Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2005

Researcher says stem cell debate not over

Breakthrough adds new avenues, but won’t put an end to controversial methods

October 20, 2005


The stem cell controversy isn't over.

Yes, scientists announced this week they can create new stem cells without killing embryos, seemingly resolving ethical questions that have sparked fierce opposition to such research.

But a Kansas University official said Wednesday the news means only that scientists have new avenues of research to follow. That doesn't mean older, controversial methods will be automatically abandoned.

"We need to be charging forward on all fronts," said Marcia Nielsen, assistant to the executive vice chancellor for health policy at KU Hospital. "One discovery ... is fantastic, but we shouldn't use that as a means to cut off other opportunities for science."

That will be a disappointment to opponents of embryonic stem cell research. One of the most fervent foes has been U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

His office this week declined to provide a statement from Brownback to the Journal-World. But the senator told UPI wire service he was hopeful the new discoveries would end the debate.

"It's going to take some steam out of this rapid march for destroying human embryos for stem cells because we've got another route you can go without destroying human life," Brownback said in a Wednesday UPI story.

Stem cells found in embryos are highly adaptable, with the ability to develop into many different types of cells needed by the human body. Scientists hope that some day they will be able to use the cells to treat Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses, including diabetes, Parkinson's, heart disease and multiple sclerosis, but federal funding for research has been restricted because research techniques required destroying embryos, considered by conservatives to be nascent human life.

Two new techniques - both tested in mice, but not on humans - created stem cells without destroying embryos, researchers reported Sunday in the journal Nature.

No one at KU or the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo., conducts embryonic stem cell research, though there are seven researchers doing projects on cells derived from umbilical cords and adults.

"We are so excited to hear about any breakthrough, at this point, when it comes to stem cells," Nielsen said Wednesday. "First and foremost, we're interested in finding cures for diseases. Every step that gets us closer is exciting."


lunacydetector 12 years, 8 months ago

does KU teach a bioethics course?

i take it they don't.

Daniel Speicher 12 years, 8 months ago

I, for one, am extremely excited about this new research. I have been against the methods of embryonic stem cell research up until this point. A human life, no matter what stage of development it is in, is still a human life. And, to negate one life to save another (or even several others) is not ethical nor moral.

However, in this new research (so it would appear), the stem cells are collected earlier in the process and the embryo is able to replace those cells and go on to be a healthy baby upon birth. I think it would be foolhardy for researchers to pursue a track of embryonic stem cell research that so many are against (for good reason) when a viable alternative has been offered. This seems to me to be an issue with pride. It seems the researchers are saying, "Well, yes... We do have an option that, as it appears, can possibly do as much as the previous method... But, we aren't going to let those 'dirty Christians' foil us... So, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!"

We need to use what we have discovered immediately! If this study is true and the embryos are unharmed, than I would assume that the government would have no problem giving federal funds for research that would, potentially, lead to the cure of so many harmful illnesses. However, scientists are as bull-headed as Vice Chancellor Nielsen, we may, indeed, still have problems. I think we need to take this new research as a blessing and pursue funding for its development. I think it would be sad to pursue anything else when a solution of compromise has been laid at our feet.

--Danny Speicher

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