Thursday, September 16, 2010

Embryonic Stem Cell Research: The Betamax of modern medical science

Embryonic stem cells: Outmoded science:

As you turn on your HDTV and watch the endless controversy over embryonic stem cell research, ask yourself: Should the government spend taxpayer dollars to develop that bulky old cathode-ray television you once owned?

As you install your $79 Blu-ray player, what if Uncle Sam was paying millions to develop Betamax videotapes?

This kind of government waste is what embryonic stem cell researchers are demanding even when science itself, according to scientists such as former NIH Director Bernadine Healy, has made embryonic stem cell research obsolete.


In a nutshell:

Totally aside from the ethical and moral quagmire involved in killing the youngest members of the human family, embryo-killing stem cell research has produced exactly diddly squat as far as safe and effective treatments.

And I love this quote: "Human embryonic stem cell research is the $10,000 toilet seat of the 21st century. "

tem cell research that destroys human embryos is also taking money away from successful adult stem cell work, in which no embryos are destroyed. Found in people already born, adult stem cells are the only cells with a track record of actually and successfully treating patients.

Adult stem cells have grown new corneas and tracheas, restoring sight and speech. Adult stem cells placed into children have repaired damage from fatal genetic skin diseases. As CBS News reported on August 2, adult stem cells appear to have the ability to stimulate tissue repair and to suppress the immune system.

"That gives adult stem cells really a very interesting and potent quality that embryonic stem cells don't have," said Rocky Tuan, director of a cellular engineering institute at the University of Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, embryonic stem cell researchers have produced no treatments at all.


HT: Jivin' J via Jill Stanek.

42 comments:

OperationCounterstrike said...

The embryonic stem cell lines are very necessary for basic research, and for further development of alternatives like adult stem cells and genetically de-specialized cells.

Say you want to measure something about stem cells, how fast they can be made to specialize in the presence of certain drugs, or whatever. Whenever you do an experiment on adult stem cells, or genetically de-specialized cells, you always have to compare your results to the results of the same experiment performed on embryonic stem cells. The embryonic cells are the "gold standard" of pluripotency to which other pluripotent cells must be compared in order for your experiments to be properly controlled.

Stopping the use of embryonic cell lines interferes with all the basic research on the alternatives.

GrannyGrump said...

You still use maps made from woodcuts, don't you?

OperationCounterstrike said...
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OperationCounterstrike said...

GG, I'm talking about basic science, not clinical work.

You pretty much cannot publish a paper on stem cells and pluripotency in any serious journal unless you include embryonic stem cells in the paper, as a positive control.

GrannyGrump said...

Your control in a treatment is placebo or an established treatment, not something that's not even ready for human trials.

OperationCounterstrike said...

I'm not talking about human trials. I'm not talking about clinical research at all. I'm talking about something more important--basic science, understanding how specialization happens, what molecules are involved and what they are doing. To understand, and to control, the specialization process. How do stem cells sense their environments, and specialize accordingly? We need to dissect the process molecule by molecule and pathway by pathway. That's one of the places where a sizable chunck of tomorrow's medical technology is likely waiting to be uncovered.

If we understood specialization well enough we could, for instance, be growing transplantable organs in vats.

The embryonic cell lines are the best-characterized standards of pluripotency, the standards against which other instances of pluripotency must be compared in order for an experiment to be complete.

GrannyGrump said...

We're getting the RESULTS with ADULT stem cells. So what purpose is there to dismantling living embryos to study them?

"No, me mind's made up. I've given it long and careful thought. And it has to be medical experiments for the lot of you."

OperationCounterstrike said...

GG, the purpose is basic science. Basic science is what makes it possible to create NEW technologies.

Without past basic science, there would be no cars, no computers, no stainless steel, no artificial fertilizer (so not enough food to feed humanity).

You owe your life (such as it is) to previous basic science. You have no right to deny to future generations the benefits of doing basic science now.

GrannyGrump said...

But experimenting on human beings in a way that does not benefit the human being in question is unethical.

OperationCounterstrike said...

That may be, but it's not the point you raised in this post. The headline of your post calls ESCs the "betamax" of medical science, implying that they are somehow obsolete. And my point is, you're wrong about that. ESCs are still the gold standard for pluripotency and specialization, the required positive control among people who study this stuff.

OperationCounterstrike said...
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Lilliput said...

