My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


How Scientific Advancements Tend to Outpace Political Debates 

This strikes me as very good news.

Researchers in Wisconsin and Japan said yesterday that they have turned ordinary human skin cells into what are effectively embryonic stem cells without using embryos or women's eggs -- the previously essential ingredients that have embroiled the medically promising field in a nearly decade-long political and ethical debate.

The ability to turn adult cells into embryo-like ones capable of morphing into virtually every kind of cell or tissue, described in two scientific journal articles yesterday, has been a major goal of researchers for years. In theory, it would allow people to grow personalized replacement parts for their bodies from their skin cells and give researchers a powerful means of understanding and treating diseases.

All the advantage of the famous "plenipotentiary" stem cells with none of the ethical or political baggage.

Win-win, right? You would think that advocates of stem-cell research would like this because they have access to an unlimited supply of material, and opponents can advocate the scientific advances without having to advocate destroying fertilized eggs.

But, no. Some of these people just can't take "yes" for an answer.

Others involved in the stem cell debate cautioned that much work remains to be done to prove the value of the new cells. No one yet knows, for example, whether the new cells will be as effective as conventional embryonic stem cells may prove to be against certain diseases, or whether the new cells will even prove safe for use in people.

First of all, let's deconstruct that last sentence just a little bit. " . . . as effective as conventional embryonic stem cells may prove to be . . ." So conventional stem cells have yet to be proven effective?

Of course, anybody paying attention to this debate already knows this. While embryonic stem cells have great theoretical potential, so far all they've produced is tumors.

But what the "professional journalist" is trying to do is plant the seed in your mind that conventional stem cells are the cat's meow, when the reality is that this brand new technology is EXACTLY as useful as conventional stem cells at this point.

"I don't think this changes the debate," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a key participant in the House debate. "We still need to encourage all types of research, and we need to put ethical oversight in place."

Gosh, she makes me proud to be a Coloradan.

In a time of limited governmental budgetary resources, it is only logical to put the funding into the area of research that shows the greatest promise for clinical therapies at the earliest date. If the Democrats had spent as much time trying to fund ALL kinds of stem-cell research, instead of focusing all their energy on embryonic stem cells, we might be much further down the road to cures and therapies for some of the terrible diseases people have to suffer through.

But, no. Instead they've wasted a year trying to force-feed embryonic stem-cell research down the President's throat, and is seems a near-certainty that they will do the same again this year.

Oh, and, by the way--keep this development in mind every time somebody pontificates to you about "reducing your carbon footprint". In another five years, that carbon footprint may be the basis of brand new green technologies.

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