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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stem Cell Research and Cloning

I have not researched Stem Cell research or cloning very much at all, so my reaction is simply an uninformed, gut, knee jerk reaction when I hear those terms thrown about by those opposing and by those that are proponents of such research.

With that said, I am going to present the news as I found it, and then I am going to point you towards others, who have researched the subject more than I have. for commentary.

TCS Daily has an article out about new research that could be used in place of embryotic stem cells for research purposes.

But hovering over the buzz of morning coffee has been a dark cloud: as governments everywhere promote it, is therapeutic cloning going to be mothballed before it has produced a single cure?

Only a few days ago an article in the leading journal Nature brought amazing news. A Japanese team at Kyoto University has discovered how to reprogram skin cells so that they "dedifferentiate" into the equivalent of an embryonic stem cell. From this they can be morphed, theoretically, into any cell in the body, a property called pluripotency. It could be the Holy Grail of stem cell science: a technique that is both feasible and unambiguously ethical.

"Neither eggs nor embryos are necessary. I've never worked with either," says Shinya Yamanaka. The first instalment of his research appeared a year ago -- and was greeted with polite scepticism by his colleagues. At the time they were mesmerised by dreams of cloning embryos and dissecting them for their stem cells.

The previous head of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, Lawrence S. B. Goldstein, had even dismissed reprogramming as quixotic. "If there are scientists who morally oppose [embryonic] stem cell research and want to devote their energies to uncovering alternatives, that's fine," said Goldstein. "But in no way, shape, or form should we ask the scientific community and patient community to wait to see if these new alternatives will work." Now, however, ten years after Dolly, not one scientist anywhere using a cloned human embryo has created a stem cell line. Not one. And a Japanese Don Quixote has.

This is mainstream research, not an eccentric theory from a Romanian naturopathy journal. Yamanaka's work has been confirmed by two other teams affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles -- both of them headed by ardent supporters of embryonic stem cell research.

They say that the reprogrammed cells meet all the tests of pluripotent cells -- they form colonies, propagate continuously and form cancerous growths called teratomas, as well as producing chimaeras. "Its unbelievable, just amazing," says Hans Schöler, a German stem cell expert. "For me, it's like Dolly. It's that type of an accomplishment."

What Yamanaka did was to take a mouse skin cell and introduce into it four proteins which trigger the expression of other genes to make it pluripotent. "It's easy. There's no trick, no magic," he says. Now the race is on to apply the technique to human cells. "We are working very hard -- day and night," says Yamanaka.

Even the Australian doyen of therapeutic cloning, Alan Trounson, of Monash University, is enthusiastic. "It would change the way we see things quite dramatically," he says. He plans to start experiments "tomorrow".

Will this disruptive technology open up ethical avenues in the promising field of stem cell research, avenues which do not involve turning women into battery hens for their eggs and destroying embryos?

Read the rest....

We also see that as President Bush vetoes a measure promoting embryotic stem cells, he will pair his veto with encouragement in researching the above mentioned technology. (Via NYT)

In interviews on Tuesday, two senior administration officials said Mr. Bush would direct his health and human services secretary to promote research into producing cells with properties akin to those of human embryonic stem cells, without destroying embryos in the process. Mr. Bush has said embryo destruction is a moral line that he will not cross.

The officials said Mr. Bush wanted the National Institutes of Health to capitalize on recent scientific advances, including a study published this month involving skin cells in mice, that had the potential to sidestep the ethical controversies surrounding embryonic stem cell experiments. The White House has been consulting with scientists in recent weeks on the plan, they said.

“This is the product of a lot of really hard, earnest work on this policy,” said Karl Zinsmeister, a domestic policy adviser to Mr. Bush who helped develop the initiative. “It is a real sincere effort to open up a new scientific solution to a vexing problem.”

More from CBS:

Embryonic stem cells can give rise to all types of tissue, so experts believe they might be used to create transplant therapies for people who are paralyzed or have illnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson's disease.

To harvest human embryonic stem cells, human embryos have to be destroyed, an action opposed by many people. The new studies are the latest to attempt to avoid embryo destruction.

Scientists have long hoped to find a way to reprogram ordinary body cells to act like stem cells, avoiding the use of embryos altogether. The new mouse studies seem to have accomplished that.

"I think it's one of the most exciting things that has come out about embryonic stem cells, period," said stem cell researcher Dr. Asa Abeliovich of Columbia University in New York, who didn't participate in the work. "It's very convincing that it's real."

Thats the news.

Now, for analysis from some that have done a bit more research into these issues, let me point you to RedState and to Clayton Cramers Blog.

For those just trying to learn and understand more about this issue, here are some links.

Stem Cell Basics.

Wiki" s definition of Embryotic Stem Cells.

Stem Cell Research Facts.

Embryotic Stem Cell Research.

The American Heart Association on Stem Cell Research.

These links were obtained from the yahoo search on Embryotic Stem Cell Research.

For those that, like me, have knee jerk, gut reactions, but no real knowledge about this issue, join me at the links above and let us learn together which side of this issue we wish to come down on.

[Update] Bush just vetoed the Embryotic Stem Cell Research Bill that was sent to him and after reading about the ins and outs of the bill all morning, I am glad he did.

A line must be drawn somewhere and I believe cloning embryoes for no other reason than killing them again in the name of "research" crosses my personal line.

WASHINGTON -- President Bush vetoed a bill easing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research today, calling on House Democrats to send him a bill funding alternative stem cell research that does not destroy human embryos.

"If this legislation becomes law, it would compel American taxpayers -- for the first time in our history -- to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos," he said.

At an East Room ceremony attended by patients and scientists who oppose research that involves human embryos, Bush also issued an executive order directing the Health and Human Services Department to promote research into "pluripotent" stem cells that have the potential to regenerate cell types and body tissues without use of embryonic stem cells, making them prime weapons in the war against diseases.

Bush, in his second veto of stem cell research, said he would "not allow our nation to cross this moral line," adding: "Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us."

I know medical research is important, but if there are "possible" other alternatives, they must be explored before we cross a line in creating ebryoes just to destroy them, in the name of science.

Just MY opinion.