Christina, I may just being stupid here-
But the abortions are taking place anyway, producing the embryonic stem cells required.

Why can't we use them?

OperationCounterstrike said...

Lilliput, you don't get ESCs from abortions. You get them from left-over embryos, extra embryos generated for IVF but not implanted.

Your question is still valid though. The embryos used are slated to be discarded anyway. Why not use their cells?

GrannyGrump said...

Why not vivisect Death Row inmates? They're just going to be discarded anyway. Why not use them?

OperationCounterstrike said...

Maybe because death-row inmates, unlike surplus IVF embryos, can feel pain?

I wouldn't vivisect them but I would favor harvesting their transplantable organs after they get executed, with or without their permission.

Those organs can save innocent lives. The right to refuse to donate them should be one of the things you lose when you get convicted.

OperationCounterstrike said...

What do YOU think we should do with surplus IVF embryos? Keep them frozen for ever? That's expensive. Are you willing to pay for the liquid nitrogen?

Lilliput said...

Let me get this straight Christina, you are ok with live animals being vivisected but you are not ok with a few embryonic cells in a petri dish being used for research?


Are you for real?

GrannyGrump said...

OC, they won't be in pain if you anesthetize them! And the point is "Waste not, want not!" right?

It's unethical to perform experiments on a human subject who does not stand to at least potentially benefit from the experiment. Since the embryos in question are universally killed, that's pretty darned unethical.

And people ought not to deliberately create human beings they don't intend to care for. You can't have the blame-the-embryo argument here, since the creation of an IVF embryo isn't an unwanted (albeit very common and predictable) side effect of your recreational activities. IVF embryo's parents went to a lot of trouble and expense to create them. It's pretty nasty to turn around and say, "Well, we changed our minds and don't want you after all" and kill them.

And Lil, where did you get that I was supposedly okay with live animals being vivisected?

Kathy said...

There is also embryo adoption.

Lilliput said...

Christina, you're screaming against using embryos for scientific research but very quiet about animal vivisection so I gotta assume that you're against the one and for the other.

Also, parent procreating through ivf create as many embryos as possible so they have them available should first attempts not work. They could not possibly use all of them - unless they're as crazy as octomom- and she is well on her way to passing her mental illness onto her 8 embryos.

There is no such thing as embryo adoption - rather its donation, like sperm or eggs and I guess its personal to the donors if they wish to spread their DNA that way.

Finally, I'm completely delighted anytime any scientific research gets done in a petri dish as it means we are closer to ending animal vivisection.

GrannyGrump said...

Lil, I've not spoken up against armed robbery, either. Do you make the presumption that I favor it?

Embryo adoption is adoption, like any other adoption except that the adoptive mother also gestates the child. Colloquially they're known as "snowflake babies".

And just because you're comfortable with performing fatal scientific experiments on human beings still doesn't make it right.

Lilliput said...

Where exactly have I said that I am comfortable with performing fatal experiments on human beings? I've said I'm comfortable with performing experiments on embryos in petri dishes.

Adoption is when there is a birth mom and adoptive mom. Parents of children born from sperm,egg or embryo donations are called donors. There is a huge difference - you can snowflake it all u want to.

GrannyGrump said...

Lil, they're not hamster embryos or cat embryos. They're human embryos -- tiny, very young and very vulnerable human beings. The fact that their size and vulnerability makes you indifferent to their fate isn't a reflection on them. It's a reflection on you. Why do you think that the bigger, older, and more capable somebody is, the more they're entitled to? Because they're able to just take it?

Lilliput said...

Christina, while there are millions of live animals being tortured to make human life longer and healthier - the least we humans can do is donate some embryos to the process.

I think equating a human embryo to a human being is extreme to say the least. The embryo has a potential to become a human being but statistically - the chances aren't that high - which is why more embryos are created then required in the first place.

We don't live on heaven, we live in a grey world where its always a decision between the lesser of two evils. And I have to choose the fate of real people and animals over potential/fantasy people or animals that may or may not be born.

Chad Tonka said...

Lilliput,

Christina is making an argument from a principle that human embryos are potential persons, thus deserving of the same protections afforded actual persons. Thus I don’t think that your argument based on empirical grounds will be very convincing to her.

