Saturday, September 25, 2010

What is it with Obama and Embryonic Stem Cells?

As you may recall, back in August a federal judge blocked president Obama's expansion of Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR). Which got me to thinking "why does Obama love embryonic stem cells?" Contrary to garbage "news" stories like "Science, not Politics" ESCR is 100% politics. If we look at the science, there is no reason to perform ESCR.

First off, ESCR does not work, for a very simple reason. In 1901 Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types, which was an important step in our understanding of the human immune system and tissue rejection. Today we can transplant major organs. But organ transplants are not "natural". The body naturally attacks tissue that does not belong there. Organ receivers have to take powerful drugs to suppress their immune systems. These drugs make the person susceptible to infections and have all sorts of other nasty effects. It's worth it, if you need a heart, though.

While not an entire organ, embryonic stem cells are similar in that they are tissue from another human's body, and the immune system reacts to it. Because of this, people treated with embryonic stem cells develop cancers and immune system problems.

Secondly, even if one solved the immune system problems, there is no need to use embryonic stem cells. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IpSC) have been proven to be identical in function to embryonic stem cells. The difference is that IpSCs are created without the destruction of human life.

Thirdly, why pour money into research that is decades away from solving a problem, when we have other avenues of research that are solving those problems today? Adult stem cell research has produced cures for over 70 diseases/conditions.

The current administration has done its best to confuse the issue in the public eye, and has reduced funding of adult stem cell research in order to put the money into ESCR. Quite frankly, I'm angry that my money is being thrown away and used to kill humans. Or to put it another way:
I have been told that I need to respect the opinion that human embryos are just a mere clump of cells and full of promise for cures.  Well, respect is a two way street.  If you want embryonic stem cell research, then you pay for it.
Don't make me, and millions of people like me who find research that relies on the destruction of human embryos morally reprehensible, support it with our tax dollars.   When you do, you are forcing your belief that a human embryo has no value on me.

But why? Why not fund adult stem cell research? IpSC research? Why must it e ESCR? I didn't have a good answer, until I read an interview with a former ESCR scientist, Theresa Deisher. Ms. Deisher says:
Embryonic stem cells have never been used in a viable treatment, despite research on animals going back to the late 1970s. On the other hand, research on adult stem cells began a decade later and has already led to many viable treatments.

Nonetheless, she says, human embryonic stem-cell research is more attractive commercially because the cells are patentable. A patent-owning drug company will be able to charge $50,000 to $500,000 per patient for individual treatments. “Adult stem-cell treatments are much more affordable, around $10,000, and without side effects.”
And it all makes sense. So perhaps, in addition to the ethical and scientific objections, we should ask why our president, who claims to want to reduce health care costs, uses federal dollars to fund research whose only goal is to allow drug companies to charge more for the same patient benefits.


Wonderful piece Mike and well thought out as always. Peter Tatchell and many others who protested Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the UK last week raised the Church's objection to hESRC as a reason to 'protest the Pope' and claimed that the Church wished IVF children weren't born. Given that hESRC is based predominantly on 'spare IVF embryos' who then doesn't want IVF children to be born? The 'aggressive secularist' message twisted and incoherent.

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