Skip to comments.CELLING LIES (Stem Cell Myths exposed by Michael Fumento)
Posted on 09/29/2002 8:41:45 AM PDT by Sabertooth
"Promise of Adult Stem Cells Put in Doubt," proclaimed UPI. "Study Deals Blow to Abilities of Adult Stem Cells," declared Scientific American in its online publication. "Study Finds Adult Blood Stem Cells Will Not Transform into Other Tissue Cells," insisted the Associated Press.
The fuss concerns an article in the highly respected journal Science detailing efforts of Stanford researchers to trace the development of blood stem cells after placing them into mice whose bone marrow had been destroyed. They reported that blood stem cells replenished marrow but appeared worthless for creating other tissues.
"Blood-forming stem cells from adults make blood," primary researcher Irving Weissman insisted to UPI. "They don't make brain; they don't make heart muscle or any of these things."
Such smugness from a scientist who should know a single study never proves anything. As it happens, a report published in Nature Medicine in November 2000 showed that such cells when injected into mice rebuilt liver tissue. A minor co-author of the piece was named Irving Weissman.
Weissman's sureness was just for show.
Indeed, "The Stanford paper is the one at odds with the bulk of the published literature," Indiana State University biologist David Prentice told me.
While nobody knows yet just how capable non-embryonic stem cells will prove, we know they will be extremely useful because they have been.
Ever hear of bone marrow or umbilical-cord-blood transplants? It's the stem cells in the marrow and blood that makes them work. They've been used therapeutically since the 1980s and now some 70 different diseases, primarily forms of leukemia, are treated with them.
True, these comprise direct infusions rather than the next step of "reprogramming" the stem cells outside the body to make them into various types of mature cells.
But there's tremendous progress here, too. As of last year, over 30 different anti-cancer applications alone involving non-embryonic stem cell therapies on humans had been reported in peer-reviewed medical literature. Over 100 non-embryonic-stem-cell experiments in animals have shown success against a vast array of diseases.
The very newspapers that now pooh-pooh adult stem cells were only days earlier reporting on the almost-miraculous cure of a Dutch child afflicted with "bubble boy syndrome." His immune system was worthless. But it was restored when stem cells from his marrow were removed, cultured, and injected back into him.
Even if blood stem cells were worthless for tissue, we'd still have other types of stem cells that have been cultivated not just from marrow and umbilical cords but also from placentas, amniotic fluid, skin, brains, spinal cords, dental pulp, muscles, blood vessels, corneas, retinas, livers, pancreases, hair follicles, and even liposuctioned fat.
Catherine Verfaillie and her co-workers at the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute recently published a report in Science's main competitor, Nature, suggesting that a certain type of marrow stem cells may give rise to almost any type of tissue in the body. They have isolated them from the marrow of mice, rats and people and so far have transformed them into cells of blood, the gut, liver, lung, brain, and other organs.
Yet time and again a single study like the Stanford one is shoved forward to show that non-embryonic-stem-cell therapy is the biological version of cold fusion. Why?
Some of the media coverage may reflect sheer ignorance. But Science and Weissman know better. They're both part of a deliberate disinformation campaign by those who see embryonic stem cell research and non-embryonic stem cell research locked in mortal combat.
The worse the non-embryonics look, the stronger the case for using embryonic stem cells. With every breakthrough in non-embryonic research comes the need to turn up the screech knob on the disinformation box.
That's because while the government can make grants on a whim, venture capital flows towards success. Thus almost all capital is going to non-embryonic research. Those working with embryonic cells are desperate for government funds.
It's hardly surprising, therefore, that Dr. Michael D. West, head of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass., told the AP that the Stanford study indicates "stem cells from the bone marrow will not be a practical source for many cell types needed" to treat disease. That is, it wouldn't be surprising if the AP had told you West's company does research with embryonic stem cells.
Just as a 30-year-old panhandler will claim to be a Vietnam vet to shake money out of your pockets, those desperate for funding are obviously not above misrepresenting research to keep their labs running.
But whatever the promises of embryonic research, the actual applications are coming from non-embryonic stem cells. The miracles they have already performed are but little compared to those of which they are capable. We dare not let that progress be hamstrung by the politics of pork.
Michael Fumento is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. where he's currently writing BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing our World.
President Bush got bad advice in his decision to fund research on some limited number of fetal stem cell lines. Umbilical stem cell lines are especially promising, and (unless the day arrives when abortions outpace liive births) will always be more plentiful than fetal lines. But as with AIDS research, politics and money are distorting the true picture.
If he was going to fund stem cell research at all, rather than trying to please everyone with funding for a finite number of fetal stem cell lines, President Bush should have opted for stem cells from less morally problematic sources, like umbilical cords.