The logic of her argument from principle is pretty clear – human persons have an inviolable right to life, thus policies which lead to their destruction without their consent is immoral. Of course in practice many who hold this principle either contradict it across substantive domains (for example anti-abortion activists who support the death penalty) or are oblivious to the myriad ways in which their position is dependent on the suffering and death of others (for example wealthy American citizens).

One the one hand, we must respect Christina’s position because after all, we all believe it to be true. That is, I’m assuming you agree with the concept of human rights as applied to you, your loved ones, and others. On the other hand, we are faced with a paradox. Let’s just assume for a moment that human embryonic stem cells were to produce therapeutics for diabetes, breast cancer, and Parkinson’s disease from unregulated research in Singapore. Let’s also assume that the therapies are validated in the USA and shown to be legitimate. What should one do?

If Christina is consistent, she will refuse the cure for herself (should she become a patient), and encourage her loved ones (should they become patients) to also refuse the cure. This of course seems like a bizarre and troubling position. Christina, how do you think you would respond to this situation?

Chad

GrannyGrump said...

Lil, an embryo is real enough to be killed and experimented upon. If you want to volunteer YOURSELF for medical experiments, that's one thing. But to volunteer that OTHERS should have their lives sacrificed isn't exactly gallant.

Chad, I absolutely reject any medical technology that requires another person's life to be ended on my behalf. My daughter has very explicit instructions on that, should I be incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions. No transplanted heart or other organs that are taken from "brain dead" donors. No treatments from embryonic stem cells, in the unlikely event that they become even possible.

Why should it be "bizarre and troubling" to be unwilling to demand that somebody else die so that you may live? Why does refusing to kill an innocent person trouble you?

Lilliput said...

Christina, its a real embryo not a real human being. I'm not prepared to put a potential human being's health over an actual human being. I also can't understand why a brain dead human being in other words a human being that is artificially being kept alive by machines and will never be alive again should have more rights then a dying human being who needs an organ - all that will achieve is two dead human beings. You are not killing anyone - they are already dead!

Chad Tonka said...

Chad, I absolutely reject any medical technology that requires another person's life to be ended on my behalf.

I see, so then you must also reject many common vaccines, monoclonal antibody-derived therapies, and anti-hypothermia techniques. Probably many surgical techniques as well, since those were often tested on unwilling subjects.

So how do you decide to reject a medical technology (if you look back far enough) when so many of them have questionable origins?

Chad

GrannyGrump said...

Lil, who made you God, to decide who is "people" and who is "tissue"?

Chad, quit setting up a strawman and stick to the question -- why do you find it so troubling that other people refuse to have innocent people put to death for their own benefit?

Lilliput said...

Christina, its not me - its God. A Jewish God. The Talmud calls an embryo younger the 40days as per fluid. Embryos that are outside the body will not become children and can therefore be used.

Under Jewish law you have to do whatever you can - barring killing someone - in order to save your life and if embryo research can help then you have to do it.

I don't know how you're going to ask that question to atheists?

GrannyGrump said...

Lil

1. Do you adhere to Torah when it's NOT excusing something you want to do?

2. You may have noticed that we don't live under Jewish law.

3. Atheists, last time I checked, were human, so the laws of basic human decency applies to them, too. Rules like "Pick on somebody your own size" and "It's wrong to kill somebody helpless and harmless just because you'd benefit from their death."

Lilliput said...

Christina,

1. I try - but don't always get it right cause I am only human.

2. I know we don't live under Jewish law - in fact the only religious law that is part of government rule I Sharia law - and u can see how that is a disaster.

I only brought the Jewish part into this because you asked me "who made me God to decide what is human and what is tissue" so I brought you a God who has decided. Its what I thought intrinsically and I googled it. I wanted to point out to you that there are some religions that allow it.

3. For atheists, its a little harder to explain why a clump of embryonic cells are equivalent to a born human being without them thinking you're actually crazy. There is nothing common about human decency since the world is so diverse and in your world "pick on someone your own size" holds true - but in other humans - that may be how they make a living and survive.

GrannyGrump said...

2. I know we don't live under Jewish law - in fact the only religious law that is part of government rule I Sharia law - and u can see how that is a disaster.

So why do you want to incorporate YOUR religious law (kill the youngest) into government? How is that any different from jihadists incorporating "kill the infidel"? Each is somebody taking their religious belief about who should live and who should die and imposing it on others.

