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The Dark Ages: What’s Old Is New Again?

May 8th, 2007 | by Daniel DiRito |

Less than ten years ago, the world awaited the promise of the millenium with hope and optimism. Less than ten years into the new millenium, one might argue that hope and optimism have been forced to yield to the emerging influence of dogma, intolerance and intransigence.

Yesterday’s news provides an important example. Many of those opposed to embryonic stem cell research argue that there is little scientific evidence to suggest that the efforts will result in any tangible treatment methods. Despite those objections and despite the refusal of the Bush administration to provide government funding for this type of research, progress is being made. On Monday, Reuters reported on the latest advances.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Stem cells made from human embryos can home in on damaged eyes, hearts and arteries of mice and rats, and appear to start repairs, a U.S. company said on Monday.

Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology said it had devised a straightforward way to make blood vessel precursor cells out of the stem cells and plans to test them in humans.

“We figured out how to produce literally billions of so-called ‘hemangioblasts’ — the mythical cell in the embryo that gives rise to our entire blood and immune system as well as to the blood vessels in our body,” Dr. Robert Lanza, vice president of research and scientific development at ACT, said in an e-mail.

“We’ve also tested these cells in animals for the first time, and it turns out that they have incredible reparative potential.”

“When injected into the bloodstream, they homed to the other side of the body and repaired damaged vasculature within 24 to 48 hours,” Lanza said.

“For example, we injected the cells into mice with damaged retinas due to diabetes or other eye injury. The cells (labeled green) migrated to the injured eye, and incorporated and lit-up the entire damaged vasculature. The cells are really smart, and amazingly, knew not to do anything in uninjured eyes.”

“The cells also showed remarkable reparative capacity in animals with heart attacks and ischemic (blocked by a blood clot) limbs. The cells reduce the mortality rate by 50 percent after a massive heart attack,” Lanza said.

To be clear, the research is preliminary and while results in animal models are encouraging, such outcomes do not always translate into successful human treatments. Nonetheless, this encouraging information is another example of the potential that could be exploited if the government would add to the private funding in order to help those in need and those who don’t have an unlimited amount of time to wait for necessary treatment advances.

It seems to me that history is filled with similar examples of resistance to scientific progress…resistance that is frequently driven by religious organizations and their rigid doctrines. With the Bush administration, we have seen government align with religious institutions in resisting scientific data with regards to combating HIV and abortion as they jointly promote abstinence over condoms and contraception. Further, this administration also resists the science that they fear may undermine their critical alliances with certain powerful industries…industries that may well be contributing to global warming and a growing reliance on fossil fuels.

In retrospect, history may well record this current marriage of religion, government, and commerce as one of the most inhibiting and ill-begotten to have ever emerged. Perhaps posterity will conclude that those of us who led at the dawn of the twenty first century we’re no more evolved than the three Republican presidential candidates who recently rejected the scientific concept of evolution. Nothing like giving the dark ages a run for its money, eh?

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  1. 30 Responses to “The Dark Ages: What’s Old Is New Again?”

  2. By SteveIL on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Daniel DiRito said:

    Many of those opposed to embryonic stem cell research argue that there is little scientific evidence to suggest that the efforts will result in any tangible treatment methods. Despite those objections and despite the refusal of the Bush administration to provide government funding for this type of research, progress is being made.

    Excuse me. As the article states, Bush didn’t refuse to provide government funding. It’s just that government funding wasn’t expanded, and it didn’t stop these guys from saying what they did.

    If I remember correctly, I believe some embryonic stem cells can be used without destroying the embryo, which is the crux of the argument against the government funding further research of them.

  3. By Paul Watson on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Actually, SteveIL, that research is currently under investigation for fraud after it’s been shown that the exact same graph was used to show different things by the scientists in different reports. It may just be coincidence, but this is the same problem that bedevilled the Korean cloners who were exposed.

  4. By Daniel DiRito on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Steve,

    Thank you for your comments.

    As I recall, the existing stem cell lines were excepted when the Bush administration first announced its position on this type of research. Unfortunately, even at that time, those stem cell lines were very limited and of little value to much of the research that needed to be undertaken.

    The notion that suggests that the government simply didn’t expand funding is a straw man argument. Government funding is a fundamental component of virtually all U.S. medical research and the withholding of funding for expanded embryonic stem cell research is the equivalent of no government funding.

    Additionally, the thought that one other avenue of unproven potential for harvesting stem cells should preclude all others is simply contrary to the scientific process…as well as contrary to the existing funding model for other research. When we discover a promising cancer treatment, we don’t put a halt to all other potential treatment research.

