Embryonic stem cells v. adult stem cells = theory and hype v. therapeutic reality.
Posted by ssbg on July 19, 2006
|Studies using non-embryonic stem cells, derived ethically and safely from umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, brain tissue and fat, have moved well beyond theory to application. These clinical studies offer solid benefits to patients suffering from heart disease, blood disorders and other afflictions.(1) Adult stem cells have already been used successfully with patients: to treat cartilage defects in children; restore vision to patients who were legally blind; relieve systemic lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis; and to serve as an aid in numerous cancer treatments.(2) The use of a patient’s own stem cells is even preferable to using embryonic stem cells because it avoids the problem of the body rejecting cells other than its own. Other new methods such as somatic cell gene therapy are increasingly successful in tissue regeneration and otherwise treating disease.By contrast, embryonic stem cells have yet to demonstrate a single human therapeutic benefit. The most recent studies in animals have shown ES cells to be unstable and unpredictable—“errors [that] can lead to premature death or serious abnormality.”(3) Worried ES cell researchers were caught doctoring their interpretations of ES cell problems because they reportedly feared that “any mention of that potential problem in the article might be exaggerated by political factions that oppose the research on religious and ethical grounds.”(4) As the ES cell hype smokescreen disappears, a lot of disillusioned and angry patients will question scientific integrity.|
2. Human embryonic stem cell research violates U.S. law and international policy.
|The present Congressional ban on federally-funded human embryo research explicitly disallows “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”(5) Using embryonic stem cells from already destroyed human embryos would simply reapply the semantically twisted pretext the Clinton administration used to justify research on cells from embryos killed elsewhere.The Nuremberg Code, the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights all reject the use of human beings in experimental research without their informed consent and permit research on incompetent subjects only if there is a legal surrogate, minimal risk, and therapeutic benefit for the human subject. The European Union Convention on Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine in 1997 stated, “the interests and welfare of the human being shall prevail over the sole interest of society and science.”|
3. History reveals the tragedy of unchecked scientific inquiry and unethical human experimentation.
|Scientists often seek to push the limits of knowledge, which can result in productive perseverance or horrific ethical compromise. The tragic results of utilitarian human experimentation have been revealed in the Nazi experiments on prisoners at Dachau, the experiments on black syphilis patients at Tuskegee Institute, and the forced hepatitis infection experiments on mentally handicapped children at Willowbrook State School in New York. Good ends do not justify unethical means—including killing human beings. Using already-harvested ES cells would violate longstanding refusals to use evidence derived from unethical human experimentation.|
4. Building a culture of life begins with protecting the most vulnerable human beings.
|Absent a political or personal agenda, any objective observer of human development will easily identify the beginning of human life at the logically and biologically clear point of fertilization, when an individual’s genetic makeup is complete and unique. Establishing the start of human life at any later point along the seamless continuum of human development—whether it be a 14-day-old embryo, a viable fetus, or a partially born baby—is patently arbitrary and irrational. Couples have adopted and are currently seeking to adopt frozen embryos.A straightforward yet often violated tenet of ethics and law at stake in this issue is that a person is any being of human origin. Our Declaration of Independence asserts that “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness….” The developing human embryo, the Downs Syndrome baby, the Alzheimer’s patient—every human being created in God’s image—represents a life worthy of our honor and protection. This clash of conscience calls for moral statesmanship–not political compromise.|
|(1) E. Kaji and J. Leiden, “Gene and Stem Cell Therapies,” Journal of the American Medical Association, February 7, 2001, p. 547. Also “Approach may repair heart damage,” MSNBC, March 30, 2001 (www.msnbc.com/news/552456.asp). Also A. Eaves, Book Review of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Therapy by E. Ball et al., New England Journal of Medicine, February 8, 2001, p. 463.
(2) “No Fountain of Youth,” by Dr. David Prentice, adult stem cell researcher and Adjunct Professor, Medical & Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine. Re:generation Quarterly, volume 6, number 4; pages 14-16; (Cambridge, MA; The Regeneration Forum, Inc., Winter 2000).
(3) “More Doubt Cast on Cloning Safety: Researchers find unpredictable genetic flaws that can cause premature death or abnormalities.” Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2001.
(4) “Clone Study Casts Doubt On Stem Cells: Variations in Mice Raise Human Research Issues,” Washington Post, July 6, 2001.
(5) In 1996, Congress enacted an appropriations rider to prevent federal funding of human embryo research. The appropriations rider provided that: “(a) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for (1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or (2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under 45 C.F.R. § 46.208(a)(2) and section 489(b) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. §289g(b)).” The congressional prohibition against the use of HHS funds for human embryo research has been included in every appropriations bill since enactment of the initial rider. Most recently, Congress renewed its prohibition on embryo research in the HHS appropriations bill for 2001, which was signed into law on December 21, 2000. See Pub. L. No. 106-554, Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001, § 510.