Goodbye to Ideological Stem Cell Agenda, Guidelines for President-Elect Obama


The Center for American Progress (CAP) has a perfectly encapsulated post up today, written by Senior Fellow Rick Weiss, that addresses a crystal clear, new agenda for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. 

President-Elect Obama has an opportunity to cleanse the federal government of far too many ideological, non-scientifically based restrictions placed upon science by President Bush over the last eight years. These restrictions have reared their ugly head in many ways but one critically affected area has been federal funding for furthering scientific, medical research; in particular related to the potential of embryonic stem cells to aid in the cures of some chronic and fatal diseases affecting so many of us, our friends and family.  It’s an area in which rebirth of common sense is possible and likely. 

Weiss writes, 

Within the first week of taking office, President Obama should call upon the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to devise a plan for dismantling the current, overly restrictive Bush administration policy on the funding of human embryonic stem cell research. He should do so through an executive order or presidential memorandum.

Then Weiss lays out those restrictions that any HHS/NIH regulations should encompass:

  • The cells must have been derived from embryos produced for reproductive purposes.
  • Those embryos must have been deemed in excess of medical need, were no longer being considered for transfer to a womb ,and were slated for destruction.
  • The embryos were freely donated by both of the adults who contributed genetic material to create them, as evidenced by proper written informed consent.
  • No financial inducements were offered to donors, and the donors expressed through an informed consent process their understanding that any resulting cell lines will be used for research and not for the development of therapeutic benefits for the donors.
  • All federally funded research on human embryonic stem cells must be conducted under the review of a Stem Cell Research Oversight committee that adheres to the standards put forth in the guidelines of either the National Academies or the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

All of these restrictions ensure that all ethical considerations are taken into account, in particular that embryos are not created solely for research purposes nor harmed or destroyed in the research process beyond what is allowed, under law, on fetuses in utero. 

Finally, Weiss notes, that the Center for American Progress calls upon the 111th Congress to codify these NIH/HHS regulations into law so that they are not subjected to the whim of a presidential administration (especially one as anti-science as the Bush administration has historically been):

The legislation should provide broad, principled, ethical standards so that the science can evolve in the direction that experimentation and evidence takes it—subject always to policy details promulgated by HHS/NIH. 

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  • invalid-0

    The Stem Cell Controversy
    By Roger M. Nocera, M.D.
    docrn@antiagingtoday.com

    The embryonic stem cell (ESC)-therapy debate centers on the ethical issues of destroying a potential human life of early stage human embryos, which has not really been a discussion of medical science but of faith, beliefs and religion. President Bush halted government funding of any new ESC-lines when he took office. President Obama will lift this ban early in his first term as president.

    If president Obama knew the medical and scientific truth about stem cell research he would not lift this ban. The correct resolution of the stem cell debate lies in the scientific medical discoveries that have occurred just after the Bush ban took effect, during which we have learned that adult stem cells (ASCs) are far more effective, much safer and cheaper to develop than ESCs. Despite what scientists have claimed, in fact, ESCs offer no advantages and many profound disadvantages compared to ASCs medically speaking. It’s not even a close race. It’s what they call … “a no brainer’ once you have the accurate facts.

    Only public education can save us now from the problems that will occur if we continue our present ESC approach to stem cell therapy development. Our health care cost crisis could be completely solved over time if we choose ASCs for therapy development, while it will worsen profoundly if we go the ESC route.

    President Obama, like most Americans is not aware of the scientific facts involved in the stem cell debate, in which there is much at stake for all of our children, our grandchildren, and us. Since Obama is clearly intelligent enough to understand the medical realities about stem cells we have to assume he, like most other Americans is getting inferior expert opinions on the subject. I fear we Americans are about to be bamboozled yet again, by experts, as in the case of the unregulated mortgage securities, which caused our current economic calamity.

    Here are the facts.

    The human egg and sperm fuse into one cell called a zygote, which produces the first batch of ESCs. In the embryo these ESCs produce cells in a cascade of cellular development until in the end all 220 adult cell types are produced. Included in these 220 adult cells are adult stem cells (ASCs) that we have recently discovered heal the human body from cradle to grave. Scientists have learned that biochemicals called cytokines are the triggers to these cellular changes in the developing embryo. So by soaking ESCs in different cytokine-soup recipes in just the right sequences they will be able, theoretically, to get ESCs to produce any cell type needed.