    I simply believe the government’s argument ought to be consistent and contending that the crux of the Bush administration’s stem cell policy is valid would seem to suggest that it is consistent…but it isn’t. Research is filled with failure…which is exactly why more research funding is warranted; not less.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  5. By Craig R. Harmon on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Daniel,

    You’re right, Bush didn’t expand federal funding into embryonic stem cell research. He for the first time ever provided federal funding for embryonic stem cell research using existing lines. He didn’t expand it for the simple reason that federal funding for any embryonic stem cell research had never before existed. He didn’t expand it, he pioneered it. Like most pioneers, they are open to the criticism that they didn’t do everything but that’s what pioneers do, they make a start. That’s Bush. He made a start.

    You don’t like Bush’s policy of not providing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research that destroys new embryos and that’s fair enough but where’s the inconsistency? He said, no federal funding for ESC research that destroys new embryos. He’s been absolutely consistent in this. Nor, since the embryos were already long dead that went to making the existing lines, does his approval of federal funds for research using those lines introduce any inconsistency into his policy.

  6. By Daniel DiRito on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Craig,

    I appreciate your perspective though I disagree with characterizing the Bush administration policy on stem cell research as pioneering. Nonetheless, I see no benefit in arguing semantics. I do believe it worthwhile to argue that new avenues of research arise all the time…and if they have promise, history tells us they not only should, but have been funded by the government.

    I have no problem with caution when it comes to spending government dollars on speculative research…although we clearly know most research involves a lot of speculation. What concerns me is that since the president first established his policy, there have been a number of significant findings that would warrant additional government spending on embryonic stem cell research. From my perspective, good governance (pioneering) includes being amenable to and adept at, changing views and policies when new information has surfaced.

    As to inconsistency, my point wasn’t that George Bush has been inconsistent in his position on embryonic stem cell research (although I believe there are holes in his logic)…my point is that this avenue of funding is being treated differently than the funding for other medical research…primarily because of his personal religious beliefs. It is inconsistent to fund other medical research while limiting funds for this area of research.

    He is entitled to his beliefs…but applying them to this area of important medical research is an arbitrary favoring of one particular set of beliefs. Those personal beliefs, in my opinion, should be kept separate and outside the realm of public policy and the funding for scientific research. In fact, I feel his beliefs are being carried out at the expense of those who don’t share his religious beliefs…a practice which I believe many Americans view as contrary to our founding principles.

    As a point of clarification and a further demonstration of inconsistency, I believe there are some 400,000 embryos in storage that will eventually be destroyed. These are not new embryos and they are more than sufficient to provide the stem cell lines that researchers need…yet the president won’t allow funding to use these embryos…most of which will be destroyed. If destroying embryos is the issue, then why would his policy allow these embryos to be destroyed? It not only doesn’t make sense but it squanders readily available research embryos.

    Further, in vitro fertilization is routinely destroying new embryos…but the president hasn’t sought to prevent or limit this practice. Again, if principles are the point and the priority, then why allow this inconsistency? Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that the touting of snowflake babies is tantamount to supporting the destruction of embryos?

    Regards,

    Daniel

  7. By Craig R. Harmon on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Well, you know, Bush wasn’t obligated to provide federal funding for ANY stem-cell research, let alone embryo destroying research, so, semantic or not, I would call Bush’s policy on federally funding stem-cell research, including some embryonic stem-cell research pioneering. That is, I stand by my characterization.

    Also, I would argue that Bush’s policies regarding federal funding of ESL research is not inconsistent with his funding of other scientific research. What makes it consistent is that I doubt he favors or endorses ANY kind of research that destroys what he views as life. After all, THAT is the basis of his opposition to federally funding research that destroys new embryos. It isn’t that it hasn’t shown promise. I think he would admit that embryonic stem cell research shows promise, else why would he have federally funded embryonic stem cell research on existing lines? Clearly he recognizes the promise of ESC research and wished to fund it. What ties his policy into a coherent whole, in my opinion is, he opposes federal funding for science that destroys what he views as human life. The thing is, I don’t know of ANY other research that entails destruction of human life so it only looks like an inconsistency when he opposes federal funding for ESC research but, in my opinion, the inconsistency is in appearance only. He would oppose federally funding ANY scientific research that would destroy human life.

    Yes, I take your point about his definition of what constitutes human life. Many would not recognize embryos as constituting human life. But, I’m afraid that the alternative to federally funding ESC research using existing lines would have been not federally funding ANY sort of ESC research…hardly an improvement over present circumstances. As I said, Bush was not obligated to approve any kind of embryonic stem cell research no matter what the basis of his objection.

    Those embryos might be destroyed but their destruction wont be federally funded. You see? No inconsistency. What he opposes is federally funding research that intentionally, in the course of conducting the research, destroys embryos. I just don’t see the inconsistency.

