T Nation

Is This False Hope?

I recall a while back that it was suggested that the public should not be given false hope concerning the possibilities of stem cell research…

http://www.wpherald.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20041127-121143-6745r

Yes, that is always a good reason to curb funding. Heh, I’m not trying to get a debate going on whether or not it should be funded, but this is great news in general (and I couldn’t resist the poke).

Here’s the clip for those too lazy to click…

[i]SEOUL – South Korean researchers say they’ve used stem cell therapy to enable a paralyzed patient to walk after she was not even able to stand for the last 19 years.

Chosun University professor Song Chang-hun, Seoul National University professor Kang Kyung-sun, and Han Hoon from the Seoul Cord Blood Bank said they transplanted multi-potent stem cells from umbilical cord blood into the 37-year-old female patient who suffered from a spinal cord injury, the Korea Times reported Saturday. 
 
The woman could now walk unassisted, the scientists said. 
 
"The stem cell transplantation was performed on Oct. 12 this year and in just three weeks she started to walk with the help of a walker," Song told reporters at a news conference in Seoul. 
 
The woman's legs were paralyzed after an accident in 1985 that damaged her back and hips and confined her to a wheelchair. 
 
The researchers said they isolated stem cells from umbilical cord blood and then injected them into the damaged part of the woman's spinal cord.

[/i]

vroom:

Those who oppose embryonic stem cell research on moral and/or ethical grounds must emphasize a critical point: The woman in question was treated with stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood not from embryos. I’m not a scientist by any means, but one of the arguments specifically for embryonic stem-cell research is that embryonic cells are almost “magic”, in that they are infinitely maleable, whereas adult stem cells and other stem cells won’t work. This advance is with other than embryonic stem cells.

One of the consequentialist moral arguments against embryonic stem cell research is that it entails the destruction of an unborn human life. This story doesn’t really change that equation for those who set it up that way – in fact, it might give them an arrow in the quiver to use to resist pressure on embryonic stem cells, because other stem cells can be effective.

[Addendum: I should note my own position on this is undefined at the moment.]

Hi Vroom,
Philisophical question - Do you agree that society should be allowed to take a human life to benefit another human life? If so, who should have the right to decide to take that life, and should the life being taken have any rights? Maybe we should take the life of some severly disabled people, so we can do studies on them, or give their organs to other people that need them? Do you see where I’m going with this. Where do you draw the line?

I would second what BB said about the type of stem cells used.

I’m not trying to be a wet blanket on the use of stem cells, but - Didn’t we hear about human cloning a year or two ago? Turned out to be a big hoax. So did the much ballyhooed ‘cold fusion’ reports from several years back.

I really hope this is a breakthrough, but I’d like to see more substantial proof than that of a South Korean testimonial.

Neil,

This bullshit has been argued enough in the abortion threads recently. I’m not interested in debating the beginning of life and related religious and ethical issues.

I’ve simply highlighted an article that stem cells show a lot of promise.

However, perhaps you should ponder on the number of innocent people dying in Iraq in order to free the populace and install a democracy – sometimes these decisions actually do get made.

For those interested in the ethical issues, please go explore here instead of drowning this thread in the same old circular moral arguments…

http://stemcells.nih.gov/

I guess that means you won’t answer the question. You should run for political office, I’m sure Carloyn Parrish’s seat will be vacant at the next election :slight_smile:

Neil,

I’ve answered the question in other threads. Sorry to inconvenience you, but you missed it.

Hang around a while and I’m sure it will come up again when I’m not tired of the subject.

It’s only possible to discuss the same thing with the same people so many times before it gets a bit dull…

There is definitely a lot of promise with stem cells – seemingly with adult stem cells, placental stem cells, embryonic stem cells, and all sorts of stem cells. Whatever the outcome on the funding debate w/r/t embryonic stem cells, I don’t think anyone doubts their potential.

I believe there should be moral concern with embryonic stem cell research. Also, I do believe that life begins at conception. However, I don’t understand the moral dilemma.

If it is legal to fertilize dozens of eggs, then implant them one at a time in a woman (to get her pregnant) until a success is made, and then discard those fertilized eggs, it should be morally no worse to use those eggs instead for research. Preventing research with the embryos isn’t going to prevent their deaths. If people are truly concerned, they should try to stop in-vitro fertilization and other pregnancy methods altogether (not that I am suggesting that I support this, it’s just a logical argument).

RepubCarrier: Stop making sense. You’ll get the crips all riled up.

[quote]RepubCarrier wrote:
I believe there should be moral concern with embryonic stem cell research. Also, I do believe that life begins at conception. However, I don’t understand the moral dilemma.

If it is legal to fertilize dozens of eggs, then implant them one at a time in a woman (to get her pregnant) until a success is made, and then discard those fertilized eggs, it should be morally no worse to use those eggs instead for research. Preventing research with the embryos isn’t going to prevent their deaths. If people are truly concerned, they should try to stop in-vitro fertilization and other pregnancy methods altogether (not that I am suggesting that I support this, it’s just a logical argument).[/quote]

I dont know, how logical is your statement, really? we’re already doing something bad, sow why stop there? thats what i’m getting; juss doesnt seem that logical to me.