    Currently we have profound unresolved problems with ESCs. We know that ESCs: produce cancers, don’t heal diseased tissues very well and are rejected by the immune system of any patient they are injected into unless large doses of dangerous immune-suppressive drugs are also given. ESC-scientists are hoping that if they can soak their ESCs in just the right types and sequences of cytokine soup recipes, imitating nature all the way, they will end up someday with a stem cell that will heal injured tissues, not cause tumors, and not be rejected by the patient’s immune system before healing can occur. This research to create such a wonderful stem cell from ESCs by the sequenced cytokine soup method is going to eventually work, no doubt. However, it is going to cost huge amounts of money. This cost will eventually be passed on to consumers, as are all medical development costs. There are already many earned intellectual properties and patents relating to the types and kinds of cytokine soup recipes and procedures involved in these ESC transformations. There will be many more. Each one adds to the cost of production.

    Now here’s the rub. All this research on ESCs is entirely unnecessary. When ESC scientists finish this research they will have made exactly precisely what we already have, allogeneic ASCs, except these new ASCs that are made from ESCs will cost a fortune. These allogeneic ASCs that we already have: don’t cause tumors, heal diseases better than any ESC, and have the ability to heal before immune rejection takes place, and are obtained at one day of age, so that they are as youthful and robust as any ESC. These stem cells that we already have actually come from ESCs via the natural cascade of cytokine exposure that occurs in the normal developing fetus and are taken from the umbilical cord blood and/or the placenta after the birthing of a normal healthy baby without doing any harm to the infant whatsoever.

    Yet, we are going to study nature to see which cytokines it uses to make ASCs so we can make them ourselves from ESCs in the laboratory at far greater cost. Brilliant. Something tells me there are financial rather than medical and scientific considerations at play here. We are going to pay through the nose for intellectual property and patent fees to make something we already exactly have. Since ASCs are used for therapy very much as they exist already in nature, most patents are unnecessary. Moreover, by using the cytokine soak method we can multiply and grow these allogeneic ASCs from thousands into trillions of cells, cheaply making enough stem cells to treat everyone in the world who needs them very inexpensively. This is great news for consumers who desperately need a break from the ever-spiraling cost of medical healthcare. Obama has the health care cost crisis solution right under his nose, but is being denied ability to see it because of dreadfully bad expert advice that is probably financially motivated. He is going to be upset when he finds out, and he will find out eventually, that he has been duped by personal-agenda motivated “medical authorities”.

    The latest ESC scheme has sidestepped the ethical argument by creating an ESC from a normal skin cell instead of an embryo. This man-made ESC will never be a viable treatment option because of cost. In order to make these ESCs, which still have all the tumor and immunity problems of normal ESCs, a highly trained cell biologist must meticulously take the nucleus out of a skin cell and place it into an egg cell, by hand, under extreme microscopic conditions for each and every patient to be treated. Since this is such a highly skilled, labor-intensive process the costs of production will never decrease to an affordable level.

    In conclusion, the right-to-life folks have been saying, in effect, that even though ASCs are not as powerful as ESCs, we should choose them nonetheless because it is more ethical to do so. Well, the right-to-life folks are very wrong about that. ASCs are not an inferior substitute for ESCs. Allogeneic ASCs are superior in every way imaginable to ESCs medically. ESC-therapy research should stop, not because it is immoral, but because it is profoundly inferior and flawed in comparison to ASCs medically.

  • therealistmom

    Information about "antiaging medicine" may be found on Quackwatch at http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/antiagingpp.html.

     

    The National Institute of Health’s 2001 report on stem cell research including information on both fetal and adult cell lines can be found here: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/scireport/2001report.htm.

  • http://benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com invalid-0

    “President-Elect Obama has an opportunity to cleanse the federal government of far too many ideological, non-scientifically based restrictions placed upon science by President Bush over the last eight years.”