Let's put the debate in terms that has the Democrats fighting for harvesting death via abortions vs. the Republicans harvesting life through discarded umbilical cords at birth.
Is there a problem with framing the issue in such a way that the GOP gets all of the benefits and credit, with the added bonus that it spills over into other issues to our advantage as well?
But that's a selective misrepresentation of the case.
All manner of scientific research that relies on harvesting human test subjects may have medical utility, that doesn't mean that they should be pursued with no regard for morality or ethics.
And it is the question of morality and ethics that makes funding of fetal stem cells politically problematic.
Although you've already seen this, I'll repost it for others:
For the first time, the researchers have shown that human umbilical cord stem cells, obtained after birth, can be reprogrammed to act as brain cells (neurons and glia). Until now, umbilical cord stem cells have been used to fight blood diseases in children such as leukemia.
"What we know from this is that umbilical cord blood contains stem cells able to differentiate into neural cells," Dr. Sanberg said. Stem cells are multipotent cells--able to grow into other kinds of cells.
"This finding suggests that umbilical cord blood is a noncontroversial, readily available source of stem cells for brain repair, and could provide an alternative to using embryonic cells," Dr. Sanberg said.
Reprogramming is the big hurdle. The major purported medical advantage of fetal stem cells has been their reprogrammability.
Now that it's been demonstrated that hurdle can be cleared, the case against some imperative "need" for fetal stem cell research is what is actually closed... morally, politically, and scientifically.
Fine. Make your case there. That is my whole point. On that you have your a priori assumptions, and I have mine. I respect yours. I don't get much respect for mine around here on this topic, but that's OK.
Perhaps I'm unclear as to your a priori assumptions.
My cousin was an intern at UCSF in the mid-1980s, and in 1985 he told me that anal sex between homosexual men was and would remain the principle vector of transmission. This information was suppressed in lieu of the homosexual political agenda, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of their own lives.
I completely agree.
Is there sentience in the comatose? In the anencephalic?
If a woman is 10 weeks pregnant and is assaulted, resulting in a miscarriage, is this just your garden-variety aggravated assault?
In any event, I think you'd agree that there is a significant faction in the GOP coalition that disagrees with your first trimester exception. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, given the demonstrated scientific promise of other, less morally problematic lines of stem cell inquiry besides the fetal, why risk the political fallout of the fetal stem cell tar baby?
I rescind my statement.
Yes, because "pulling the plug" isn't murder.
The distinction lies in the act, not in the state of the victim, as it is still illegal to pull the plug and then slit the throat of the comatose, and should be.
How far does your support for euthanasia extend?
I rescind my statement.
Hey, RA, I appreciate that, but couldn't you have waited more than 9 minutes?
Torie might think you're a ringer.
Why would you say that?
On not a few occasions I've indicated that I think your opinion needs fixing.
The baby, a plump little being over half an inch long, with short arms and legs, floats in her amniotic sac, well moored by the umbilical cord. Though she weighs only 1/30 of an ounce, she has all the internal organs of an adult in various stages of development.
The baby's heart has been beating for a few weeks, the sex can be determined and brain waves can be measured.
"Within the sac was a tiny human male swimming extremely vigorously in the amniotic fluid. This tiny human was perfectly developed with long tapering fingers, feet and toes. The baby was extremely alive and swam about the sac approximately one time per second."
Paul E. Rockwell,M.D., describing the baby whose photograph is shown at left
Looks sentient to me. :-}
Do you mean to say, sentience?
You're spelling is arguing against your reason (sleight); earlier you said a priori assumptions were crucial to determining protection of life issues, now you seem to be substituting opinion for foundation, hardly scientific.
Is there any reason to believe that anal sex between homosexual men is a more effective disease vector than anal sex between a man and a woman? My impression is that in Africa the latter is the primary disease vector.
The first trimester measurable EEG waves vs the third trimester measurable EEG waves.
Obviously they are different because of the baby's development but he has drawn a third trimester line not based on EEG measurement but based on his feeling that the third trimester EEG is evidence of sentience but the more basic EEG of the first trimester isn't.
Purely arbitrary because he simply can not know.
A chicken with its head cut off my look rather lively, but that doesn't make it any less dead.
I find even early-term abortios disturbing, but given the status quo (abortion on demand any time for any reason) I think it's best to work on convincing people at a 39-week fetus deserves protection. Don't agree that a 38-week fetus doesn't, but agree to put off discussion of the 38-week fetus until there's concensus on the 39-week one. Once concensus has been reached on the 39-week one, then work on the 38-week one, again putting off discussion of the 37-week one.
