The Root of the Stem Cell Debate
I saw a National Academy of Science video today (don’t worry, I link to it later), and now I just HAVE to talk about embryonic stem cells. First, a primer as to what exactly embryonic stem cells are. Basically, they are unspecialized cells derived from human egg cells used in In Vitro fertilization. You can read about them in more detail here. The controversy surrounding embryonic stem cells stems (pun intended) from our distinguished presidents ruling banning government funding for research in new cell lines. Practically crippling American research.
In an attempt to minimize some of the flak our President is getting in the stem cell debate, the current administration is seeking to develop a distribution and development center for the existing 19 stem cell lines allowed for government funded research. Both Reuters and Wired covered Washington’s new initiative. As you can guess, this half hearted gesture was not well received by scientists seriously involved in embryonic stem cell research.
This should not be a political issue, this is a question of science, plain and simple. President Bush needs to come up with a better justification for limiting one of the most promising medical technologies in human history than his addlebrained reasoning that embryonic stem cells make baby Jesus cry. Mr. President, that dog don’t hunt. We are at the same stage now in stem cell research where we were in the 1940s with rocketry. And it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone on the anti-stem cell side of the fence, that the whole rest of the world doesn’t share their opinions on morality. All they are doing by limiting our research in this field is putting our country behind researchers in South Korea, India, and anywhere else where common sense prevails over religious dogma. If we don’t do this, for whatever reason, some one else will.
Boston.com has an article beseeching advocates of embryonic stem cell research to speak their minds and be heard. In his article, Scott Kirsner says “I'm concerned that supporters of scientific progress here and elsewhere throughout the country have been too quiet.”
Too Quiet indeed. He also mentions that Ronald Reagan Jr. will be speaking at the Democratic National Convention. Since his fathers death from Alzheimer’s Ron has become quite vocal about the need for stem cell research. And I’ll only have one thing to say about Mr. Reagan when he gets up and talks about shifting our political paradigm toward more stem cell research. The same thing I said about his father when he’d give a speech about the Soviets, or taxes. “You tell ‘em Ronny!”
And now without further ado, the simplest and best argument I’ve seen to put the politics to the wayside, and get on with the science. This Video. It comes from PNAS.org. Both rats were deliberately crippled, and given identical surgical spinal scaffoldings to repair their damaged spinal cords. The only difference is that the second rat’s scaffolding included stem cells.
We are standing on the edge of possibility.
Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. ~John Dewey, The Quest for Certainty, 1929
More to come...