Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A new hope?

Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research was certainly a hot issue in the last two election cycles.

In 2004, you had Democratic VP candidate John Edwards declare that “…when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.''

In 2006, we witnessed actor Michael J. Fox demagogue campaign on behalf of Senate candidates (and eventual victors) Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

In 2001 when President Bush took a hard-line stance on not allowing embryos to be desecrated in order to harvest stem cells, he was vilified by some as a “religious zealot.” Many went so far as to imply the President was blocking cures to such diseases as Parkinsons, Alzheimers and paralysis.

However, as syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer pointed out, the President’s stance may have allowed for another, more suitable alternative.

Future generations may nonetheless thank Bush for standing athwart history, if only for a few years. It gave technology enough time to catch up and rescue us from the moral dilemmas of embryonic destruction. It has just been demonstrated that stem cells with enormous potential can be harvested from amniotic fluid.

This is a revolutionary finding. Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the womb during pregnancy. It is routinely drawn out by needle in amniocentesis. The procedure carries little risk and is done for legitimate medical purposes that have nothing to do with stem cells. If it nonetheless yields a harvest of stem cells, we have just stumbled upon an endless supply.

And not just endless, but uncontroversial. No embryos are destroyed. The cells are just floating there, as if waiting for science to discover them.

Even better, amniotic fluid might prove to yield an ideal stem cell -- not as primitive as embryonic stem cells and therefore less likely to grow uncontrollably into tumors, but also not as developed as adult stem cells and therefore more ``pluripotential'' in the kinds of tissues it can produce.

Oh, and for those of you who like to blather on about “You can’t talk about it unless you have a loved who…blah blah blah”: Krauthammer himself is a physician AND a paraplegic. I’d say he’s more than qualified to opine.

Check out the entire piece here.

1 comment:

StarBittrune said...

Good post, Brad. I read about this discovery in WORLD ( last week. I thought the same thing: If we hold our moral ground on stem cells and keep researching, we'll find something better. But actual successes *have* been made using adult stem cells already, while embryonic stem cells have yet to deliver one. Liberals (including MJF) *never* talk about this. They call conservatives closed-minded, while they cover their ears and insist the only source of usable stem cells is from embryos. The motivation is rather obvious: they *need* to devalue "embryos" (including refusing to call them what they are - babies) to maintain other faltering planks in their platform. Meanwhile, those who are really concerned about finding cures are finding cures. The discovery of stem cells in amniotic fluid is incredible, a miracle and an answer to many, many prayers. But the moral battle continues on other fronts. There is no justification for allowing the commercial manufacture and destruction of human life, even if embryos were the only source for stem cells.