Skip to comments.Snake Oil
Posted on 07/28/2004 6:06:13 PM PDT by neverdem
Ron Reagans dishonest presentation.
Ron Reagan's speech Tuesday night at the Democratic convention was breathtakingly irresponsible. For example, despite the fact that no one knows whether embryonic stem cells will ever be effective in curing Parkinson's disease or any other grave affliction, Ron Reagan virtually promised Parkinson's sufferers that embryonic stem cells will provide a cure for them in ten years or so. "Sound like magic?," he said. Welcome to the future of medicine." But Ron Reagan has no idea no one does whether this is the future of medicine. He is engaged in a campaign of outrageous hype to persuade suffering people that a mere change of administrations in Washington will lead to cures for "a wide range of debilitating illnesses: Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, lymphoma, spinal cord injuries, and much more." Sound like snake oil? Welcome to the present of politics.
This was not, however, the low point of Ron Reagan's speech. What was most shameful about it was his dishonesty in eliding the distinction between human embryonic stem cells and the human embryos that are deliberately killed in the process of stem-cell harvesting. After promising to "do justice to the science," Ron Reagan described the process of obtaining embryonic stem cells in a way that left out the fact that the cloning process he described creates a human embryo which is killed in order to harvest its stem cells. Ordinary listeners who are unfamiliar with cloning technology and, by the way, Ron Reagan was careful not to use the word "cloning," though that is exactly what he was describing would be left with the impression that the process generated embryonic stem cells without generating an embryo! Indeed, by ambiguously referring to "these cells," in order to avoid revealing the fact that the cloning process generates a living human embryo which is then deliberately killed, Ron Reagan no doubt left some people with the impression that opponents of embryonic-stem-cell research consider embryonic stem cells, rather than the human embryos from which they are harvested, to be human beings. But this is the very reverse of the truth. No one believes that stem cells embryonic or otherwise are human beings. Those of us who oppose embryonic-stem-cell harvesting object to the practice because it necessarily involves the killing of human embryos. And human embryos are nothing other than human beings in the embryonic stage of their natural development. Ron Reagan refuses to face up to this fact. He suggests that it is a matter of "theological belief," when the truth is that it is a plain matter of scientific fact that can be verified by consulting any textbook in human embryology.
If Ron Reagan were honest, he would have revealed that "human embryo" does not refer to something distinct or different in kind from a human being like a stone, a potato, or an alligator; it refers to a human being at a certain very early stage of development the embryonic stage. Just as each of us was once an adolescent, and before that a child, and before that an infant, and before that a fetus, each of us was once an embryo. (By contrast, none of us was ever a somatic cell, or an ovum, or sperm cell.) The human "adolescent," "infant," "fetus," and "embryo" are not different kinds of entities (or, as philosophers say, "different substances"); these terms refer to stages in the natural development of a human beings. Embryos, fetuses, infants, adolescents, and adults differ not in kind (or substance), but in maturity or stage of development. By a process of internal self-direction and self-integration, every adult human being developed from the embryonic into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages, and into adulthood with his or her unity, determinateness, and identity fully intact. Even in the embryonic stage, each of us was already (and not merely "potentially") a whole, living member of the species Homo sapiens, possessing a human genetic constitution and the epigenetic primordial for internally directed development towards full human maturity. In other words, each of us came into being as a human being; none of us became a human being only at some point after coming into being. In the embryonic stage of our lives, we were not "potential human beings," for we were human beings already. We were potential adults. Our potential was to mature into adulthood.
Had Ron Reagan really wanted to "do justice to the science," he would not have suppressed these facts. He would have faced up to them. But doing justice to the science of embryology would not have helped the candidate or party to which Ron Reagan chose to offer himself.
Robert P. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.
Promising magic cures in 10 years or so is so dishonest. 36 years ago I spent the summer babysitting for a woman with MS. She was told if she could just hang on for 10 years or so, they'd find a cure. Needless to say that hasn't happened yet.
Adult stem cells work there is NO need to harvest babies for their body parts.
|Alzheimer's gene therapy trial shows early promise||Drug slows advanced Alzheimer's disease
*In 2000, Israeli scientists implanted Melissa Holley's white blood cells into her spinal cord to treat the paraplegia caused when her spinal cord was severed in an auto accident. Melissa, who is 18, has since regained control over her bladder and recovered significant motor function in her limbs - she can now move her legs and toes, although she cannot yet walk.
