Social Issues

So·cial iss·ues: of or pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community; of or pertaining to humans associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes, esp. as a body divided into classes according to status. Posts in this category pertain to matters of human social interaction, classification, and association.

Windows Vista DRM

Filed in Social IssuesTags: Computers, DRM, Geekery, Technology, Windows

Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson have been having an interesting discussion about Windows Vista Digital Rights Management (DRM) in Episodes 73, 74, and 75 of their weekly SecurityNow podcast, including a conversation with Peter Gutmann, who wrote a white paper called "A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection".

Today I noticed a GRC newsgroup post referencing a shashdot post discussing a Windows Vista Blog post discussing Gutmann's paper.

If you are considering an upgrade to Windows Vista, and are not familiar with what Microsoft is doing with respect to DRM in the new O/S, you probably want to take a look.

More Re-Definition of Terminology

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

First, they tried to re-define "embryonic" as "early". Next, they tried to re-define "cloning" as "implantation". Now, they're trying to re-define "cure".

Adult stem cells have thus far produced at least 72 human treatments. It appears that one of the latest tactics of the pro-Amendment 2 Coalition is to refute that fact (emphasis added):

Winship says there have been no proven cures found with embryonic stem cell research and said adult stem cells are a proven - and ethical - alternative.

"The reality is, it’s still zero" cures "for embryonic stem cells," she said.

Farrow said embryonic stem cell opponents would do anything to derail the initiative, including overstating the potency of adult stem cells.

"You’ll hear our opponents say that there are between 65 to 100 adult stem cell cures. That’s simply not true," Farrow said.

"The truth is there are only nine adult stem cell cures, and we believe that research needs to go forward," she said. "But adult stem cells have been researched for over 50 years. The first earlier embryonic stem cell research didn’t start until 1998. We haven’t even had a full decade of research with embryonic stem cells."

What on earth could possibly explain such disparity? Apparently, the Coalition, in an attempt to level the playing field in their favor, have begun applying a "FDA-approved" qualification (emphasis added):

Dr. William Neaves is with the Stowers Institute Medical Research. "This is a contest between society and disease, not between adult stem cells and early stem cells," says Neaves.

Researchers say embryonic stem cells hold infinitely more potential than adult stem cells for curing disease. They say the claim about dozens of treatments already developed from adult stem cells is not true. "At best, only nine of those diseases have, after 50 years of research with adult stems cells, FDA-approved therapies that are available to patients," says Neaves.

The Coalition is obviously hedging on the belief that the general public have no real understanding of what FDA approval is, what it means, or how it happens. I will try to give a brief overview.

FDA is divided into various "centers". I work for a pharmaceutical company that manufactures, packages, and sells drugs. We are under the direction of FDA's CDER: the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Medical devices - pacemakers or defibrilators, for example - are under the direction of CDRH: the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Stem cell treatments are under yet another center - CBER: the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

In order for a drug, device, vaccine, or other treatment (hereafter, treatment) to get FDA approval, a rigorous and intensive process is required. The sponsor (company requesting approval) must complete a submission application including all the data supporting the approval request. For a new treatment, the submission would include data from three phases (Phase I, Phase II, Phase III) of clinical studies. These clinicals are the heart of the company's justification for requesting approval. Phase I clinicals are very small (less than 100 participants) studies, generally using healthy humans, to determine physiological interaction of a treatment with humans. Phase II clinicals follow successful of Phase I, and are controlled, small-scale (a few hundred participants) studies using people who have the condition for which the treatment is indicated, used to determine preliminary data with respect to the effectiveness of the treatment, and any side effects associated with the treatment. Phase III clinicals follow successful completion of Phase II, and are controlled (or uncontrolled), large-scale (a few hundred to thousands of participants) studies used to determine the effectiveness of the treatment for the general population, and to ascertain the overall risk-benefit relationship of the treatment.

Based on these data, in addition to other aspects of the submission (stability data for a drug, for example), FDA will approve or reject the application. Once FDA has approved an application, the sponsor can legally market and sell the treatment in the US.

As with many other treatments, due to the nature of the conditions for which stem cell treatments are intended, such treatments are not always well-suited for typical clinical trials. FDA is aware of and working to reconcile the difficulty of translating stem-cell treatments into clinical trials.