[quote]PoKeJeRk wrote:
I dont know, how logical is your statement, really? we’re already doing something bad, sow why stop there? thats what i’m getting; juss doesnt seem that logical to me.[/quote]

I think what he’s getting at is the fact that the moral judgement against abortion or fetal stem-cell research is that it’s wrong because of the potential human being destroyed in the process, and that it’s akin to murder.

Then, we have the double standard that RepubCarrier mentioned in that the same thing (destruction of potential human beings) is occuring with the in-vitro fertilization process, and yet there’s no great moral outcry against the in-vitro fertilization procedure. One would expect the same villainous labels as “murderer” and “baby-killer” attached to in-vitro doctors as we see attached to fetal-tissue researchers and abortion clinic doctors. After all, the in-vitro guys are killing a bunch of “babies” at once, whereas the other guys are at least limiting it to one at a time, so to speak. Why not call in-vitro doctors “baby mass-murderers”, according to this logic?

It’s a good point. I’m not sure if we’ve touched on this in our other threads about this issue.

I think RepubCarrier makes a good point as well. Not using the cells for research will not make the eggs develop into a baby who will then go on to lead a happy life. Anyway, here’s some stem cell stories:

Bite Back
By Jocelyn Selim
DISCOVER Vol. 25 No. 12 | December 2004

In a major advance in custom-engineered body parts, a 56-year-old German man who lost his jaw to cancer grew a new one. Surgeon Patrick Warnke at the University of Kiel used computer-imaging software to fabricate a titanium-mesh mold that precisely matched the shape of the patient?s lost bone. Warnke then seeded the mold with bone stem cells from the man?s marrow and incubated it in his latissimus dorsi muscle, below the right shoulder blade. The marrow cells quickly filled the mesh with new bone. Seven weeks later, doctors surgically removed the mold and attached it to the remains of the cancer victim?s jaw. Four weeks after the operation, the patient (below)?who had only been able to slurp soft foods for the past nine years?was back on solids. ?His first meal was a bratwurst,? Warnke says. ?He really wanted that sausage.?

This marks the first time an entire bone has been replaced with a part grown in a mold. Surgeons normally must harvest replacement bone from elsewhere in the body, usually the lower leg. If a large amount of bone is needed, the procedure can do almost as much harm as good. It is also difficult to sculpt the bone precisely, so the implant generally leaves the patient disfigured. Warnke?s technique circumvents these limitations and could be adapted to work with other types of cells. ?This is just a proof-of-concept case. It will be necessary to do more operations and get an idea of the long-term prognosis before we say that the method is a success,? Warnke says. ?I do think that one day, especially with stem cell advances, we will be able to do this sort of thing routinely?perhaps even with joints or more complex organs.?

Can Stem Cells Cure Baldness?
By Jocelyn Selim
DISCOVER Vol. 25 No. 12 | December 2004

Patrick Stewart and James Gandolfini, take note. Biochemists led by Elaine Fuchs of Rockefeller University have isolated stem cells that may someday grow new hair on a bald head. This is more than a vanity project for the Rogaine set: The work could also lead to custom-grown skin grafts and a better understanding of how the body regenerates itself.

The skin?s ability to grow back after a wound led scientists to assume that it must contain stem cells, immature cells that can rapidly differentiate into many different types of tissue. Until now, however, nobody knew where such cells were located in the skin or how many kinds there might be.

Using fluorescent markers, Fuchs and her colleagues isolated two distinct populations of stem cells from mouse skin. The researchers then extracted the cells and grafted them onto genetically engineered hairless mice. Both cell populations caused the mice to develop thick patches of fur, along with all the other components of skin, including sweat and sebaceous glands.

These stem cells are different from the controversial ones extracted from embryos. ?Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they have the ability to become any type of tissue,? Fuchs says. ?We know these stem cells are multipotent?they can become any epidermis-derived tissue?but beyond that, we don?t know.?

Fuchs is now working on isolating equivalent cells in humans. ?To really treat baldness, you?d have to understand all the chemical pathways cells use to tell each other when to grow,? she says. ?That could take a while.?

These were both taken from http://www.discover.com/issues/dec-04/rd/

To-Shin Do

[quote]RepubCarrier wrote:
I believe there should be moral concern with embryonic stem cell research. Also, I do believe that life begins at conception. However, I don’t understand the moral dilemma.

If it is legal to fertilize dozens of eggs, then implant them one at a time in a woman (to get her pregnant) until a success is made, and then discard those fertilized eggs, it should be morally no worse to use those eggs instead for research. Preventing research with the embryos isn’t going to prevent their deaths. If people are truly concerned, they should try to stop in-vitro fertilization and other pregnancy methods altogether (not that I am suggesting that I support this, it’s just a logical argument).[/quote]

I agree with this. It seems many pick and choose what they oppose, sometimes based on nothing more than what is a hot topic at the moment. I doubt most have ever thought of it this way and it has been accepted. Everyone against abortion should also be against these methods of in-vitro fertilization…even though this does not seem to be the case. I am sure if the media made it seem as if homosexuals were the main ones getting fertilized this way, THEN there would be a large public outcry.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I am sure if the media made it seem as if homosexuals were the main ones getting fertilized this way, THEN there would be a large public outcry.
[/quote]

Hehehe… how true. Thing is, I think most people don’t realize that there IS a large portion of these artificial insemination folks who are homosexual. A couple of my lesbian friends here at work did it years ago. Their daughter is going to turn 7 (I think) next year.