I only brought the Jewish part into this because you asked me "who made me God to decide what is human and what is tissue" so I brought you a God who has decided. Its what I thought intrinsically and I googled it. I wanted to point out to you that there are some religions that allow it.

So you didn't start with "Torah says we should" and follow it. You started with "I think it's okay to kill them" and said, "Cool! Torah says it's okay!"

3. For atheists, its a little harder to explain why a clump of embryonic cells are equivalent to a born human being without them thinking you're actually crazy.

Why should atheists have less grasp of basic biology than Christians? Or Jews or Hindus or Mormons or Buddhists or Wiccans?

That the life of each organism begins at conception is SCIENCE, not religion. It's your personal RELIGION that tells you that human beings only become of any value when they achieve certain developmental milestones. Ought not laws be based on REALITY, rather than some people's VALUE JUDGMENTS?

Lilliput said...

Christina, I don't understand, you are using your religious value judgment to say that we shouldn't carry out research on embryos or perform abortions as we should preserve and protect all human life no matter how many cells they consist of - and you use science as a basis for your theory that life begins at conception.

If you use science for the beginning then you can use science throughout and say that life is about survival of the fittest. That in order to maximize their and their living children's life chances, women have aborted or abandoned their babies. That's science. In animals eg frogs loads of eggs are layed and fertilised in the hope that at least one survives - the rest are sacrificed to predators. That's science.

Anything else is religion, value and judgement.

Chad Tonka said...

Chad, quit setting up a strawman and stick to the question -- why do you find it so troubling that other people refuse to have innocent people put to death for their own benefit?

That’s not exactly right. My response is not a strawman argument.

I find it troubling that you would choose suffering and death for yourself and others over health and flourishing.

I will anticipate your response now: but its sacrificing human embryos (or in your words “innocent people”), to which you are opposed. That is why I asked you how you choose which medical technologies you oppose.

Chad

GrannyGrump said...

No, Chad, you were being snotty, implying that since virtually ALL medical treatments had been, or likely been, tested on unwilling subjects at some point, I ought to reject all medical technology.

I made myself plain. I don't buy my comfort or my life at the deliberate cost of somebody else's life. No killing Peter to save Paul. If that means I struggle along, and possibly die, for want of a heart transplant or such, so be it. I'm not going to be party to somebody else being put to death so I can use their body parts.

Chad Tonka said...

No, Chad, you were being snotty…

Wow, very mature response. I’ve often noted how you resort to either ad hominem replies or distort other peoples’ responses when you don’t like the logical implications of your positions.

Such as:

…implying that since virtually ALL medical treatments had been, or likely been, tested on unwilling subjects at some point, I ought to reject all medical technology.

So it sounds like you are unacquainted with the history of medicine, which is fine but you might want to be careful.

I wasn’t implying that you ought to do anything. Again I’m asking how you choose to oppose some technologies, and use others, when they have questionable histories (based on your ethical standards).

GrannyGrump said...

Chad, your response was on a par with asking a vegan, "Well, what CAN you eat, since you know the development of agriculture exploited animals, such as the oxen who spent wretched lives yoked to plows, and the draft animals who had to drag heavy loads. Will you just forage?"

Chad Tonka said...

Not really.

Vegans, when confronted with death by starvation versus eating prime rib and washing it down with a chocolate shake, will choose to eat and live. So your analogy falls apart.

Why do you keep avoiding the question I asked you?

GrannyGrump said...

I answered your question. You choose not to hear the answer.

Chad Tonka said...

I answered your question.

No, you didn't. You answered the question why you oppose hESC research, but not the broader question I posed.

Earlier you wrote: I'm not going to be party to somebody else being put to death so I can use their body parts.

That much is clear, and your principled opposition to hESC research is noted. That's not what I'm asking about.

I'm asking a deeper question: how do you decide which technologies to accept when so many of them have sordid histories?

You can decline to answer - that's fine. But don't pretend that there is no paradox here.

GrannyGrump said...

I said, and I quote, "Chad, I absolutely reject any medical technology that requires another person's life to be ended on my behalf. My daughter has very explicit instructions on that, should I be incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions. No transplanted heart or other organs that are taken from "brain dead" donors. No treatments from embryonic stem cells, in the unlikely event that they become even possible. "

How much clearer could I have been?