Note, however, that other mechanisms exist, prior to or in lieu of FDA final approval, for treatments to be used (legally and effectively). Two such mechanisms are the Treatment Investigational New Drug (Treatment IND) approval, in which "FDA will permit an investigational drug to be used under a treatment IND if there is preliminary evidence of drug efficacy and the drug is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease, or if there is no comparable alternative drug or therapy available to treat that stage of the disease in the intended patient population", and the parallel track policy, in which "patients with AIDS whose condition prevents them from participating in controlled clinical trials can receive investigational drugs shown in preliminary studies to be promising."

Some treatments - such as prenatal drugs - may never proceed through all clinical phases and final approval, but may be given to patients as investigational treatments for non-approved indications as long as the patient gives informed consent (which is also required for participation in clinical studies). Such is the case for Treatment INDs discussed above.

The bottom line is this: all treatments administered in the US must have FDA approval, whether in the form of a final New Drug Approval (NDA), or as an Investiational New Drug approval (IND). So, of the more than 72 treatments currently in use, every single one in use in the US has FDA approval of one form or another.

That said, much stem cell research and advancement takes place outside the borders of the US and outside the control of FDA. Any treatments derived from such research would not be subject to FDA approval; therefore, any implication regarding such approval is

This argument is not unique to the Missouri Amendment battle. In this 07/06 letter to Science, Do No Harm refutes the argument for the straw man that it is, and also points out that some 1170 clinical trials involving stem cells currently exist, including some 565 trials currently active and seeking participants - while not one single clinical trial is underway for embryonic stem cell treatments. Moreover, the letter points out that there are currently no peer-reviewed references to embryonic stem cell-derived human treatments. The above-referenced list of 72 human treatments derived from adult stem cells, which Do No Harm maintains, includes only those treatments for which peer-reviewed scientific publication of their effectiveness exists.

Yet again, the Coalition can only offer mistruths and deception.

Christians Against Human Cloning Rally

Filed in Politics, Religion, Science, Social IssuesTags: Christianity, Cloning, Missouri, Saint Louis, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Last night, I attended the Christians Against Human Cloning Rally, held at Life Christian Church and sponsored by Vision America/Missourians for Truth. Speakers included Shao-Chun Chang (professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis), Charles Drury (Hotel Developer), Archbishop Raymond Burke, Rich Bott (executive vice president, Bott Radio Network), Rick Scarborough (President, Vision America), Phyllis Schlafly (Founder and President, Eagle Forum), and Alan Keyes.

Some notable quotes:

"It is wrong to create human life for the purpose of destroying that life."

-- Archbishop Raymond Burke

"The most fundamental premise of our nation is not that we have rights, but that our rights come from God."

-- Dr. Alan Keyes

(Pictures will be available soon.)

UPDATE: See the Flickr photoset for the rally.

CAHC Rally 001

Christians Against Human Cloning Rally, Life Christian Church, Saint Louis, 28 August 2006
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

The Post-Dispatch covered the rally. Below are some excerpts from the article.

(St. Loius Archbiship Raymond) Burke, head of the St. Louis Roman Catholic archdiocese, joined other regional and national religious conservatives - from Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly to commentator Alan Keyes - who addressed hundreds who packed the sanctuary at the Life Christian Church, 13001 Gravois Road in south St. Louis County.

"Hundreds"? My estimation was more like 2,000. I was in the balcony, and couldn't see the entire floor seating area. The Cape Girardeau rally had 300, and gauging by the photo, we had as many in the balcony seating, alone.

(I just called the church to inquire about estimated attendance. Though I didn't get an actual number, I was informed that the rally was believed to be essentially a "full house", and the church sanctuary/auditorium holds between 3,000 and 4,000 people. I know the balcony wasn't entirely full, but the floor seating was.)

Back to the article:

In a telephone interview, (chairman of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures Donn) Rubin contended that it was the opponents who were spreading untruths. Otherwise, he said, the Cures Coalition wouldn't have support from more than 100 groups, including research centers, health care groups and patient groups.

We'll see the most fundamental of your untruths, a couple paragraphs below. And it's about time I parsed your "factsheet" as well, since every single point listed is a mistruth at best, or a bald-faced lie at worst.

Critics, said Rubin, are "inventing wild claims to distract the public from what we're really voting on - the right of Missourians to obtain the same medical treatments available in other states."

