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03/17/09
Behind the Cell Curve
Filed under: General
Posted by: Maria Vitale @ 7:19 am

Columnist Kathleen Parker observes that President Barack Obama seems to be ignoring certain scientific facts in lifting restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

As Parker notes, “In fact, every single one of the successes in treating patients with stem cells thus far — for spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, for example — have involved adult or umbilical cord blood stem cells, not embryonic stem cells. And though federal dollars still won’t directly fund embryo destruction, federally funded researchers can obtain embryos privately created only for experimentation. Thus, taxpayers now are incentivizing a market for embryo creation and destruction.”

Backers of embryonic stem cell research point to the fact that embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning that they can morph into all different kinds of cells.  However, Parker points out, “That superior claim no longer can be made with the spectacular discovery in 2007 of  ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ (iPSs), which was the laboratory equivalent of the airplane. Very simply, iPS cells can be produced from skin cells by injecting genes that force the cells to revert to their primitive ‘blank slate’ form with all the same pluripotent capabilities of embryonic stem cells.

“But ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ doesn’t trip easily off the tongue, nor have any celebrities stepped forward to expound their virtues. (If only Angelina Jolie would purse those pouty lips and say  ‘pluripotent.’) Even without such drama, Time magazine named iPS innovation No. 1 on its ‘Top 10 Scientific Discoveries’ of 2007, and the journal Science rated it the No. 1 breakthrough of 2008.”

There are scientific experts who say that embryonic stem cell research has quickly become obsolete.  In expanding federal funding of the practice, the President is not acting in the best interests of patients, or of science. 

  

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