This is exactly the kind of therapy that embryonic-stem-cell proponents promise - years down the road. Yet Melissa's breakthrough was met with collective yawns in the press with the exception of Canada's The Globe and Mail. Non-embryonic stem cells may be as common as beach sand.
They have been successfully extracted from umbilical cord blood, placentas, fat, cadaver brains, bone marrow, and tissues of the spleen, pancreas, and other organs. Even more astounding, the scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep successfully created cow heart tissue using stem cells from cow skin. And just this week, Singapore scientists announced that they have transformed bone-marrow cells into heart muscle.
Research with these cells also has a distinct moral advantage: It doesn't require the destruction of a human embryo. You don't have to be pro-life to be more comfortable with that.
*In another Parkinson's case, a patient treated with his own brain stem cells appears to have experienced a substantial remission with no adverse side effects. Dennis Turner was expected by this time to require a wheelchair and extensive medication. Instead, he has substantially reduced his medication and rarely reports any noticeable symptoms of his Parkinson's. Human trials in this technique are due to begin soon.
*Bone marrow stem cells, blood stem cells, and immature thigh muscle cells have been used to grow new heart tissue in both animal subjects and human patients. Indeed, while it was once scientific dogma that damaged heart muscle could not regenerate, it now appears that cells taken from a patient's own body may be able to restore cardiac function. Human trials using adult stem cells have commenced in Europe and other nations. (The FDA is requiring American researchers to stick with animal studies for now to test the safety of the adult stem cell approach.)
*Harvard Medical School researchers reversed juvenile onset diabetes (type-1) in mice using "precursor cells" taken from spleens of healthy mice and injecting them into diabetic animals. The cells transformed into pancreatic islet cells. The technique will begin human trials as soon as sufficient funding is made available.
*In the United States and Canada, more than 250 human patients with type-1 diabetes were treated with pancreatic tissue (islet) transplantations taken from human cadavers. Eighty percent of those who completed the treatment protocol have achieved insulin independence for over a year. (Good results have been previously achieved with pancreas transplantation, but the new approach may be much safer than a whole organ transplant.)
*Blindness is one symptom of diabetes. Now, human umbilical cord blood stem cells have been injected into the eyes of mice and led to the growth of new human blood vessels. Researchers hope that the technique will eventually provide an efficacious treatment for diabetes-related blindness. Scientists also are experimenting with using cord blood stem cells to inhibit the growth of blood vessels in cancer, which could potentially lead to a viable treatment.
*Bone marrow stem cells have partially helped regenerate muscle tissue in mice with muscular dystrophy. Much more research is needed before final conclusions can be drawn and human studies commenced. But it now appears that adult stem cells may well provide future treatments for neuromuscular diseases.
*Severed spinal cords in rats were regenerated using gene therapy to prevent the growth of scar tissue that inhibits nerve regeneration. The rats recovered the ability to walk within weeks of receiving the treatments. The next step will be to try the technique with monkeys. If that succeeds, human trials would follow.
*In one case reported from Japan, an advanced pancreatic cancer patient injected with bone marrow stem cells experienced an 80 percent reduction in tumor size.
* In separate experiments, scientists researched the ability of embryonic and adult mouse pancreatic stem cells to regenerate the body's ability to make insulin. Both types of cells boosted insulin production in diabetic mice. The embryonic success made a big splash with prominent coverage in all major media outlets. Yet the same media organs were strangely silent about the research involving adult cells.
Stranger still, the adult-cell experiment was far more successful - it raised insulin levels much more. Indeed, those diabetic mice lived, while the mice treated with embryonic cells all died. Why did the media celebrate the less successful experiment and ignore the more successful one?
* Another barely reported story is that alternative-source stem cells are already healing human illnesses.
*In Los Angeles, the transplantation of stem cells harvested from umbilical-cord blood has saved the lives of three young boys born with defective immune systems.