    Bush doesn’t have the authority to end or prevent in vitro fertilization. Since in vitro fertilization is being done privately, there is nothing he could do that would even limit it. Regulating IVF is up to legislators. Bush cannot prevent embryonic stem cell research, either.

    Touting snow flake babies, if I understand the term, is decidedly NOT inconsistent with Bush’s policy since what this does is take some of those “excess” embryos and adopts them out to other families so they won’t be destroyed. It is just the opposite of supporting the destruction of embryos. It is saving them from destruction. It may be that, in the process, some of the implanted embryos may die but that’s not the same as deliberately destroying the embryos in order to do research. On the contrary, it is placing them in the situation where they have the best hope of developing into a new-born baby.

    That’s my opinion, anyway.

  8. By Ron on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    “You’re right, Bush didn’t expand federal funding into embryonic stem cell research. He for the first time ever provided federal funding for embryonic stem cell research using existing lines. He didn’t expand it for the simple reason that federal funding for any embryonic stem cell research had never before existed. He didn’t expand it, he pioneered it. Like most pioneers, they are open to the criticism that they didn’t do everything but that’s what pioneers do, they make a start. That’s Bush. He made a start.”

    Wow. I didn’t think this kind of spin would appeal to you, Craig. Those lines are not only insufficient in number to an obscene degree, but the quality of the cells were poor due to age and freezing.

    That wasn’t a start. That was the finish, my good friend!

  9. By Craig R. Harmon on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Um. Okay… As I said, he wasn’t obliged to federally fund ANY embryonic stem cell research. I guess we’ll simply have to agree to disagree, here.

  10. By Ron on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    In effect, Craig, he didn’t, that’s what we are trying to tell you. You’re not going to tell me you haven’t heard of a politician who trumpets an achievement which has a net effect of zero, are you?

  11. By Craig R. Harmon on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Well, I haven’t heard it called having a net effect of zero. I have heard such research on those lines as being “of limited value”. Of course, of LIMITED value is not of NO value.

  12. By Ron on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Well, nevermind, it looks like I wasuninformed anyway about the limits.

    “Under the new policy, federal agencies, primarily NIH, will consider applications for funding if certain standards or eligibility criteria are met. The White House fact sheet setting forth the President’s policy states: federal funds will only be used for research on existing stem cell lines that were derived (1) with the informed consent of the donors; (2) from excess embryos created solely for reproductive purposes; and (3) without any financial inducements to the donors. 6 The President directed NIH to examine the derivation of all existing stem cell lines and create a registry of those lines. Pursuant to this new policy, no federal funds will be used for: (1) the derivation or use of stem cell lines derived from newly destroyed embryos; (2) the creation of any human embryos for research purposes; or (3) cloning of human embryos for any purposes.”

    Now these are lines I can understand being drawn. Now, the only question left for me is, did Congress fund the research, and did that money actually go to people? As we all know,the White House provides the funding for…absolutely nothing. They fucked over the faith-based people, I wonder what happened to stem cell research funds?

  13. By Craig R. Harmon on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Now these are lines I can understand being drawn.

    Am I to understand that you agree with Bush’s policy?

  14. By Daniel DiRito on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    Craig,

    Again, I do appreciate your perspectives but I disagree with your rationale. Of course the president wasn’t obligated to fund any stem cell research…just as he isn’t obligated to offer condolences to the families of fallen soldiers. This isn’t about any technical obligation…it’s about prudent policy and the best interest of the American public. He is elected to represent all of us…not simply the ones that hold his same religious beliefs. That is the critical distinction when reviewing the consistency found or not found in his approval of government funding.

    Perhaps an example is warranted. I believe I’m consistent in my goal to make a living…but if my actions to do so are based solely upon my beliefs and values without regard for the beliefs and values of others, I could end up like Joe Nacchio or Jeffrey Skilling. That is not to say the president has done anything illegal…he clearly hasn’t. Notwithstanding, his actions may well be detrimental to those he serves just as the actions of Enron executives caused harm to many, if not most of their employees.

    If someone who has embryos in storage decides to have them destroyed, wouldn’t the president be doing more good for more American’s if he allowed those embryos to be used in both private and federally funded research? The embryo is being destroyed regardless so why not put it to the best possible use…just as he did when he allowed funding with regard to those stem cell lines that existed prior to the consideration of government funding?

    The president doesn’t have the unilateral power to end in vitro fertilization just as he shouldn’t make unilateral and arbitrary decisions based upon his own religious beliefs as to which research should be granted government funding. He wasn’t elected to impose his religious beliefs…he was elected to carry out the will of the people…something he has often argued…but only when it has served his agenda. At best, that’s inconsistency.

    As to snowflake babies, it is fairly typical for it to take four embryos to produce one living child…that means three embryos are sacrificed to create one life. If one sought to be consistent, then sacrificing three out of four embryos for research to save lives seems a reasonable and rational equivalent.

