Monday, November 17, 2008

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Part 2

Just Me asked the following questions in the comments of the previous post:

Maybe I'm not as informed on the science as I should be, but why can't they use stem cells from umbilical cord blood? Why must we use stem cells from embryos?

I thought stem cells were stem cells. What's the difference here?

The difference between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells is embryonic stem cells can form any adult tissue except placenta or fetus while adult stem cells can form only a few other than the parent tissue. Also, embryonic stem cells can be cultured to generate millions of stem cells needed for replacement therapy... adult stem cells are rare, difficult to isolate and cannot be cultured.
A possible problem with stem cell therapy is rejection by the immune system of the recipient. It is believed that by replacing the nucleus of an egg cell with the nuclear DNA of the patient that you could generate a perfect genetic match and circumvent any chance of rejection. However, this process is in reality cloning, albeit in a therapeutic sense.
I do not know enough about umbilical chord stem cells... my guess is that they present the same limitations as the adult stem cells.
The fact is there is and has never been a ban of embryonic stem cell research! The ban is on federal funding for research on newly created embryos. Okay, there was no federal funding for embryonic stem cell research at all prior to the decision by President Bush in 2001 to allow federal funding for research on the already existing embryos slotted for destruction at that time... but I am not aware of any specific ban against federal funding other than it had never been granted. Federal funding is about resource distribution... who and what will get how much of the nation's taxpayer dollars. It is not about restricting rights. For example, there is no constitutional right to federal funding of biomedical research.
The fight for ESCR is for our fedral government to foot the bill. Those fighting for federal funding of ESCR believe that by withholding federal funding for research that involves the creation of new embryos or the future destruction of embryos in existence, the President effectively banned embryonic stem cell research... as if the only way that this research will be able to continue is if the federal government pays for it. They also believe that the congressional ban (through withholding federal funds) is wrong because they see it as an imposition of religiously based moral views.
Again... there is no constitutional "right" to federal funding for biomedical research... or for anything else that is not in direct relation to running the government.
For those of us that believe life begins at conception this is a clear cut issue. Personally, I would not participate in certain fertility procedures due to this belief. However, there are many different views in regard to when a human life is viable... there are those that are satisfied with restricting the use of embryos for ESCR to only the first 14 days after fertilization.
Stepping away from the fight over when life begins... there is still the issue of whether this research should be paid for by the American public. The federal government just put forth a massive bail out... that we, the American people, will be paying for. Where will the money come from in this economy?


BLBeamer said...

Thanks for bringing the argument to the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Constitution is for nearly all intents and purposes a dead letter. Since Congress, the president and practically all the courts can and do interpret the Constitution to say anything they damn well want it to say, it seems to me it is a waste of time to refer to it these days.

I believe the only argument that would possibly find a sympathetic hearing in our current political environment would be your "where is the money going to come from in this economy?" argument.

Call me Pollyanna, but I hope there are still a few politicians who believe that the fact we can't afford something is reason enough not to fund it.

Roland Hulme said...

"Where will the money come from in this economy?"

Playing Devil's advocate, this money could come from:

1: Selling the patents of treatments developed through this research.
2: Reducing America's healthcare bill as a whole.
3: Creating jobs and opportunity through this research.

If the government can use money for 'public works' like FDR did in the great depression, what's the difference between stem cell research and building bridges? (answer: complex morality issues. And bricks.)

Coffee Bean said...

Okay Roland... I'm playin'. You have suggested:

1: Selling the patents of treatments developed through this research.

2: Reducing America's healthcare bill as a whole.

3: Creating jobs and opportunity through this research.

Proposal #1: Patents of treatments developed through this type of research would be far out into the future. First, they would have to come up with viable treatments free from horrific consequences and then those treatments would have to go through trials before any patents could become available for sale. Remember that the possibilities of embryonic stem cell therapy are just theory at this point. Everything tried in the private sector has met with disappointment. There have, however, been advances in other ethical stem cell therapies. Proponents of ESCR see the lack of federal funding as the stumbling block... they believe they just need more money for more research to get to those viable ESC therapies they invision.

Proposal #2: I think we'd all like to see a reduction in health care costs. How do you propose this be done? Do you see Barak Obama's healthcare plan as reducing healthcare costs? And whose healthcare costs exactly will be reduced should his plan be implemented? Individual citizens? What about the federal government? Will the healthcare cost go up or down there? If healthcare costs are reduced across the board... and there is no change in the number of medical services currently provided in this country... how will all the needs be met? Might there possibly be some sort of standards that may need to be implemented to control medical services provided? How exactly is it possible to cut healthcare costs and raise the availability of healthcare at the same time?

