Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stem Cell Research: The Ethics of Necessity

If you aren't too keen on Embryonic Stem Cell Research but don't beat a bible, or if you feel that Owen's "embryo farm" fantasy won't hold up in arguments with your friends, I think you'll find that there's a much easier way to dispute the raging debate over a very misunderstood subject that currently finds itself in the limelight.

The fact is, there are more unknowns about Embryonic Stem Cell Research than there are knowns. What we do know is these cells are undifferentiated so that with manipulation they may be grown into any type of human cell. In that fact alone lies their strength.

Nevertheless, given all of the misgivings about embryonic research, I think it's better to stick to what we know -- in this case: Adult Stem Cell Research.

Adult stem cells live in every human body. In the past, it was believed that these cells were little in number, difficult to locate and already specialized, which poses a big problem. If the cells are specialized, it basically means that they can only regrow into one type of cell, whereas embryonic stem cells can grow into anything, thus making the latter type of research sound more promising and making it the stronger candidate for funding.

Recent research on adult stem cells has proven nearly all of the above false, or has given reason to believe in a not too distant otherwise. While adult stem cells are little in number, methods of locating them have improved and the likelihood of cloning the lines is high. Furthermore, adult stems cells have proven to be much more variable than previously thought, and new research gives hope that they have the capability of being returned to their original, undifferentiated state.

Additionally, the biggest hurdle with embryonic research is that the very likely possibility of rejection remains. So, even if embryonic stem cells can regrow an arm or cure diabetes, the patient is not guaranteed that his or her body will even accept the treatment.

In order to overcome that obstacle, embryonic stem cells for every kind of genetic makeup will have to be available. As a result, far more embryonic stem cells will be needed in order to conduct all the research, and the testing, and then to find the right kind of makeups for each person. Effectively this means that somewhere down the line more embryos will have to be destroyed.

Not one of these concerns arise when dealing with adult stem cells because only cells from the patient's body are used in the process, and the body has not shown a tendency to reject its own cells.

Lastly adult stem cell therapy has been in practice for the last 30 years. While embryonic stem cell therapy has yet to show a single success, adult stem cell therapy has numerous cases that show the treatment is effective.

In summation, it is my opinion that federal funding should be directed to the side of this business that has shown the most promise with the fewest ethical objections. If adult stem cells can achieve the same results as embryonic stem cells, then the need for the latter is eliminated.


At 9:04 AM, July 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for clarifying this for me. I have not followed with any intensity the actual issue and this clarifies a lot for me.

At 9:22 AM, July 19, 2006, Blogger Scott D. Feldstein said...

Here's an idea. Why don't we let the actual scientists tell us which research avenues are the most promising?

At 9:52 AM, July 19, 2006, Blogger Cantankerous said...

Hey Scott...

If we took your advice, no bloggers should have an opinion on anything unless it's a topic that pertains to their profession.

Interesting stance considering you're also a blogger.

At 3:13 PM, July 19, 2006, Blogger Josh Schröder said...

Hey Scott,

How about we let Dr. Josef Mengele tell us who we should use for science? You probably know this, but I'll type it anyway: Scientists are not necessarily ethicists. Pure science explores all options without regard to ethics or morality.

Cures and treatments should not come from immoral or unethical research.

At 4:22 PM, July 19, 2006, Blogger Casper said...

Good point Josh.

Kinda reminds me of this:


At 4:24 PM, July 19, 2006, Blogger Cantankerous said...

And on that note, I'd like to point out that my degree is in, you guessed it: Philosophy, emphasis on Ethics.

Boo ya! First time I've ever gotten to brag about that. LoL

At 10:53 PM, July 19, 2006, Blogger Jay Bullock said...

This, perhaps, is more significant than you realize:
[A]dult stem cell therapy has been in practice for the last 30 years.

Research on embryonic stem cells has been around for less than a third of that time, and for five years now the research in this country has been significantly hampered by federal restrictions. (That doesn't mean US researchers haven't been able to do things with ESCs that adult stem cells can't do, though.)

How can you think a verdict is possible in a comparison between the potential of the two? Eight years into use of adult stem cells, how many things were on that list that is now 72? Probably not all 72.

At 11:42 PM, July 19, 2006, Blogger Cantankerous said...

Question...if the research on embryonic stem cells is only so limited in this country, then why haven't other countries had the breakthroughs you speak of?

But, to your point, I don't disagree. I was just putting an argument out there that doesn't hinge on Bibles or a belief that humans can't control themselves.

Almost any topic that has the most time and resources spent on it is going to be more advanced.

Personally, I'm not 100% decided on the issue. As someone who is pro choice, however, I need a good out should I decide I'm against it, and it can't rely on the definition of an embryo.

So there you have it.

At 7:47 AM, July 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jay - Scott

Bush and did not veto the process - they vetoed the FEDERAL FUNDING

At 10:20 AM, July 21, 2006, Blogger Scott D. Feldstein said...

It's absurd for lay people like ourselves to toss around cherry-picked scientific factoids specifically selected to make a political point.

It is appropriate to let our scientists tell us which kind of research has the most promise.

I am NOT saying that they should tell us which type of research is ethical or unethical, as has been suggested.

At 6:13 PM, July 21, 2006, Blogger sliverthetomcat said...

Scott your hostility discredits you. Cantankerous was sharing her opinion with us. I do believe that even us lowly "lay people" are allowed to have an honest opinion.


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