    Nature, on its own, destroys far more embryos than have ever been sacrificed for research. Further, those embryos stored at IVF facilities are typically an eight cell structure…a structure that is not yet a blastocyte. In order to be a viable pregnancy the eight cell structure must successfully mature into a blastocyte in the fallopian tube, exit into the uterus, attach to the uterine wall, and then proceed to attempt to mature into a living child. Statistics indicate that up to forty percent of blastocytes…not eight cell structures…fail to attach to the uterine wall and are therefore flushed out of the uterus during the next menstrual cycle.

    It is these eight cell structures that would be used in government funded research. Of the 400,000 in storage, only approximately 9,000 are even available for “adoption”. The vast majority will be destroyed.

    If anyone is interested, I’ve previously explained the flaws that I believe exist in the Bush administration’s stem cell policy…here:

    http://www.thoughttheater.com

    I would like to offer one last observation. I don’t object to the premise of a culture of life…but narrowing that premise down to the preservation of an eight cell structure while ignoring the needs of the ill and disregarding the welfare of millions of children who have been birthed and lack adequate healthcare seems wholly inconsistent to me. Shouldn’t we pay as much attention to the needs of the living?

    Thanks to all for the opportunity to participate in this dialogue.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  15. By Ron on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    “Am I to understand that you agree with Bush’s policy? ”

    Yes.

    (sound of hoofbeats; air grows thin)

    I mean, sorta kinda. I don’t think an embryo is a human life; but I can understand if other people think so and are icky with the idea. For the present, if I read the presidential policy correctly, it’s a step in the right direction and Congress on both sides of the aisle seem to be working to change the policy by law.

  16. By Ron on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    However, how does one reconcile

    “federal funds will only be used for research on existing stem cell lines that were derived(2) from excess embryos created solely for reproductive purposes”

    “no federal funds will be used for: (1) the derivation or use of stem cell lines derived from newly destroyed embryos”

    Does that mean that excess embryos can be used if they were leftovers, but they can’t be used because they would be destroyed by research? Contradiction, or do I need remedial reading comp? I’m so tired today.

  17. By Craig R. Harmon on May 8, 2007 | Reply

    I’m shocked but pleased. As for reconciling the two passages, I’m not sure.

  18. By Lazy Iguana on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    Ill bet that everyone is for stem cell research when it can save their ass.

    Really. If you are “against stem cell research” on moral grounds that is fine. But I hope you also refuse treatment derived from that research if such an issue ever comes up.

  19. By Craig R. Harmon on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    Would you bet that everyone would be for infanticide if, say, normal and healthy three month olds produced a substance that would cure aids or cancer the extraction of which killed said three month old healthy child?

    Okay, to you, Lazy, an embryo is not the moral equivalent of a three month old child so I suppose you would say that that’s not a fair comparison but there are many people who do consider them to be morally equivalent. I don’t think I’d have any problem accepting some debilitating or lethal disease if, curing me meant destroying human embryos. I am going to die sometime. Just as I doubt that you would accept a cure for your cancer at the cost of killing a three month old child, I think I’d forgo a cure that I knew would destroy an embryo.

    Wouldn’t you oppose the killing of three-month old children by scientists who were doing research that might (or might not but which showed great promise of doing so) result in a cure for cancer?

  20. By Lazy Iguana on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    And every time you whack off, God kills a kitten. And then there are all those sperm cells that could be a kid! What about them?

    A frozen lump of cells in a vat of liquid nitrogen is not a three month old child. The frozen lumps of cells in question will either remain in the vat forever, flushed down the toilet, or used for stem cells.

    In either case they will never be three month old children.

    You see, when a couple go for child birth through this method many more lumps of cells are frozen because of the failure rate. But once the woman gets knocked up via turkey baster insertion, the rest of the cells in the vat are thrown out. As I understand it, hundreds of eggs are harvested.

    Not even the Pope would compel a woman to squeeze out hundreds of kids.

    Nobody is talking about harvesting organs from an infant here, or extracting the juices of a toddler.

  21. By Wakefield Tolbert on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    It is amazing how fast the main points get forgotten in the fray about ESCs research. Not only is there no general federal ban, there is not ban one way or another or any limitations regarding PRIVATE funding of ESC. Yet, to explain their lackluster results, ESC advocates always complain that these are “recent isolations of ESC lines”, and they “need more time” and this is all the fault of wild-eyed “religious” people, etc.

    Really?

    Hyperbolic nonsense.

