stem cell update



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Stem Cell Update

Along with about 300 others, Sue and I attended a seminar
hosted by Upstate Medical Center designed to educate health care workers
and the public at large on the ethical issues surrounding embryonic stem
cell research.  I learned some interesting facts and was very pleased
to see that a large majority of the attendees support the
research.  

The first presenter, a scientist and macro-biologist, clarified the
critical differences between adult stem cells which are currently being
used for transplants and Human Embryonic Stem cells (HES).  Adult
stem cells are limited in their application because they are already too
far along in their developmental stage and therefore considered to be
"narrow spectrum."  HES, on the other hand are broad
spectrum and are believed to have a major wider application in therapeutic
treatments.

The second presenter was a practicing MD and she discussed the wide
range of diseases that could potentially benefit from the research. 
Everything from Alzheimer’s and diabetes to full organ regeneration was
discussed with its potential to someday spawn a whole new branch of
medicine called "Regenerative Medicine" whereby there may be
organs "manufactured" from stem cells and the potential to
implant stem cells with a mission to restore a damaged organ.  She
cautioned that much of this was a long ways off, but that HES research was
a critical link in moving towards these goals.

Others talked about the philosophical, political, moral and ethical
issues which was of limited interest to me.  The final presenter
indicated that in the end the HES research will likely continue due to
what he called complacency and the demand that success will bring.  I
hope he is right.  President Bush’s compromise ruling on HES was
considered to be a very limiting factor for the continuation of HES and
the consensus recommendation was to open the research up to include all
HES rather than the previous 61 stem cell lines now accepted. 

As a finale, the coordinator asked for a show of hands on how many
attendees believe President Bush should support full HES research and
nearly 90% of the attendees raised their hands. He was then careful to
point out that in our democratic society  with its complex set of
checks and balances  does not necessarily allow the majority opinion
to overwhelm a minority position.   For those of us over 100
million Americans who suffer from a disease that could benefit from the
research, I hope the President and others involved in the decision making
process listen to the majority and do the right thing! 

 


 



 
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