Archive for Monday, May 22, 2006

Umbilical cord research receives last-minute funding

May 22, 2006


— Tucked into the final state appropriations bill approved earlier this month by the Legislature was $150,000 for umbilical cord research at Kansas University.

KU didn't even ask for it, but state Rep. Mary Pilcher-Cook, an avid opponent of embryonic stem cell research, did.

Kathy Mitchell, the KU assistant professor who will receive the funding for her lab, doesn't care about the political battles going on, so long as she can continue her research.

"I believe that all types of stem cell research should be done because there is much to be learned," said Mitchell, who works in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at KU's Lawrence campus.

Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, and several other legislators oppose embryonic stem cell research and pushed throughout the session for a ban on cloning. That proposal failed, but lawmakers plan to study the issue before the next session.

Stem cells have the ability to turn into different types of cells, and scientists believe they can use them to treat diseases. Stem cells derived from embryos are thought to have greater developmental potential, but embryonic stem cells derived from humans are controversial because to start a stem cell line, a human embryo must be destroyed or therapeutic cloning must be used.

But Pilcher-Cook, like many opponents of embryonic stem cell research, promotes the use of stem cells derived from the blood of babies' placentas and umbilical cords after birth.

Kansas University assistant professor Kathy Mitchell's research on stem cells got a $150,000 boost from the Legislature through the efforts of anti-abortion advocate Rep. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee.

Kansas University assistant professor Kathy Mitchell's research on stem cells got a $150,000 boost from the Legislature through the efforts of anti-abortion advocate Rep. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee.

"Some of the leading-edge research is coming from stem cells extracted from umbilical cords," she said.

Pilcher-Cook thinks the research on embryonic stem cells will "fade away" not only because of the controversy but also because application of the research has had problems, such as the formation of tumors and rejection of tissue.

Respect of viewpoint

Mitchell said she disagrees with Pilcher-Cook's opposition to embryonic stem cell research but respects her position.

"This is based on her personal faith. She and I have discussed this, and while I disagree with her and believe that embryonic stem cell research should be done, I understand and respect her strong faith and belief in the teachings of her church," Mitchell said.

At Mitchell's lab, researchers are studying the basic characteristics of cells from umbilical cord blood and how they compare with adult stem cells. The long-term goal is to better understand cord blood cells as a source of stem cells for the treatment of disease and the repair of damaged tissues.

Mitchell is one of the four founding fellows of the Midwest Institute for Comparative Stem Cell Biology at Kansas State University, which also received $150,000 for umbilical cord blood study in the appropriations bill.

Abundant supply

Mitchell said that compared with embryonic stem cells, cord blood cells are more tolerated by the immune system and less likely to be rejected or form tumors.

And, she noted, there is an abundant supply of cord blood cells and they can be frozen for an undetermined number of years. In fact, cord blood banks are appearing throughout the nation, and Pilcher-Cook passed a bill that directs the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to set standards for these storage options.

Pilcher-Cook is confident the research will produce great findings.

"I wish it could've been a lot more" in funding, she said. She said one of her major disappointments of the session was her failure to advance a measure that would have given tax credits to people who contributed to umbilical cord research.

"Each of us have some diseases in our family that are very painful. This would give people the ability to put their money toward research where there is new progress every day," she said.


tolawdjk 12 years, 1 month ago

I'll give you one very good reason why you can't donate them.

If the research facility is a recepient of public funds, then federal law dictates that it cannot recieve/open research on new lines of embryonic stem cells. Period. My guess is that KU would fall into this category. You are left with research on a very limited amount of existing lines of embryonics to do your research on. So, as techniques improve to develop these cells, culture them and grow them such that some of these rejection issues and tumor issues are addressed, the majority of research in the US doesn't have access to them due to the rules set in place.

Now, a private university setting, I believe, can develop new lines as they don't recieve federal funding to further their research. The Northwestern University Medical Center in Chicago is one such place where remaining IVF embryos can be designated for research uses.

lmw 12 years, 1 month ago

The above article says "Mitchell said she disagrees with Pilcher-Cook's opposition to embryonic stem cell research but respects her position." Would that Mary Pilcher-Cook respected those of us who disagree with her faith position and stop trying to block early stem cell as an avenue of research.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

I wish more people in the field of science had Mitchell's outlook.

GOPConservative 12 years, 1 month ago

Agnostick wrote:

"I don't think it's an "either/or" type of question. I think you can do stem cell research using both human embryos and umbilical cord blood."

Taking a position that everything is "either/or" with no shades of grey is a characteristic of those who belong to the extremist churches.

For them, everything and everyone is either good or evil.

They have been indoctrinated by their Pharisees that a handful of unorganized cells is the same thing as a fully functioning baby.

To save hundreds of lives by utilizing these cells is "murder of the unborn," and should be punish by society.