    President Bush opposes the destruction of embryonic human beings just as we all oppose the destruction of homeless people for medical research. Since it’s a well-known scientific fact that human embryos are human beings (I’ll be glad to cite science textbooks for you), I’m wondering what “ideology” you think Bush has forced on everybody: that we shouldn’t be killing people for medical research? We’re in big trouble if that’s now considered a “theological view.”

  • invalid-0

    If president Obama knew the medical and scientific truth about stem cell research he would not lift this ban.

    I stopped reading that tripe after that sentence. You and Roger M. Nocera are obviously delusional.

    Then again reality has never been your lots strongpoint.

  • emma

    Did the ESC research opponents here miss the fact that the embryos used are going to be destroyed anyway? This just goes to show that people who call themselves ‘pro-life’ are actually ‘pro-human suffering’ – in this case, supporting the suffering of people with progressive neurological illnesses who might benefit from embryonic stem cell research.

     

    Why do ‘pro-lifers’ insist on invoking facile comparisons between ESC research, abortion, etc and slavery, genocide, and so forth. Are you seriously suggesting that embryos are just like developed humans, only smaller? That they have developed nervous systems and therefore suffer in the same way that born people suffer? Are you seriously not aware that that’s physiologically impossible?

     

    Why is it that fundamentalists hate science (evolution etc) but are happy to invoke pseudo-science that supports their agenda?

     

    Bush doesn’t support science, and he’s not pro-life, either. One can’t be ‘pro-life’ and start illegal wars based on lies that have resulted in the death and displacement of millions. The cognitive dissonance and outright hypocrisy has reached the level of ridiculousness.

  • http://benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com invalid-0

    “Did the ESC research opponents here miss the fact that the embryos used are going to be destroyed anyway?”

    “We’re going to kill these homeless people, anyway. Isn’t it better that we use their bodies for medical research rather than watch them go to ‘waste’ by throwing them into the lake?”

    Same question.

    “Are you seriously suggesting that embryos are just like developed humans, only smaller?”

    They’re smaller and less developed. Kind of like a newborn is smaller and less developed than an adult. But the adult, the newborn, and the embryo are all human beings. Take it up with the science textbooks if you don’t like it. None of them suggests that an embryo or a fetus magically “becomes” a human being at birth, or that it gradually becomes “more of a person” throughout nine months.

    “That they have developed nervous systems and therefore suffer in the same way that born people suffer?”

    The ability to suffer is not the criterion for personhood. And the nervous system is part of a human being’s DNA even if not yet developed. Or do you think an embryo’s nervous system is “added” later on?

    “Why is it that fundamentalists hate science (evolution etc) but are happy to invoke pseudo-science that supports their agenda?”

    Well, you’ll be happy to know that I’m an agnostic who simply understands scientific fact. It is the pro-ESCR side that invokes pseudo-science every time it argues that an embryo isn’t a human being because (s)he doesn’t fulfill its touchy-feely, non-scientific, romanticized concept of what and who a human being is. Or argues that (all together now) “an embryo is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.” Or, well, makes an argument based upon having a developed nervous system.

    “One can’t be ‘pro-life’ and start illegal wars based on lies that have resulted in the death and displacement of millions.”

    Is it part of the pro-ESCR handbook to begin bringing in other issues (especially the Iraq war) when you’re losing soundly on this one?

  • emma

    I brought up the Iraq war because pro-lifers (particularly the religious ones) seem far, far more interested in American foetuses/embryos/zygotes than in the suffering being caused by wars, and the hypocrisy irritates the hell out of me.

     

    Repeating the comparison between homeless people and embryos doesn’t make it any less facile. You also chose not to address the fact that the embryos used in ESCR are going to be destroyed anyway. Sepaking of homeless people, what about pushing for changes that would reduce income inequity and reduce the homelessness rate?

     

    Embryos aren’t just less developed; they’re pretty much undeveloped, which is the reason for the advantages of using their stem cells. The only human characteristic they have is human DNA. You’re romanticising a microscopic handful of cells. There’s a lot more similarity between an adult and a baby than there is between a baby and an embryo. Furthermore, you’re representing the argument that sentience is irrelevant to personhood as undisputed fact, which it just isn’t, which is why it’s acceptable (except to those who are determined to endlessly reanimate corpses) to withdraw life support from people who are brain dead or in a PVS, but not a conscious person.

