Monday, August 23, 2004

Stem Cell Crash Course

For those stating that embryos would be destroyed anyway, think about this:

By now we have all absorbed the familiar complaints against the kind of science performed so directly, and without inhibition, by German doctors during the Second World War: If we want to know how long pilots could survive in the cold waters of the Atlantic, why not just dunk some human beings in water brought to that temperature and find out directly? As it so happens there were Jewish prisoners at hand who, as the saying goes, were "going to die anyway." Why not use them to find out what science was keenly interested in knowing?

Yet the fact that the prisoners were marked to die did not dispose of the question of whether they were being sent to their deaths rightly or wrongly. And even apart from that question, the scientific community seemed to recoil from the prospect of performing, on non-consenting human subjects, experiments highly likely to be lethal.

As everyone used to understand, then, there were moral constraints that properly limited the passion of science to "know."

Some examples of treatment using stem cells.

Adult stem cells healed broken bones and torn cartilage in a clinical trial.

They were responsible for the first completely successful trial of human gene therapy, helping children with severe combined immunodeficiency disease to leave their sterile environment for the first time.

Adult cells from a young paraplegic woman's own immune system, injected into the site of her spinal-cord injury, cured her incontinence and enabled her to move her toes and legs for the first time. (Reported in congressional testimony in July 2001.)

In June 2002, research confirmed that adult stem cells are more effective than embryonic stem cells in blood formation; and a month later, Canadian and Japanese scientists saw adult bone-marrow cells show significant immune tolerance. The cells were not only incorporated into bone marrow, but also into damaged hearts to help in repair.

In July 2002, bone-marrow stem cells were incorporated and differentiated into retinal neutral cells in an injured retina. Researchers have used bone-marrow stem cells to grow new blood vessels in the eyes of mice — a procedure that they hope might lead to treatment for some forms of blindness in humans.

Around the same time, scientists implanted adult bone-marrow stem cells into children with osteogenesis imperfecta, a severe bone and cartilage disease, and the stem cells stimulated bone growth.

In the summer of 2002, researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital successfully turned adult stem cells into insulin-producing cells that could reverse diabetes.

In February 2003, researchers showed convincingly that stem cells transplanted from a patient's muscle tissue to the heart may be able to take over for cardiac muscle damaged by a heart attack.

There has NOT been any treatment of humans using embryonic stem cells.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There has NOT been any treatment of humans using embryonic stem cells.True, but that isn't a good argument against research, is it? By that logic, we should stop all research that already has not been useful in treating humans. Bush's own Bioethics Committee tells us differently. Are you telling us you know better than , what to study and why?

8:37 PM  

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