The "medical treatments" canard is nothing but a "wild [claim] to distract the public from what we're really voting on." Missouri's access to medical treatments available in other states has never been in question, and likely will never be in question. In the far-off (and, in all reality, unlikely) event that a human treatment derived from embryonic stem cells ever becomes available, the location of the research into that treatment will not determine the location of the application of such a treatment. The availability of such a treatment will depend only upon the availability of access to the stem cell line from which such treatment was developed.

At the rally, opponents emphasized that much of the debate centers on a procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or therapeutic cloning.

Under that procedure, the nucleus of an unfertilized human egg is replaced with the nucleus of another human cell. Opponents say it is a form of human cloning and cite the use of the procedure to clone Dolly the sheep. The Lifesaving Cures Coalition says the procedure is not cloning and cites the proposed amendment's specific ban against implanting such an egg in a womb.

And here it is: the number one, most fundamental, outright, bald-faced lie of the Coalition. By definition Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) is cloning; cloning is SCNT. The two terms are interchangeable.

In genetics, somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a technique for cloning.

...

This technique is currently the basis for cloning animals, such as the famous Dolly the sheep, and could theoretically be used to clone humans. Scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute are currently researching a technique to use somatic cell nuclear transfer to produce embryonic stem cells.

For human cells, no other method exists as a viable means of cloning.

Even your own supporters recognize and admit this truth. From your own website:

Let us freely admit that the procedure used to produce human stem cells for research is cloning, but not in any way part of a process for creating human babies. The distinction should be clear.

The distinction is clear, but it is also irrelevant. Your Coalition is promoting Amendment 2, specifically stating that the amendment "bans human cloning" - yet, you never reveal that the amendment uses a conjured definition of "cloning" not recognized anywhere else, nor do you point out that the amendment actually prohibits the banning of human cloning - that is, cloning according to the proper usage of the term.

So, which side is it, again, using distractions and spreading untruths?

Back to the article:

Scarborough said the number of Missouri rallies would depend on how much money can be raised to pay for them. So far, each rally has cost close to $20,000. That includes Keyes' speaking fee of $2,500.

The Lifesaving Cures' leaders point to the payments as evidence that Keyes and Scarborough may have financial motives. Scarborough said he was offended by such talk, and added that Keyes' payment was a fraction of his usual speaking fee.

Let's compare rallies, shall we?

How much do you want to wager that the Coalition Rally held at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City, with its Hollywood glitz, busloads of "hundreds" (er, make that, about 150) attendees from across the state, red-carpet treatment of speakers, and applause cues cost more than the Christians Against Human Cloning rallies? To wit (emphasis added):

From their state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment to the busloads of backers brought to town from across the state, it was clear supporters of an effort to amend Missouri's constitution to protect embryonic stem cell research spared no expense at a Monday morning campaign kickoff rally.

With an audience of nearly 150 proponents at the Capitol Plaza Hotel prompted to applaud on cue and a podium of speakers from the political to the poignant, the rally in favor of the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative had the look and feel of a television talk show.

Are you going to imply, with a straight face, that all of the Coalition's speakers are speaking without compensation? Further, what of the over ten million dollars in Coalition support from the Stowers Institute? Would you actually lead to believe that this investment is made without an expectation of a return? Follow the money, indeed!

See also: LifeNews coverage.

Sunday School Scandal in Watertown

Filed in Politics, Religion, Social IssuesTags: Christianity

In The Agora has a post about First Baptist Church in Watertown, NY, dismissing Mary Lambert from her Sunday School teaching position, which she had held for 54 years, citing I Timothy 2:12 (NIV):

I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

The pastor, Timothy LaBouf, issued this statement on the church's web site.

The church also has a blog, but it appears to be only for posting weekly sermons.

There appears to be some history, both with church members taking church matters public, and also specifically with Ms. Lambert, according to this statement from the Diaconate Board. The part that puts the church board and the pastor in a tenuous position is that the dismissal letter referenced only the Scriptural rationale for Lambert's dismissal, yet the board's statement indicated that the dismissal had only a small part to do with that rationale:

In the specific case of Ms. Lambert the Board’s decision to remove her from a teaching position was multifaceted and the scriptural rules concerning women teaching men in a church setting was only a small aspect of that decision. Christian courtesy motivates us to refrain from making any public accusations against her.

According to the pastor's statement:

We had originally intended to include the various multifaceted reasons for the dismissal in our corresponds however after legal review it was recommended that we refrain from including issues that could be construed as slander and stick with “spiritual issues” that govern a church, which the courts have historically stayed out of. With threats of lawsuits in the past we wanted to try hard to not go down that road again.