    Blaming others or lack of increaed, forced funding is a cheap way out of one’s failures in the lab. Worse, arguments about “why NOT go ahead and ‘harvest’ the frozen embryos” type arguments typically dripping with sarcasm may play well to some people, but if the analogy of “wasting embryos” is the parody on Monty Python’s song “God Loves All Sperm“, then this is simply an argument of ill analogies between cell features. And it misses the point anyhow. Whether or not one considers embryos to be fully “human”, they are certainly a form of human life that isn’t fundamentally on the same lines as any kind of mere tissue. Having the full genetic complement needed, time and size is what separates them from human appearance.

    While its true that for the petri dish isolation form of ESC the current lines of ESC are recent, the fact is that ESCs abilities have been known for about as long (50 years) as the far more productive Adult version (called ASC, for short), which the media confuse and deflect information about while trying to ignore the fact that not ONE human trial has gotten out of the petri and into experimental stages. This very fact gives the lie that ESCs are “easy to work with”—as some claim if Reuters is your science reference. They most certainly are not. And the adult ASC)version now found in placental fluid and from even tissue that can be pulled from you and me is just as pluripotent or multipotent enough to force what I call a “distinction without a real difference.” Multipotency of ASCs can be just as good since it is now known that ASCs can be teased into forging almost any tissue in the human body. ESCs can theoretically do this but for the most part have yet to leave the petri stage except in people’s heads once they heard seer of Science Nancy Reagan’s Star Map consultation on the matter.

    Wonder why? The MSMs don’t tell you that all these animal studies sometimes send mixed signals. One part the initiated public sees in such just-so articles is that “embryonic stem cells” are used to treat various mice maladies without telling you later that what is sometimes meant by this is FETAL TISSUE from mice (or from human cells, transplanted). The latter is NOT ESC. It is ASC. Fetuses may be small but they are NOT embryos, as some of you already here have testified to, in what you consider the inept comparison between abortion and life issues to ESC research.

    Unlike the “always potential, just give us more forced taxpayer funding” ESCs, ASCs by contrast have treated 80 diseases and continue to do so on a regular basis, including treatment of heart tissue and livers. 1300 humans trials are in process as we speak. And yet all I hear about is….the embryonic version. Despite all the snide commentary about the Pope and sperm spilling and dead cats, the issue is not “haploid” cells (like sperm, 1/2 genetic complement) but embryos, which are diploid–having the full complement of human genetic information required to build a human being.

    The MSM perceive this issue as Galileo vs. the Church type of controversy, the like all issues (including THAT one), the full history of this is not quite so simple. From the “life” issues you can no doubt make a case for anything you like–but why not just sidestep the issue altogether? Well? It’s hard to prove, but journalists like Anna Quindlin and a few other HAVE mentioned in passing that the whole ESC issue needs to be “won” over to the People in order to defrock lingering doubts about the ethics of abortion, which is admittedly doing some double takes lately. The justification being that if a putatively “higher” cause is found regarding popping and ripping ANY form of human life, be it fully “human” or not (I am agnostic on that topic currently), then we soften the issue elsewhere.

    Ask your ESC advocate pals at MSNBC and Reuters who blithely quote these scientists with (no doubt) vested investment interests in ESC research REGARDLESS of the promise of human health benefits, all the while leaving out VAST swaths of vital context about what happened later or the fact that ESCs tend to cause cancer in the recipient, while ASCs can be taken from the recipient him/herself. We have a media in this nation that is incapable of dispensing accurate treatment of the sciences and basically ends up sending messages to one another for ideological encouragement. Government funded items(re: FORCE) can be like that sometimes, too. One is reminded of the failures of the NEA (both of them) and other items that cannot compete on the open market. ASCs not only compete, but are favored by investors who generally are not the type trying to get to the Federal feed trough.

    Talk about dependence on the Gospel Truth.

  22. By Wakefield Tolbert on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    Point # 2:

    Leave the Chris Mooney and Moonbat conspiracy theories about the “religious attack” on politics at home. Intentions and consensus is not science–and science is not equal to consensus.

    It would be closer to the truth to remember that Michael Crichton (Mooney’s better in so many ways) warned long ago that mixing junk science with the heavy hand of government fiat is the actual danger. This is not conspiracy, but a warning.

    The issues mentioned are NOT settled.

    I would not expect anthropogentic global warming to be a settled statement (and even if true there’s little we can do about according to the IPCC anyhow….) any more than I would anticipate that 50 years of sex-as-salvation indoctrination from the far Left, starting in the University level by the likes of Calderone, neo-marxist Sanger, and weirdo Kinsely and now filtering into pop culture to be contraindicated by “abstinence” courses taught for 1/5 of a generation at most.

    Are liberals about to throw in the towel on the failed 50 year war on Poverty and other illustrious projects for which swells the sumptious Body Politick like a mama tick?

    Didnt’ think so.

    To thine own hype be true–but Spare us on this.