This [isolating stem cells from fat] could take the air right out of the debate about embryonic stem cells, said Dr. Mark Hedrick of UCLA, the lead author. The newly identified cells have so many different potential applications, he added, that it makes it hard to argue that we should use embryonic cells. -- Thomas H. Maugh II, Fat may be answer to many illnesses, Los Angeles Times, 4/10/01
With the newest evidence that even cells in fat are capable of being transformed into tissue through the alchemy of biotechnology, some scientists said they are beginning to conclude theyll be able to grow with relative ease all sorts of replacement tissues without resorting to embryo or fetal cells Its highly provocative work, and theyre probably right, said Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas Like many biologists, Olson believes that adult, fetal and embryonic stem cell research all merit support its heartening, he said, that almost every other week theres another interesting finding of adult stem cells turning into neurons or blood cells or heart muscle cells. Apparently our traditional views need to be reevaluated. --Rick Weiss, Human Fat May Provide Stem Cells, The Washington Post, 4/10/01
In a finding that could offer an entirely new way to treat heart disease within the next few years, scientists working with mice and rats have found that key cells from adult bone marrow can rebuild a damaged heartactually creating new heart muscle and blood vessels Until now researchers thought that stem cells from embryos offer the best hope for rebuilding damaged organs, but this latest research shows that the embryos, which are politically controversial, may not be necessary. We are currently finding that these adult stem cells can function as well, perhaps even better than, embryonic stem cells, [Dr. Donald] Orlic [of the National Human Genome Research Institute] said. --Robert Bazell, Approach may repair heart damage, NBC Nightly News, 3/30/01.
[Dr. Donald] Orlic said fetal and embryonic stem cell researchers have not been able to show the regeneration of heart cells, even in animals. This study alone gives us tremendous hope that adult stem cells can do more than what embryonic stem cells can do, he said. --Kristen Philipkoski, Adult Stem Cells Growing Strong, Wired Magazine, 3/30/01
Like several other recent studies, the new work with hearts suggests that stem cells retrieved from adults have unexpected and perhaps equal flexibility of their own, perhaps precluding the need for the more ethically contentious [embryonic] cells. --Rick Weiss, Studies Raise Hopes of Cardiac Rejuvenation, The Washington Post, 3/31/01
Umbilical cords discarded after birth may offer a vast new source of repair material for fixing brains damaged by strokes and other ills, free of the ethical concerns surrounding the use of fetal tissue, researchers said Sunday. --Umbilical cords could repair brains, Associated Press, 2/20/01.
"PPL Therapeutics, the company that cloned Dolly the sheep, has succeeded in reprogramming' a cell -- a move that could lead to the development of treatments for diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The Scotland-based group will today announce that it has turned a cow's skin cell into a beating heart cell and is close to starting research on humans... The PPL announcement...will be seen as an important step towards producing stem cells without using human embryos." --"PPL follows Dolly with cell breakthrough," Financial Times, 2/23/01
Because they have traveled further on a pathway of differentiation than an embryos cells have, such tissue specific [adult] stem cells are believed by many to have more limited potential than E[mbryonic] S[tem] cells or those that PPL hopes to create. Some researchers, however, are beginning to argue that these limitations would actually make tissue-specific stem cells safer than their pluripotent counterparts. University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Glenn McGee is one of the most vocal critics on this point: The emerging truth in the lab is that pluripotent stem cells are hard to reign in. The potential that they would explode into a cancerous mass after a stem cell transplant might turn out to be the Pandoras box of stem cell research. --Erika Jonietz, Biotech: Could new research end the embryo debate? Technology Review, January/February, 2001.
"Embyronic" stem cells have gone nowhere. However, "Adult" stem cells have been found to be very stable and have already been used. So why would you want to use stem cells from aborted "fetuses"? (babies) Because Plan Parenthood makes big bucks selling baby parts to research "scientists", and "Ronnie Girl" is very big on Plan Parenthood.
At least most people agree nowadays that stem cells have potential to do great things.
I've had a manuscript available on line for several months that is free for reading or downloading and sharing. There have been less than a thousand downloads of it to date. It's free and it explains the science in layman's terms, but people don't want to know the facts, rather they want to be herded in popular directions.
Btw, the manuscript is HERE FOR SELECTION, if anyone happens to read this thread.
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