I'm no lawyer, but it would seem to me that this course of action would only invite more legal scrutiny...

Perhaps, before making such a drastic decision, rationalized based upon a single Scriptural reference, the church should remember this Scripture:

Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

II Corinthians 13:1 (NIV) (See also: Deuteronomy 19:15)

More importantly, if the church wanted to dismiss Lambert for other reasons, they should do so, and state them, rather than hiding behind a "Scriptural rationalization" out of fear of legal ramifications.

Cloning and Women’s Health

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

Just how safe is it for women to donate eggs for SCNT research?

Someone Finds Me Humorous!

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

Apparently, the Primacy of Awesome (who can't seem to follow blog-linking protocol well enough to trackback to my original post), considers me to have made a humorous attempt at reasoning.

To set the stage, from this post at Mary Meets Dolly, I had quoted this article (link appears not to be working at the moment), as follows:

In fact, to attribute rights to embryos is to call for the violation of actual rights. Since the purpose of rights is to enable individuals to secure their well-being, a crucial right, inherent in the right to liberty and property, is the right to do scientific research in pursuit of new medical treatments. To deprive scientists of the freedom to use clusters of cells to do such research is to violate their rights–as well as the rights of all who would contribute to, invest in, or benefit from this research.

I then made the following comparison:

The last person to try such reasoning did so in order to implement said scientific research on another group of humans deemed unworthy of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The end result: the death of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

Somehow, the apparently reading-comprehension impaired Primacy of Awesome then came to the following conclusion:

That’s right! Pro-stem cell research equals genocide. And for some reason Ayn Rand is rolling in her grave because… Objectivists are now pro-holocaust? You really gotta see this one to believe it.

First, let me point out that Primacy of Awesome fails to distinguish between embryonic and adult stem cell research; therefore, the first statement of his conclusion is specious. On the matter of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research, that conclusion isn't nearly as hyperbolic as the author would lead you to believe. Considering that the authors of the original article failed in their attempt to redefine the definition of a "human being", the fact that ESC research will require the destruction of countless human embryos may lead some to consider the line of research analogous to genocide.

Second, Primacy of Awesome apparently missed the point of the comparison completely. The original authors tried to use a rationalization that to oppose ESC research in order to defend the sanctity of all human life no matter what age or stage of development equates to denial of the right of other humans to perform scientific research on human embryos for the securement of well-being of other humans. Let me quote again my response to this reasoning:

The last person to try such reasoning did so in order to implement said scientific research on another group of humans deemed unworthy of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The end result: the death of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

In that comparison, I did not in any way address the purpose of using such a reasoning, but rather the reasoning itself. Primacy of Awesome missed this point entirely. The similarity lies in the use of the same form of reasoning in order to obtain a desired end.

The Nazis rationalized that Jews were inferior as humans, and thus reasoned that their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were subservient to the Nazis' right to perform scientific experiments on them. The authors rationalized that human embryos are not human beings, and thus reasoned that their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were in violation to the rights of scientists to use them for research for the securement of the well-being of other humans.

The comparison is especially germane, since in both cases, the preliminary rationalization is clearly and demonstrably false. The Jewish victims of the Holocaust were every bit intrinsically valuable has human beings as were the Germans who carried out the Holocaust; likewise, human embryos are every bit intrinsically valuable as human beings as are those who wish to use them for scientific research.

To be quite clear (since, apparently, Primacy of Awesome requires the carification): to compare the use of faulty reasoning in two circumstances makes no inherent value judgement concerning the relative evil of one end versus the other.

I reserve that judgement for abortion.

Update: Primacy of Awesome added a trackback to the original post. Thanks, Mike!

Ayn Rand Institute Hypocrisy

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

Mary Meets Dolly parses a despicable attempt at rationalization of the inhumanity of human embryos by David Holcberg and Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute.

The authors use several tactics. Here is the first:

But embryos used in embryonic stem cell research are manifestly not human beings--not in any rational sense of the term. These embryos are smaller than a grain of sand, and consist of at most a few hundred undifferentiated cells. They have no body or body parts. They do not see, hear, feel, or think. While they have the potential to become human beings--if implanted in a woman's uterus and brought to term--they are nowhere near actual human beings.

