy surrounding the use of IVF embryos:

A research team from Columbia has, for the first time, identified criteria through which embryo death can be confirmed. The implications for stem cell research are huge - by confirmation of embryo death, embryos could be harvested, just as organs are for transplantation, in order to generate stem cells for research and, ultimately, therapeutic purposes.

The details:

They found that many nonviable embryos (n = 142 out of 444) were hypocellular and lacked compaction on embryonic day 5 (ED5). All of the hypocellular embryos failed to progress to compacted morula or normal blastocyst when observed further. The research team conclude that arrested development at the multicellular stage on ED5 indicates an irreversible loss of integrated organic function, and hence, the condition of death.

The practical implication:

Approximately a fifth of all embryos generated for in vitro fertilization - conventionally classified as ‘nonviable' - are in fact dead on ED5 by Landry's criteria... The researchers propose that the ethical framework currently used for obtaining essential organs from deceased persons for transplantation could be applied to the harvesting of live cells from dead human embryos for the creation of stem cells.

If these embryonic death criteria can be further investigated and confirmed, and if such nonviable embryos can, in fact, yield usable tissue for research, then these researchers may have just found a way to harvest embryonic stem cells without the ethical/moral stigma of having destroyed viable human life in order to do so.

I would guess that these observations are in their infancy with respect to practical use and widespread acceptance, but for the time being, I'll take a "cautiously optimistic" stance.

Can the Heart Heal Itself?

Filed in ScienceTags: Stem Cells

From Bioethics.net comes this report on the discovery of clusters of stem cells in the heart:

A team of US researchers has discovered the “home” of stem cells in the heart, lending credence to the idea that the heart has the capacity to repair itself. The finding raises the possibility that these cardiac stem cells could one day be manipulated to rebuild tissues damaged by heart disease – still the leading cause of death in the US and UK.

Comparing Stem Cell Poll Questions

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Anne Leonard of the Stem Cell Research Blog compares stem cell poll questions, and their divergent results.

The first poll question, from the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), which polled 72% strongly/somewhat in favor:

Embryonic stem cells are special cells which can develop into every type of cell in the human body. The stem cells are extracted from embryonic cells produced in fertility clinics and then frozen days after fertilization. If a couple decides the fertilized eggs are no longer needed, they can choose to donate the embryos for research or the clinic will throw the embryos away. Scientists have had success in initial research with embryonic stem cells and believe that they can be developed into cures for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, heart disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injuries. Having heard this description, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose medical research that uses stem cells from human embryos?

The second poll question, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which polled 48% opposed:

Stem cells are the basic cells from which all of a person's tissues and organs develop. Congress is considering the question of federal funding for experiments using stem cells from human embryos. The live embryos would be destroyed in their first week of development to obtain these cells. Do you support or oppose using your federal tax dollars for such experiments?

She then, after comparing the two poll questions, comes to the following conclusion:

I find the CAMR question better designed (despite its use of “success”) and more objective than the Bishops’ question, which has a lot of ambiguity in it. Maybe I am reading with my own biases and knowledge—but I think providing information about an issue yields a better question than vague and unspecific language.

Huh? The Bishops' question is more "vague" and has more "ambiguity" than the CAMR question? Let's compare, shally we?

Ambiguous:

The stem cells are extracted from embryonic cells produced in fertility clinics and then frozen days after fertilization.

Stem cells are not extracted from "embryonic cells", they are extracted from embryos (destroying them in the process).

Not Ambiguous:

The live embryos would be destroyed in their first week of development to obtain these cells.

Ambiguous:

Scientists have had success in initial research with embryonic stem cells and believe that they can be developed into cures for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, heart disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.

Embryonic stem cell (ESC) research has yielded no success whatsoever in treating any human injury, illness, or condition.

Not Ambiguous:

Congress is considering the question of federal funding for experiments using stem cells from human embryos.

So, exactly, which poll question is more vague and ambiguous?

More interestingly, and which the post doesn't even address, is this follow-up question in the Bishops' poll, which polled 81% against:

Should scientists be allowed to use human cloning to create a supply of human embryos to be destroyed in medical research?

This question is actually better in comparison to the CAMR question, since the two are more comparable. The entire IVF embryo question is really a red herring, since ESR research proponents prefer "fresh" embryos, and consider frozen embryos to be inferior. Thus, ESR research will come primarily from SCNT-cloned embryos, against which this poll question shows strong opposition.

Stem Cell Success

Filed in ScienceTags: Stem Cells

Well, of course, that would be adult stem cell success...

Never Give Up, Indeed

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Apparently, Lene Johansen doesn't think that those who support banning human cloning should keep challenging the Stem Cell Initiative.

No, we will never give up. It has something to do with the Initiative, through an intentionally deceptive attempt to re-define "cloning", claiming that the Initiative bans human cloning, while in reality it constitutionally prohibits the legislature from banning human cloning.

So, no; we won't give up, until every Missourian knows the truth. Missourians have the right to make informed decisions about this issue.

Say What?

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Among other things in this article on the one-year anniversary of Massachussetts' pro-embryonic stem cell (ESC) research legislation, I found this little gem [emphasis added]:

After years of honing his skills in Massachusetts, the 34-year-old stem cell researcher received an offer from a privately endowed research center in Kansas City.