If these "criminals" are not "born-again" before they die, God will sentence the offenders to an eternity of torture in hell for killing His babies and failing to properly worship His son.

After all, that's what is says in the Bible, or, rather, the Pharisee has determined that the Bible implies that.

The logic of these (false) "believers" inevitably is this:

Q: What do you believe

A: I believe we must obey the Word of God, and the Bible is the Word of God.

Q: Why is the Bible the Word of God?

A: Because it says so in the Bible.

Q: How do you know the Bible is inerrant?

A: Because the Bible is the Word of God.

Q: How do you know your Pharisee is correct in his/her interpretation?

A: Because my Pharisee is divinely inspired though his/her study and dedication to the Word of God.

I can't believe that any rational person could vote for someone whose "thinking" is based on such illogical and irrational thought processes.

Yet, Ryun and Brownback represent us in Washington and far too many religious extremists like them represent us in the State legislature.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

The only extremists who deserve representation are people who think like you, right?

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

HGA, I didn't mention anything about religion, or spirituality, or Satan. There are extremists on both ends of this argument, and the extremists are the ones who want to silence discussion of any opinion that differs from their own.

If there happen to be fewer atheistic or agnostic representative voices in the Kansas legislature than fundamental Christian ones, and more moderates than either of those two extremes put together, then that just happens to be be a reflection of the population of Kansas, as a whole.

All are entitled to a voice, and hopefully, compromise will rule.

GOPConservative 12 years, 1 month ago

Godot said: "All are entitled to a voice, and hopefully, compromise will rule."

What is to compromise? The question is: Do we allow scientists to use embryonic stem cells to save lives or not?

Those who oppose this research base their objection on totally weird reasons that defy logic and common sense. They are the only extremists in the two sides of this argument.

As HGA suggests, the scientists who want to save lives using stem cells often do so for spiritual reasons, but as HGA also indicates, the religious extremists brand them as evil, Satanic, etc.

That in itself proves how extremist they are. Further, they are so irrational that they would rather see those globs of cells destroyed than see them use for righteous purposes.

The religious extremists are way out in right field on this issue and most others. Many of them got into office using lies, trickery and tainted money.

I'm for voting ALL of them out of office. Contrary to your false assertion about appropriate representation, the religious extremists represent a very small minority but have way to much say in the State legislature and in Congress.

badger 12 years, 1 month ago

You know, I could castigate Pilcher-Cook for her opposition to embryonic stem cell research, or I could appreciate that she took the time (unlike quite a few conservative whackjobs I've met down here in JesusLand) to learn that not all stem cell research is about using embryos, and is at least willing to put our money where her mouth is and fund the research on umbilical research in hopes that perhaps by funding it she can encourage science to find ways around that which she finds morally objectionable.

yourworstnightmare 12 years ago

I guess the way to get funded to do science in Kansas is to appeal to conservative christian ideologies.

Maybe the Natural History Museum should stop emphasizing evolution and focus on issues more palatable to x-tians and watch the money pour in.

It is facile to see through Pilcher-Cook's obvious political stunt that will enable her to say she supports science.

With the recent dismantling of the federal research funding structure, one might imagine a future wherein scientific proposals must pass a religious ideology test before funding. Yes, there are biases in scientific funding now, but at least these biases have a scientific basis. The future holds a religious dogma bias for scientific funding.

While I understand why Mitchell accepted the money, it sure would have been nice if she had turned away this politcal stunt with a political stunt of her own: refusing to take scientific hush money from a religious idealogue who is hostile to science.

yourworstnightmare 12 years ago

I must point out again that nowhere in the bible, koran, or torah does it state that life begins at fertilization. The definition of life beginning at fertilization is a recent, arbitrary interpretation of something the bible is silent on. It has become dogma among conservative x-tians, however.

yourworstnightmare 12 years ago

"According to modern science, the point at which a distinct new human life is created is when the chromosomes of the parents are knit together"

I am not sure to which "modern science" you are referring, but this is just wrong. Fusion of the genetic material is but one step of many, such as recombination during meiosis, implantation into the uterus, and development of a nervous system, that must happen for a human being to develop. Indeed some animals bypass fertilization altogether, such as bees and some reptiles.

"the point of fertilization, or conception"

Not the same thing at all. You can define it that way if you wish, but fertilization is a distinct step in a developmental process whereas "conception" can mean many things to different people (of different faiths). They are not equivalent, but many conservative x-tians take it as dogma that they are. Nowhere in the bible is this equivocation made. It is a human interpretation.

Holygraileale said: "You're free to adopt the mythology but I would point out the rate of miscarriage just about equals the rate of abortion. What that indicates about God's intention for a conception "under God's control and authority", I'll let you meditate on."

Good point. A majority of embryos (after fertilization) never implant and are aborted before the woman knows she is pregnant. God works in mysterious ways, I guess...

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