Unfortunately for them, human embryos are, by unbiased definition, human beings. Genetically, they are fully human. They are not "potential" humans. The self-direct their growth and development, meaning the human embryo manifestly exhibits initiative toward that end. Just because some activist SCOTUS judges arbitrarily conferred "personhood" on human beings only upon the point of birth does not change the scientific evidence, knowledge, and general belief that life exists intrinsically at the moment of conception.

The second tactic is as follows:

The "pro-lifers" accept on faith the belief that rights are a divine creation: a gift from an unknowable supernatural being bestowed on embryos at conception (which many extend to embryos "conceived" in a beaker). The most prominent example of this view is the official doctrine of the Catholic Church, which declares to its followers that an embryo "is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized."

But rights are not some supernatural construct, mystically granted by the will of "God." They are this-worldly principles of proper political interaction rooted in man's rational nature. Rights recognize the fact that men can only live successfully and happily among one another if they are free from the initiation of force against them. Rights exist to protect and further human life. Rights enable individual men to think, act, produce and trade, live and love in freedom. The principle of rights is utterly inapplicable to tiny, pre-human clusters of cells that are incapable of such actions.

I guess, by this logic, every one of our Founding Fathers was a "pro-lifer". May I remind of the following:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

The endowment of rights is not a function of nor dependent upon the capacity of the person to take advantage of those rights; rather, the intrinsic worth of the person is recognized by the unconditional endowment of those rights. The authors' same logic applies to justification for euthanasia of the elderly, the incapacitated, the mentally retarded, or anyone else not deemed inherently "worthy" of such rights as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is the height of arrogance that these authors would deign to set themselves up as arbiters of the inherent worth of any person, no matter at what stage in that person's development.

The logical progression of this line of rationalization leads to the following harrowing statement:

In fact, to attribute rights to embryos is to call for the violation of actual rights. Since the purpose of rights is to enable individuals to secure their well-being, a crucial right, inherent in the right to liberty and property, is the right to do scientific research in pursuit of new medical treatments. To deprive scientists of the freedom to use clusters of cells to do such research is to violate their rights--as well as the rights of all who would contribute to, invest in, or benefit from this research.

The last person to try such reasoning did so in order to implement said scientific research on another group of humans deemed unworthy of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The end result: the death of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

Having fully lost all grasp of reality, the authors resort to what is now the commonplace argument for ESC research:

And to the extent that rights are violated in this way, we can expect deadly results. The political pressure against embryonic stem cell research is already discouraging many scientists and businessmen from investing their time and resources in its pursuit. If this research can lead, as scientists believe, to the ability to create new tissues and organs to replace damaged ones, any obstacles placed in its path will unnecessarily delay the discovery of new cures and treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and osteoporosis. Every day that this potentially life-saving research is delayed is another day that will go by before new treatments become available to ease the suffering and save the lives of countless individuals. And if the "pro-lifers" ever achieve the ban they seek on embryonic stem cell research, millions upon millions of human beings, living or yet to be born, might be deprived of healthier, happier, and longer lives.

Yet these hypocrites ignore new treatments for such conditions being developed and used every day, when such treatments are derived from adult stem cell research. They gloss over the glaring failure thus far of ESC research to yield even a single viable treatment. They facilitate the propogation of false hope for those suffering from diseases that likely no stem-cell (adult or embryonic) derived treatments will ever help, such as Alzheimer's.

The authors leave us with this conclusion:

The enemies of embryonic stem cell research know this, but are unmoved. They are brazenly willing to force countless human beings to suffer and die for lack of treatments, so that clusters of cells remain untouched.

To call such a stance "pro-life" is beyond absurd. Their allegiance is not to human life or to human rights, but to their anti-life dogma.

If these enemies of human life wish to deprive themselves of the benefits of stem cell research, they should be free to do so and die faithful to the last. But any attempt to impose their religious dogma on the rest of the population is both evil and unconstitutional. In the name of the actual sanctity of human life and the inviolability of rights, embryonic stem cell research must be allowed to proceed unimpeded. Our lives may depend on it.