There was only one hitch. In Missouri, Cowan said, he feared his type of research could land him behind bars. In contrast, he felt Massachusetts had put out a welcome mat.

Talk about sensationalism! "Land him in jail"? Really? Considering that none of the research being conducted in Massachussetts is illegal in Missouri, that fear is rather spurious.

Oh, and a side note: I would harbor a guess that the "privately endowed research center in Kansas City" mentioned in the article is none other than the Stowers Institute, founded by the same Jim and Virginia Stowers who are bank-rolling the Missouri Stem Cell Initiative.

The article has more of the usual mis-information. After generally getting the facts straight for most of the article, we come to the following critical failure:

At the heart of the stem cell debate is a procedure known both as somatic cell nuclear transfer or therapeutic cloning.

The basic science involves taking an egg from a woman, removing the 23 chromosomes that would normally match up with 23 chromosomes from a sperm, and replacing them with a full 46 chromosome nucleus from any cell of an adult, essentially creating a single cell clone.

The egg is then induced to begin reproducing until there is a ball of a few hundred stem cells that have the ability to transform themselves into any type of cell in the body. The goal is to use those cells to create cures or treatments for disease.

Good information, up to "single cell clone" - but then the article gets it wrong. That "single cell clone" is no longer an egg, but a zygoe: a single-cell embryo. The embryo proceeds through mitosis (cell division) and into the various stages of embryonic development. At the stage in question - the blastocyst stage - the embryo is comprised of inner and outer cell masses. The outer cell mass will later become the placenta, and the inner mass (which contains the stem cells) progresses into the fetal stages of human development.

In order to use those stem cells, the embryo must be destroyed. A "ball of cells" is not removed from the developing embryo; a developing human being is killed.

The article's conclusion falls under the category of "unintentional irony" [emphasis added]:

Despite his enthusiasm, Zon tries to temper public expectations about the research.

He said the short term goal -- over the next five years or so -- is to gain a greater understanding of human development and use tissue created through human embryonic stem cell research to experiment with potential treatments for diseases.

The longer term goal -- over the next 10 years -- is to create new cells to actually replace defective parts.

"We are just at the beginning," he said.

The only thing realistic here is the last sentence. Every indication is that any real progress with ESC research is, at a minimum, decades away. How giving the impression that meaningful results are 5-10 years away constitutes "tempering public opinion", I can't fathom.

I Don’t Want To Hear It

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is attempting to use Embryonic Stem Cell (ESC) research as a wedge issue in his re-election campaign. In so doing, it isn't surprising that he falls squarely in line with ESC proponents, by pandering to false-hope sensationalism and attempting to claim a moral/emotional high ground.

I've covered this ground before, and will continue to do so:

The Democrat senator told a panel of experts and advocates at Hackensack University Medical Center that the Republican majority leadership in the U.S. Senate has blocked a vote on his bill to allow funding for work on stem cell lines from new embryos.

The panel, which included Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, was the first of three campaign stops in North Jersey for Menendez, who replaced Jon Corzine in the Senate and is running for a full term. Other panelists included advocates for research in Parkinson's disease, juvenile diabetes and blood cancers.

I wonder if any of these "advocates" support the Adult Stem Cell (ASC) research that is actually producing meaningful, useful, and promising results in these areas?

But it is the following pander by Menendez that irks me incredibly:

Menendez said the stem cell debate is personal for him because his 85-year-old mother suffers from Alzheimer's disease, one of many illnesses that future research might cure, he said.

"It's difficult to sit across from your mom and have her not know who you are," he said.

Note to Menendez: you don't own the moral high ground on this issue. And I don't want to hear it.

I am sick of Alzheimer's being used as the battle-standard of ESC proponents, and I am equally sick of ESC proponents claiming moral and compassionate superiority over their opponents because of Alzheimer's. The ESC proponents are not the only ones ever to lose a loved one because of Alzheimer's. I never truly knew my grandfather, because by the time I was old enough to have a relationship with him, he was already too mentally deteriorated from the amazing, sharp-witted, character-discerning, loving man my family knew him to be, due to the Alzheimer's that eventually claimed his life when I was a freshman in high school.

Further, it is very likely that I am genetically pre-disposed to Alzheimer's - so I have even more of a vested interest in medical advances and research that will hopefully one day understand and cure this horrendous disease. But I will be damned (and I mean that quite literally) if I put the value of my own life before anyone else's - and that includes cloned or frozen embryos.

I would rather die than destroy another human life - especially when that life would be destroyed for the purpose of research that has produced no meaningful results whatsoever, while other research, having no ethical concerns whatsoever, continues to progress and bring real results and real hope and promise.

Consistent with the Clone the Truth campaign, I am committed to ensuring that the truth about adult and embryonic stem cell and related research is made known.

OYB June 4

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: II Samuel 22, II Samuel 23:1-23
NT: Acts 2
Ps: Psalm 122
Pr: Proverbs 16:19-20

Today´s notable verse:

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38 (NIV)

The One Year Bible Blog's comments for today.