Making the case for stem cell research

You need look no further than this article to see why stem cell research should be fully supported by the U.S. government:

Nerve cells grown from human embryonic stem cells and injected into the brains of rats with a syndrome mimicking Parkinson's disease significantly reduced the animals' symptoms, but the treatment also caused tumors in the rodents' brains, scientists reported yesterday. […]

Goldman said he suspected that with modest changes in technique, researchers will be able to keep the benefits of the treatment while eliminating or reducing the chances of getting the cancerlike growths. But he conceded that much more basic research would have to be done before scientists — or regulators — were likely to be convinced of the approach's safety. […]

The team injected the cells into the brains of rats, which had been given a chemical that causes damage similar to that seen in Parkinson's. The new cells integrated into the animals' brains and produced copious amounts of dopamine. As a result, the animals' motor coordination improved almost to the point of being normal, according to the report in yesterday's online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.

But when the animals were autopsied after three months and their brains were examined microscopically, the team found multiple tumors, indicating that some of the injected cells did not settle into the job of being neurons but rather had begun to grow uncontrollably.

Obviously, the technique has not yet been perfected, but if they are able to work out all of the kinks, think about the implications: No more Levodopa cocktails, no more deep brain stimulation in which the patients have to "wear" an external battery pack (not to mention that DBS is only available to a small percentage of Parkinson's sufferers), and a return to normal or near-normal life for the thousands, possibly millions, of Parkinson's patients throughout the world.

Case in point: Michael J Fox suffers from Parkinson's Disease.  Fox is a national treasure, what with all of the joy his acting has brought to us.  There is an ad circulating right now in which he urges voters to support one candidate over another because the former supports lifting the ban on stem cell research.  The video itself is heartbreaking.  My words could never do it justice.  It'll hit you like a ton of bricks.  How great would it be to cure him and enable him to get back in front of the camera and do what he does best?  Now imagine how great it would be to cure one of your friends or family members.

We have a moral obligation to help people like Michael J Fox, and this lab study is further evidence of the potential cures that stem cell research can bring to us.  I need to research the arguments more thoroughly because what I know of them is based on what I've read on blogs.  But as I understand it, the embryos used for research are set to be discarded anyway.  If they're not ever going to be used for procreation, why not use them to help out your fellow living, breathing, productive members of society?

What irks me the most is the hypocrisy of those who vehemently oppose stem cell research.  I just know that if/when scientists use stem cells to find cures for some of the various maladies that afflict human kind, stem cell research opponents who have in the mean time become sufferers will be among the first in line to receive treatment.  And they should receive treatment, because to deny them would be inhumane.  But still… the "it should be outlawed until I need it" double standard makes my blood boil, especially when it is impeding the science that could one day improve the lives of so many people.  It's selfishness at its worst.

So please, for the good of so many that suffer from chronic diseases, vote to support stem cell research. 

One thought on “Making the case for stem cell research

  1. Rich

    I appreciate the fact that stem cell research may develop helps to curing or alleviating the symptoms of many diseases, but embryotic stem cell research is not the way to go.
    There is much more promising research being done with adult stem cells and stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood. There have already been over 70 medical uses for adult stem cells and over 50 medical uses for umbilical cord stem cells. The biggest problem with embryotic stem cells is pointed out in the article you cite: the cells mutate into tumors. Other stem cells do not exhibit this kind of behavior.
    There is also a researcher who has been able to get adult stem cells to revert back to an ’embryotic-like’ state meaning they are more pliable to generate any type of other cell.
    Embryotic stem cell research requires making a life to take a life, an ethical quandry that can be obviated by putting more effort and money into adult and umbilical cord stem cell research.

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