  23. By Ron on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    Yo, drive by, wassup? A few things:

    “Not only is there no general federal ban, there is not ban one way or another or any limitations regarding PRIVATE funding of ESC. ”

    No one has said there was.

    You seem to think that news organizations care one way or another about stem cell research; I would love to hear your explanation as to why. I would posit that the sensationalist aspect of the story, it being polarized by public opinion as it is, is probably the engine in this story.

    Thank you for alerting me to ASC, I did not know about the progess it is making. This is great news, and mostly I thank you for coming by to drop some science on us.

  24. By Ron on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    “any more than I would anticipate that 50 years of sex-as-salvation indoctrination from the far Left, starting in the University level by the likes of Calderone, neo-marxist Sanger, and weirdo Kinsely and now filtering into pop culture to be contraindicated by “abstinence” courses taught for 1/5 of a generation at most.”

    What have you got against fucking, my good man?

  25. By Wakefield Tolbert on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    Assuming Ron your’re not in jest mode, I would say nothing is wrong, PER SE, about that particular activity. Always a good time for a Saturday night. But then I’m married and not on the prowl–which causes all manner of problems.
    Saying that all sex is good one way or another is like saying that all killing is BAD one way or another.

    Glittering generalities just don’t cut the mustard, Ron. Sex is wonderful. But I seriously doubt we’d recommend a rape session for a teen girl to get her properly initiated, eh? So context is everything.

    Kinsely never got the gist of that, nor a modern culture that revels in mocking those of us who think marital sex is the most appropriate.

    As to the other–thanks.

    But on this statement:

    No one has said there was.

    You seem to think that news organizations care one way or another about stem cell research; I would love to hear your explanation as to why. I would posit that the sensationalist aspect of the story, it being polarized by public opinion as it is, is probably the engine in this story.

    The polarization is due in large part to media misrepresentation. The author I linked to earlier also mentioned that the MSM miss this real story over and over. Agenda? Conspiracy? Hard to pin down for certain. I’ve tried to and can’t either.

    I think maybe the excitment of seeing blood in the water over some donnybrook of “hard science” vs. dark hooded evil relgion types is just too appealing to resist in controversy. Major media editing decisions is rather simplistic for context and no doubt the urge is strong to bend stories for a lean on somthing that “shows up” some other group. Some ESC advocates or researchers themselves might have some kind of agenda beyond federal dollars but I think this all boils down mostly to yet another way of mockery of those who oppose something for ethical reasons.

    also:

    from above, I think Stevo said, in part:

    If I remember correctly, I believe some embryonic stem cells can be used without destroying the embryo, which is the crux of the argument against the government funding further research of them.

    Not exactly–unless by this you actually meant to say Adult version of stem cells. Or perhaps you refer to the failed experiments were, once again, the info leaked to the press didn’t tell the full story of the scam of “safe ESC” harvesting. Turns out it was bogus and the results could not be duplicated, at least so far.

  26. By Wakefield Tolbert on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    “Not only is there no general federal ban, there is not ban one way or another or any limitations regarding PRIVATE funding of ESC. “

    No one has said there was
    ummmm–a quick glance at, say, about 50 websites that mention this, mentione that Bush spent a VETO, VETOING SCIENCE! And other such phrases.

    Starlets like Michael J. Fox and others have made much hay of “Hey BUSH–stop outlawing stem cell research”

    And so the phrases go, both in blogs and in the media.

    So that’s the perception. Thus for example in one blog I saw the other day the title was “Let’s not veto science again”

    really now.

    Their words, not mine.

  27. By Daniel DiRito on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    Wakefield and Ron,

    Thank you for sharing your insights and observations. I truly enjoy the discussion and I firmly believe it is the only avenue by which resolution…or at the very least some degree of civil discourse…can be achieved.

    I wish I had more time to address each and every point but I don’t have that luxury at the moment. The following is an array of information that I was able to put together and I submit it as a further contribution to the dialogue.

    Setting aside Reuters and other mainstream media outlets, here is what the National Institute of Health (NIH) has to say says about stem cell research:

    The Promise of Stem Cells

    Studying stem cells will help us understand how they transform into the dazzling array of specialized cells that make us what we are. Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are due to problems that occur somewhere in this process. A better understanding of normal cell development will allow us to understand and perhaps correct the errors that cause these medical conditions.

    Another potential application of stem cells is making cells and tissues for medical therapies. Today, donated organs and tissues are often used to replace those that are diseased or destroyed. Unfortunately, the number of people needing a transplant far exceeds the number of organs available for transplantation. Pluripotent stem cells offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat a myriad of diseases, conditions, and disabilities including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

    Have human embryonic stem cells successfully treated any human diseases? Scientists have been able to do experiments with human embryonic stem cells (hESC) only since 1998, when a group led by Dr. James Thompson at the University of Wisconsin developed a technique to isolate and grow the cells. Moreover, Federal funds to support hESC research have been available since only August 9, 2001, when President Bush announced his decision on Federal funding for hESC research. Because many academic researchers rely on Federal funds to support their laboratories, they are just beginning to learn how to grow and use the cells. Thus, although hESC are thought to offer potential cures and therapies for many devastating diseases, research using them is still in its early stages.