Proposal #3: Creating jobs and opportunity through this research...

Maybe that is possible... Maybe not. I imagine there are certain criteria that researchers would have to meet and I suspect that those that are already researching would be first up for any monies. I'm flying in the dark here but... I do wonder how many out of work researchers there are out there warming their hands over a trash can on the corner.

Well, actually, I suppose a huge jump in the amount of money for that type of research would lead to... I don't know... large research facilities? That would mean jobs for architects, construction companies, construction supply vendors, administrators of the money, maintenance crews, cafeteria staff, secretaries, oh... and researchers and support staff. So, maybe you are right about federal funding creating some jobs. But... how much of that alotted federal funding would actually make it in to direct funding of actual research and how long would it take to get that money working in that way?

And don't forget this all comes with serious moral and ethical dilemmas.

Two Dogs said...

Just so you know, I shall never participate in the design, construction, nor incorporation of any facility that is engaged in research on developing SUPER TUMORS. Unlike those that do use tax money to do this research and produce continuing monumental failures, I have morals and will not accept money for anything that would violate those morals.

And Roland, just so you know, I don't think there shall be a lot of money for selling patents on SUPER TUMORS!

However, in my linkdump this morning, YET ANOTHER research milestone has been reached by using adult stem cells. In case you are keeping score, that is 600 billion successes for adult stem cell research, ZERO for embryonic stem cell research. But, as long as Obama is going to be president, there is always HOPE, even though it flies in the face of science, math, history.......(insert every other means of proof that ever existed.)

Roland Hulme said...

I've been doing a lot of research on this and I have to admit, I've got a feeling adult stem cell research will end up providing a lot of the viable answers.

But to counter some of the things you wrote, Coffee Bean:

1: ALL medical development takes years of research, clinical trials etc. If it wasn't worth the wait, surely nobody would do it? Yet the medical industry in America dwarfs even the oil industry, largely through patents (just look at the MILLIONS Viagra has brought in.)

Curing paralysed people? GOLD MINE. Cha-ching. But there are the ethical consequences to think about and the question of whether or not equal results can be achieved with adult stem cells.

2: I think you're letting politics cloud your thinking here. Somebody who's quadrapalegic costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to look after every year. Imagine the relief on the medical industry as a whole if you could CURE 'incurable' diseases and injuries? If treatment costs come down, so do health insurance premiums and the taxpayer responsibility for people who can't afford them. DON'T LISTEN TO THE REPUBLICAN CRUD. The healthcare industry was well and truly broken BEFORE Obama was elected. Don't start accusing him of racking up bills and spending before he's even done anything yet. When I hear right wing pundits go off on a rant about that sort of thing, I realise they're totally clueless. Wait four years. We'll discuss it then!

3: Having worked in pharma and academia, I do know that government funding is often the only thing that kicks off hiring to do research. It will see the creation of jobs for technicians, interns etc. As a Republican, you should be all for stimulating private industry instead of creating federal moneypits.

I'm not even going to counter Two Dog's rants. I saw that episode of House too, man, but google Stem Cells and Super Tumors to actually get a bigger picture.

Two Dogs said...

Strange, I agree with Roland on this, since adult stem cell research has restored limb function in quite a few adults already, let's abandon that research and start another line that has never produced one positive thing ever.

And also, I agree with Roland that government is the only thing that creates jobs, ALL HAIL THE OBAMESSIAH!

And what is "House?" If that is television, sorry, I have stated many, many, times that I do not watch television. Except for college footbaw and professional baseball, of course.

Coffee Bean said...

Hi Roland!

I wasn't inferring that Obama is the problem... I am just confused by what I hear in the news about Obama lifting the "ban" on ESCR and was taking a look at what that really means. We've got serious money problems going on here in the U.S. and by releasing the availability of federal funds for that research you have to wonder where the money is going to come from. Will they take money away from other areas of research or will they just raise taxes? Those a questions that I think need to be answered. I don't think the general public understands... we've largely become a nation of people who are relying on soundbites to form their opinions and decisions. There is so much more to the picture!

I agree that it takes years and years of research to develop life saving/changing procedures and medications and that it takes money to do that. It is the moral and ethical concerns where ESCR is concerned that are the root of where I am coming from. Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should. Embryonic stem cell therapies would require the creation of embryos... and cloning. Taking the nucleus from these cells and replacing them with nuclear DNA of someone else is cloning.

Lord knows what has already been done in the private sector!

I'm not a mean person. My heart goes out to all of those that see ESCR as their only hope. I, myself, could potentially benefit from stem cell therapy sometime down the road. But... at what cost?

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