If Republicans were smart, they could probably use a strategy like the above to significantly reduce society's acceptance of abortion over the next 25 years or so, and would actually gain votes at the polls for doing so. Their current wishy-washy stance costs them votes while netting nearly nothing in the way of useful results.
"The zygotes that do implant soon transform into embryos. During its early growth, an embryo is sufficiently undifferentiated that it is impossible to distinguish which tissue will end up as part of the new life and which will be discarded as placenta. By about the sixth week the embryo gives way to the fetus, which has a recognizable human shape. (It was during the embryo-fetus transition, Augustine believed, that the soul is acquired, and this was Catholic doctrine for most of the period from the fifth century until 1869.) Also around the sixth week, faint electrical activity can be detected from the fetal nervous system. Some pro-life commentators say this means that brain activity begins during the sixth week, but, according to Dr. Martha Herbert, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, there is little research to support that claim. Most neurologists assume that electrical activity in the first trimester represents random neuron firings as nerves connect--basically, tiny spasms."
Whew, I thought you had me on the ropes for a moment, and would have to revisit a judgment I made on this issue many long years ago, albeit with less information.
Thanks for the quote Torie, you prove my point quite well. They don't know, they assume! And because they assume, their judgement is arbitrary.
I assume they are wrong. Of course, I wouldn't use sentience as the criteria for life and death when the natural order is for that unborn baby to become every bit as sentient as you or I, in direct contravention to a brain dead patient who is going nowhere but to meet his maker.
But that's beside the point.
Yes, women are a natural, though not 100% effective, firewall against transmission and retransmission of the HIV virus. There are a few reasons.
First of all, heterosexual anal sex comprises quite a low percentage of all heterosexual acts, which is a large factor lower than its proportion of homosexual acts.
Also, anal sex is primarily a one way transmission, from the penetrator to the penetrated (there's an exception which I'll get to in a moment). Since women are viurtually never the penetrators of men during anal sex in a fashion which facilitates the transmission of the virus to the man, there is almost no retransmission. This also explains the low incidence of HIV infection among lesbians.
The exception I mentioned is the presence of another veneral disease in either partner. In cases where the woman has an active venereal disease, particularly with open lesions, vaginal or rectal retransmission to a man is possible. This explains almost all of the very few true instances where women have infected men with HIV via sexual contact.
All of this was explained to me by my cousin, now a cardiologist, back in 1985.
The aberrant AIDS data from Africa merit further study, however, some follow-up studies I've seen indicate that the data isn't all that aberrant from the model described to me by my cousin 17 years ago.
Bisexuality is far more common in Africa than is reported, in part because in many Third World countries, only the receiver in anal sex acts is considered to be homosexual. Therefore, homosexual transmission in Africa is underreported. Also, venereal diseases are more common in Africa, in part because of lower access to antibiotics, thus facilitating retransmission by women beyond the numbers seen in developed countries.
One more thing, and this is just my own hunch, but the greater incidence of blood-borne diseaes, biting insects, open sores, or other stress factors on immune systems in Africa may be increasing the susceptibility of Africans to HIV infection and the subsequent development of full-blown AIDS.
Yes, but I think some parts of the Republican leadership view the abortion issue like Jesse Jackson et al. view racism: the problem is more valuable to them than would be a solution.
The point that politicians consistently miss, whether by design or blindness, is that the majority of the people in this country are opposed to abortion on demand in most cases, but a significant portion will fight tooth and nail to keep abortion legal in the few cases (e.g. rape and incest) where they think it should be.
Currently, such people are being pushed into the "pro-choice" camp by Republicans who take a hard-line all-or-nothing stance in a situation where it's really not tenable. If the Republicans could work to build points of agreement while "agreeing to disagree" on points of contention, they could use the abortion issue to sweep the Democrats off the map. Unfortunately, the combination of all-or-nothing-ness and wishy-washy-ness costs them a lot of votes while gaining them nothing.
To put a finer point on it, that is not an assumption, that is presumption.
Yes, Torie, clearly you don't think whatever you don't think on this issue, but you are hardly qualified to declare what an unborn child "thinks" or doesn't think at any point in its development, nor am I.
Just because today's science and technology are not as yet capable of detecting when life or sentinence begins in the developing human being, does not mean that it has "proved" that neither life nor sentinence exist, even from the moment of conception.
Many biomedical scientists and "ethicists" are far too conceited, and enamoured of themselves to admit their limitations. This is why they often make sweeping proclamations which are evidences more of their intellectual self-infatuation, woven as it often is with a political or economic agenda than it is evidence of any amount of honest, scientific thought.