    Adult stem cells, such as blood-forming stem cells in bone marrow (called hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs), are currently the only type of stem cell commonly used to treat human diseases. Doctors have been transferring HSCs in bone marrow transplants for over 40 years. More advanced techniques of collecting, or “harvesting,” HSCs are now used in order to treat leukemia, lymphoma and several inherited blood disorders.

    The clinical potential of adult stem cells has also been demonstrated in the treatment of other human diseases that include diabetes and advanced kidney cancer. However, these newer uses have involved studies with a very limited number of patients.

    Regarding adult stem cells, there is no doubt the research is further along. Nonetheless, there has been a concerted effort by religious and right to life groups to amplify the benefits of ASC’s and to minimize the potential of ESC’s.

    If you listen to those who have been interviewed or have engaged in the discussions about stem cell research, those opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells repeat the oft heard argument that adult stem cells are already being used to treat well over 50 diseases and offer far more tangible promise than embryonic stem cells. One of the leaders in this effort is David A. Prentice, a scientist with the Family Research Council. A group of prominent scientists has responded to these claims in the journal Science. Read the full article here.

    The letter to the journal focused on David A. Prentice, a scientist with the conservative Family Research Council. Prentice has been an adviser to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) — a leader in the charge to maintain tight restrictions on the research — and an “expert source” often cited by opponents of embryonic stem cell research.

    Prentice has repeatedly claimed that adult stem cells, which can be retrieved harmlessly from adults, have at least as much medical potential as embryonic cells. He often carries a binder filled with references to scientific papers that he says prove the value of adult stem cells as treatments for at least 65 diseases.

    In the letter to Science, however, three researchers went through Prentice’s footnoted documentation and concluded that most of his examples are wrong.

    For example, they wrote, a study cited by Prentice as evidence that adult stem cells can help patients with testicular cancer is in fact a study that evaluates methods of isolating adult stem cells.

    Similarly, a published report that Prentice cites as evidence that adult stem cells can help patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma does not address the medical value of those cells but rather describes the best way to isolate cells from lymphoma patients and grow them in laboratory dishes, the letter said.

    All told, the scientists concluded, there are only nine diseases that have been proved to respond to treatment with adult stem cells.

    “By promoting the falsehood that adult stem cell treatments are already in general use for 65 diseases and injuries, Prentice and those who repeat his claims mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients,” the scientists wrote.

    Prentice and others opposed to funding expanded embryonic stem cell research simply repeat the mantra that seeks to make people believe that adult stem cells not only offer the same promise as embryonic stem cells but have actually been shown to be effective in fighting numerous diseases.

    Clearly, those willing to separate scientific endeavors from religious fervor do not agree and that disagreement is based upon science absent the bias that permeates most “scientific” arguments put forth by the religious right.

    Note that the article also points out that a number of journalists who embrace the positions of the President and his evangelical supporters have joined in the effort to spin this false data. So it looks to me that the mainstream media bias can cut both ways. I can accept that.

    No doubt research is a form of gambling. Regardless, the first research into cancer or any other treatment alternative were no less abstract than embryonic stem cell research…and no one could determine if they would succeed…but many of the concepts had merit…and so does the embryonic stem cell hypothesis.

    The following are links to research that has begun to demonstrate the potential of embryonic stem cells…research that has followed the same course as all research…it starts with some proof of concept in the lab, moves to testing in animal models, then goes through the rigorous process of human trials. Funds are granted on the basis of the submitted proof of concepts. Stem cell research has advanced in the exact same way as all research has advanced.

    Heart regeneration:

    http://www.news.wisc.edu/packages/stemcells/11966.html

    Brain related:

    http://www.news.wisc.edu/packages/stemcells/11960.html

    Krabbe’s disease, a fatal nervous system disorder:

    http://www.news.wisc.edu/packages/stemcells/11954.html

    That is some of the research from just one University…the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There is an abundance of similar work in progress that can be found with a simple Google search.

    The following is some of the more recent thought on the comparisons of ASC’s and ESC’s.

    The medical potential of such cell therapy “is huge,” said Timothy Hla, professor of vascular biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

    Diabetics in danger of losing their vision or limbs to amputation would be obvious beneficiaries of such cells, Hla noted.

    Lanza said the company hopes to begin trials in humans beginning late next year.

