The main controversy is payday loan using prepaid debit card the use of stem cells from aborted babies or specially cloned embryos—embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). These stem cells develop in the first few days after fertilization. Some high-profile celebrities with disabilities or diseases are urging stem cell research, e.g. the quadriplegic former Superman star Christopher Reeve, insulin-dependent diabetic Mary Tyler Moore, and Michael J. Fox who has Parkinson’s disease.
But what has been largely overlooked are the many successes of treatments with stem cells not derived from embryos, and this suggests another agenda (discussed below) beyond the emotive appeals that pro-life sentiment is allegedly hindering potentially life-enhancing research.
• Adult stem cells are ‘Hidden in the nooks and crannies of our brains, bone marrow, and hair follicles.
• C.J. Chiu, a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at McGill University Health Center in Montreal , injected a type of stem cell from bone marrow, called a stromal cell, into the hearts of rats. These cells differentiated into new heart muscle that made the right connections to nearby cells so they could all beat together.
• In rats, stem cells from the hippocampal region of the brain were transplanted into their eyes, and migrated to damaged parts of their retinas and even began to make nerve connections. This may have promise for helping restore vision in patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP), and even retinal detachments and diabetic retinopathy.
• Stem cells and other versatile ‘transient amplifying cells’ found in the outer root sheath of hair follicles can be transformed into skin cells which can be used for skin grafts.
|A team led by University of Florida immunologist Ammon Peck permanently cured insulin-dependent diabetes in mice, with stem cells from adult pancreatic ducts. The stem cells differentiated in vitro into the insulin producing structures called the islets of Langerhans. These islets were injected under the skin of adult mice with IDD, and they functioned as a pancreas, releasing insulin, and blood vessels developed toward them. In a week or so, the mice could regulate their blood glucose levels again. Peck said:
‘Our first observation was the fact that one can take a single stem cell and induce it to grow and differentiate into a hill-functioning organ, containing all the differentiated, end-stage cells found in the exocrine pancreas.
PPL Therapeutics PLC, the British firm that helped clone Dolly the sheep, intends to experiment with a new technique called dedfferentiation, i.e. undoing the process of differentiation. They hope to return a skin cell from an adult human to its embryonic state—they claim to have already achieved this with a cow.
•Closer to home, the husband of one of the AiG (USA) staff had a bad case of bone marrow cancer, and donated over 30 million of his own stem cells, which were extracted from his blood prior to his first bone-marrow transplant.
|• An abundant source of stem cells is umbilical cord blood, which already have proven themselves in treating leukemia. A more recent discovery was that stem cells from umbilical cord blood were injected into mice which had suffered strokes, and they effected a 50% recovery in brain tissue. The About Genetics article reports:
‘Researchers attending the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science presented research suggesting that stem cells
from umbilical cord blood may be as useful as stem cells found in fetuses. This breakthrough may lead to an easing of tensions surrounding stem cell research and could eventually lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of brain damage and brain disease.
‘Given the abundance of umbilical cord stem cells and the fact that umbilical cord cells are already being used for other disorders like childhood leukemia, many researchers expect that umbilical cord stem cells will start being used to treat stroke victims within the next few years.
Probably the best source of stem cells is liposuctioned fat, which should not be hard to obtain in the country with the highest rate of obesity in the world. Researchers have grown cartilage, muscle, or more fat cells, from such stem cells,, depending on the nutrients in which the cells were grown.9 Charles Vacanti, professor and chairman of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and a co-editor of Tissue Engineering commented:
The article ‘Stem cells from skin grow into brain tissue” provided still more evidence for this view. A team led by Jean Toma and Freda Miller at McGill University ‘s Montreal Neurological Institute, Canada , grew stem cells from skin (the dermis) into smooth muscle cells, fat cells and brain cells. They were successful with stem cells from mouse skin and from human scalp. The article commented:
‘The new research, published Monday in Nature Cell Biology,’21 bolsters the view that scientists can find alternative—and less controversial sources of stem cells … one intriguing aspect of growing them from stem cells found in skin is that scientists could have a vast and easily accessible supply. This breakthrough may lead to an easing of tensions surrounding stem cell research and could eventually lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of brain damage and brain disease.
‘Patients receiving new tissue grown from stem cells taken from their own skin would face far fewer problems of rejection, if any, than they would after receiving a transplant of stem cells derived from human embryos.”
The article ‘Brain cells offer disease hope” yet again ‘proves that embryonic stem cells are not the only stem
cells able to be developed into new cells.’ A team at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, grew neurons from adult neural stem cells (NSCs) from mouse brains. The authors state: ‘This demonstrates that a predominant, functional type of stem cell exists in the periventricular region of the adult brain with the intrinsic ability to generate neural and non-neural cells.’ They believe that the technique can be applied to taking out personal loan humans and offers ‘hopes of a treatment for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The above examples demonstrate very clearly that there is vast potential for adult stem cell research, so the pleas for embryonic stem cell research are unnecessary from a scientific point of view, quite aside from the moral issues discussed below. Therefore the quotes by authorities below are amply supported by real experimental evidence:
Geneticist David Prentice says:
adult stem-cell research … has already shown itself to be extremely promising for treating numerous degenerative diseases such as heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’ s, and diabetes. Adult stem cells have been shown in animal models to repair heart damage, provide therapeutic benefit for stroke, and reverse diabetes. And adult stem cells have already been used successfully in human patients to relieve lupus, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis, to name a few.”
Markus C. Grompe, a professor of molecular medical genetics at Oregon Health Sciences University reinforced this point when commenting on another study:
‘This would suggest that maybe you don’t need any type of fetal stem cell at all … that our adult bodies continue to have stem cells that can do this stuff.”
Joseph Kincaid, Vice-President of Right to Life of Michigan, said:
‘The current debate in Washington over funding destructive embryonic research is completely overshadowing this ethical and very promising research. In fact, most media reports fail to concede that research using embryonic stem cells has not produced a single cure or successful treatment yet.”7
Kincaid’s last sentence is supported by research by team led by Dr Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, iecitly published in the journal Science.’8 This showed that embryonic stem (ES) cells used in cloning mice often result in severe abnormalities because the epigenetic state of the ES cell genome was found to be extremely unstable. That is, the genes per se were OK, but the ES cells had lost much of the switching information, so that they no longer turned on and off the right instructions at the right time. An alleged strong point of embryonic stem cells over adult ones is that they would be the most undifferentiated, so supposedly have the most potential to grow into different types of tissue. But this experiment shows that they may be in reality too undifferentiated.
The Washington Post reported:
‘If the same is true for human embryonic stem cells, researchers said, then scientists may face unexpected challenges as they try to turn the controversial cells into treatments for various degenerative conditions.”9
To demonstrate the politically charged atmosphere (and further exploding the myth of the ‘unbiased scientist’), the researchers, at the last minute, deleted a sentence in their article alluding to this problem. Instead, they added a sentence emphasizing the cells’ therapeutic promise, because they were:
afraid that any mention of that potential problem in the article might be exaggerated by political factions that oppose the research on religious and ethical grounds.’
It’s difficult to see why pointing out real experimentally proven dangers of using ES cells should be considered ‘exaggerating’, but the next section shows the main reason why ESCR is wrong.