To claim that an embryo is not a human being is beyond absurd. The proponents of embryonic stem cell research know this, but are unmoved. They are brazenly willing to force their dogmatic, culture-of-death views on the rest of the American people, who continue to demonstrate their disdain for human cloning for any reason, and their disapproval of the destruction of human embryos for research purposes. So, let's recap:

Pro-Life

  • Recognizes intrinsic value of life at every age and stage of deveopment
  • Supports the entirely ethically uncontroversial, already proven, and immensely promising adult stem cell research
  • Opposes embryonic stem cell research because the process destroys human embryos, recognized as intrinsically valuable human life

Culture of Death

  • Denies the inherent worth of life based on developmental stage, mental capacity, age, ability to contribute to society, or any other socially or politically expedient reason
  • Ignores the many advances in adult stem cell research, and the tens of thousands of people whose lives have been improved or even saved by such research
  • Rationalizes an untenable position by attempting to redefine terms and change boundaries, and intentionally give false hope by knowingly making unrealistic claims

Ayn Rand is rolling over in her grave.

Researchers Get OK, Reporter Gets Confused

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

So much mis-information, so little time...

Two teams of Boston scientists announced Tuesday that they will attempt to creating the world's first cloned human embryonic stem cells.

Technically speaking, stem cells, by definition, clone themselves. Stem cells are self-replicating.

Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Boston Children's Hospital researchers said they will try to develop a powerful new tool to explore the biology of and create disease-specific stem cell lines that could lead to the treatment of a wide range of now-incurable conditions afflicting tens of millions of people worldwide.

Note to reporter: stem-cell research - especially embryonic stem cell research - is not required to explore the biology of a "wide range of now-incurable conditions." (Though, given the poor grammatical structure of the lead-in sentence, I'm unsure whether she meant "biology of...a wide range of now-incurable conditions" or "biology of...stem cell lines.")

Researchers plan to initially focus on diabetes and then expand to include neurodegenerative diseases, such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig?s Disease, and blood disorders.

Note, again, to reporter: adult stem cell treatments are already proving effective in these areas.

The method, called somatic cell nuclear transfer, involves removing the nucleus, which contains DNA, from an affected cell and replacing it with the nucleus from a donor cell, researchers explained. The cell is then forced to divide into multiple cells that are genetically identical to the healthy donor cell. The method has already proven successful in animal research. Patients with diabetes, blood disease and neurodegeneration will donate the cells. Embryos that were created through in vitro fertilization that have been deemed incapable of producing a pregnancy will be the source of the embryonic cells.

This has to be the most inaccurate explanation of SCNT I've yet seen. Just to clarify:

In somatic cell nuclear transfer the nucleus of a somatic cell (a cell other than a sperm or egg cell) is removed and the rest of the cell is discarded. In parallel, the nucleus of an egg cell is removed. The nucleus of of the somatic cell is then inserted into the denucleated egg cell. The egg, now containing the nucleus of a somatic cell, is stimulated in such a way that it begins to divide.

So, to correct:

  • Enucleated somatic cells are not necessarily "affected" cells; they are simply non-gametic cells from the person to be cloned.
  • The enucleated somatic cell is not placed into an enucleated somatic cell; it is placed into an enucleated egg.
  • The result is not simply another cell; it is a zygote genetically identical to the donor of the somatic cell.
  • The resultant zygote is not merely genetically identical to the donor somatic cell; it is genetically identical to the donor of that somatic cell.
  • The resultant zygote is not forced to divide into multiple cells; it is electrically induced to begin self-directed mitosis, from which the single-cell zygote proceeds into the various stages of embryonic development, and beyond.
  • IVF embryos have absolutely nothing to do with SCNT. Using IVF embryos is an alternate, and currently, only successful, means of harvesting embryonic stem cells.

Moving on:

Human embryonic stem cell research has long been at the center of controversy because in extracting healthy cells, days-old human embryos are destroyed. Embryonic cells are used because they are capable of developing into any cell or tissue type in the body. Opponents of the work claim that no potential medical benefit can justify the destruction of what they view as a human life.

"What they view" as human life? Embryologists universally agree that first, the blastocyst from which stem cells are harvested (and which is destroyed in the process) is an embryo, and second, that embryos, being self-directing in their growth and development, are living. Thus, human embryos are human life.

Harvard President Lawrence Summers is hopeful the research will lead to millions of people being able to live healthier lives.

"While we understand and respect the sincerely held beliefs of those who oppose this research, we are equally sincere in our belief that the life-and-death medical needs of countless suffering children and adults justifies moving forward with this research," Summers said in a release about the work.

Then again:

"Given that embryos are human beings, they have a right to self and a right to life. Exploiting their parts (ie, cells) or killing them for research is moral trespass that society should not allow. Even if the research might, and let’s be clear, might benefit others, this trespass is not justified."

--James Sherley, Ph.D. associate professor of biological engineering at MIT

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.