    Hla, however, notes that the entire field of regenerating blood vessels is still controversial. Some scientists, for instance, doubt whether stem cells actually form new blood vessels themselves, thinking perhaps they simply fuse with existing cells.

    Early trials using adult stem cells from bone marrow, which tend to be more specialized in types of tissue they form, in treating heart disease have been disappointing.

    “But whatever [the hemangioblasts] are doing, they do seem to have activity,” Hla said.

    However, the cells seem to have benefits over both adult and embryonic cells in regenerative medicine, some scientists note.

    The cells are taken “much earlier in development [than adult stem cells] and therefore have much higher potential,” said Anthony Atala, director of Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

    Beyond the science, there is clear voter support for funding embryonic stem cell research. I offer the following links to some of the polling data:

    http://www.researchamerica.org/polldata/2005/stemcell(parade).pdf

    Here’s one from Kansas:

    http://www.kumc.edu/stemcell/toolkit3.html

    Here’s another:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/19/AR2006071900216.html

    I recall hearing our President point out that he had a “mandate” after the 2004 election…with just over 50% of those who voted. If the deciding factor is the will of the people, why isn’t the ESC mandate being advanced? I may be wrong, but I find the inconsistency troubling.

    If one sought to repeat some of the same rhetoric that we see bantered about all the time…by both sides of the political spectrum…one might conclude that we have an “activist president” who is using his authority to undermine the will of the people.

    I’m not a gambler, but if I were, I’d bet the farm that stem cell research will revolutionize medicine…and I’m certain history will show that the U.S. could have moved forward much sooner had it not been for the position of this President. Regardless, science has demonstrated consistent success and I suspect it won’t be long before actual results will silence the rhetoric.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  28. By Ron on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    “Assuming Ron your’re not in jest mode”

    I kinda was, sorta. It’s ok. It’s just an interesting conviction, that there’s a movement behind sex ed. I was wondering if you thought that sex-as-evil-and you-will-go-to-hell-for-even-asking was any better for people.

    “Kinsely never got the gist of that, nor a modern culture that revels in mocking those of us who think marital sex is the most appropriate.”

    Fair enough. I am far too conflicted and guilty of being a teenager once to make a judgment. Perhaps there was some sort of Foucaltian release from reasonless repression that facilitated the sexual revolution? You seem quite a bit better read than I and possibly older than me so I’m asking to learn.

    Why do you allege a conspiracy to indoctrinate? I don’t understand where your foundation for this allegation is. It got put into the universities…by what? People who wanted to learn more about sex because we’ve really done a bad job teaching people and telling them all sorts of horrible things about it?

    “I think maybe the excitment of seeing blood in the water over some donnybrook of “hard science” vs. dark hooded evil relgion types is just too appealing to resist in controversy. Major media editing decisions is rather simplistic for context and no doubt the urge is strong to bend stories for a lean on somthing that “shows up” some other group. Some ESC advocates or researchers themselves might have some kind of agenda beyond federal dollars but I think this all boils down mostly to yet another way of mockery of those who oppose something for ethical reasons. ”

    Ooohh, I was totally in agreement until you took it personally.

    I’m sorry we are forking this discussion into two subjects, but I don’t see you having trouble keeping up!

  29. By Ron on May 9, 2007 | Reply

    “No one has said there was”

    “ummmm–a quick glance at, say, about 50 websites that mention this, mentione that Bush spent a VETO, VETOING SCIENCE! And other such phrases.

    Starlets like Michael J. Fox and others have made much hay of “Hey BUSH–stop outlawing stem cell research”

    Whoops, my mistake. I meant that no one is saying there is a private ban, but I suppose that people could get that impression from what you accurately describe as the mainstream media’s laziness toward science(and politics). We unfortunately live in a world where this information is not necessary to most folks. But, there’s always magazines and journals for those who want it, and then of course there’s the internet for the lazy and cheap like myself.

    The news on TV is entertainment, serving people what they want and can handle. I don’t know if its so much a calculated effort to omit facts by the news so much as it is they and their sponsors are acutely aware that the attention span of the average viewer is rather short.

    Wakefield, I’m not an extremist. I’m an atheist, but a tolerant one. I am not quick to mock religious beliefs. Hell, I used to author a website for tolerance and respect toward religion. That’s not to say I havent made a few jokes at Christianity’s expense, but we all have our moments.

  30. By Ron on May 10, 2007 | Reply

    Dan,

    For the moment, I am content to accept Craig’s premise that embryonic stem cell research and its public debate is proceeding apace as any new development does.

  31. By Craig R. Harmon on May 10, 2007 | Reply

    Lazy (comment #19),

    Is that a yes, you would oppose research that killed three month olds in an attempt to develop a cure for cancer? I couldn’t quite tell. It’s really a yes or no question. It shouldn’t take more than one word to answer.

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