  • http://benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com invalid-0

    “I brought up the Iraq war because pro-lifers (particularly the religious ones) seem far, far more interested in American foetuses/embryos/zygotes than in the suffering being caused by wars, and the hypocrisy irritates the hell out of me.”

    Feel free to bring up the Iraq war on a blog designed for that very purpose. Your raising of Iraq reminds me of counter-protesters at an Iraq war protest, screaming, “Yeah? Well, you people are supposedly for peace, but I bet some of you are pro-abortion!” You might (rightly) point out that one issue has nothing to do with another, and also that the counter-protesters ignore that one can oppose both.

    “You also chose not to address the fact that the embryos used in ESCR are going to be destroyed anyway.”

    Actually, I totally did, Emma, with my “homeless people” analogy that you failed to rebut. Once we understand that, scienficially, these embryos are human beings, it becomes painfully obvious that none of them should be destroyed, whether for research or for no purpose.

    “Sepaking of homeless people, what about pushing for changes that would reduce income inequity and reduce the homelessness rate?”

    Have you, perhaps, tried to suggest that when the topic is economics, rather than ESCR? Just a thought.

    “Embryos aren’t just less developed; they’re pretty much undeveloped, which is the reason for the advantages of using their stem cells.”

    No…the pluripotency of ESCs is proving to be a liability rather than the asset it was hyped to be. Adult stem cells are less differentiated and therefore much stabler than ESCs, which are turning into tumors in the lab. (Not what we want, Emma.)

    “You’re romanticising a microscopic handful of cells.”

    I’m stating scientific facts. (Want me to quote from textbooks, Emma?) People of your ilk ignore scientific fact in favor of non-scientific, self-serving arguments, all while referring to your opponents as “anti-science.”

    “Furthermore, you’re representing the argument that sentience is irrelevant to personhood as undisputed fact, which it just isn’t, which is why it’s acceptable (except to those who are determined to endlessly reanimate corpses) to withdraw life support from people who are brain dead or in a PVS, but not a conscious person.”

    We will keep this in mind should you ever fall into a coma.

  • invalid-0

    and suggest that foetuses and zygotes are the SAME as out of the womb, developed human beings – when can we start making them pay taxes and charging them rent/mortgage on wombs?
    The damage deposit will be huge though. They certainly won’t leave the place in the condition they “found” it.

    ;)

  • mellankelly1

    We will keep this in mind should you ever fall into a coma.

    Yes, please… lets do pretend that a person who falls into a coma was not a person prior to becoming comatose.  Does that mean that the zygote was also a person prior to becoming a fertilized egg?

  • invalid-0

    “Feel free to bring up the Iraq war on a blog designed for that very purpose.”

    I can see that mention of the several million civilian deaths your Christian President and his followers are responsible for and your obvious hypocrisy might well make you and your ‘pro-life’ ilk uncomfortable but I’m quite certain that you have no say whatsoever about what is written in the comments on this blog.

    “Actually, I totally did, Emma, with my “homeless people” analogy that you failed to rebut.”

    Perhaps you should learn how to write an effective analogy because that one is too pointless and bizarre to waste time discussing.

  • http://benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com invalid-0

    …as they cite fertilization as the beginning of a human being’s life.

  • http://benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com invalid-0

    Homeless people are human beings. Human embryos are human beings. Therein lies the framework for a sensible analogy. If one argues that “we’re only going to kill ________, anyway,” it begs the response, “Well, don’t do that, then.”

  • http://dinodelellis.net/ invalid-0

    This very tricky. On one hand so much can be done medically if stem cell research is developed. We can use it to cure genetic disorders and even improve our genes. But also there is also the argument that the embryos that will be harvested are potential human beings thus will be tantamount to murder if they will be harvested.

    Until these issues are resolved stem cell research will remain a very hot topic and support for it’s development will be difficult to find.

    -Dino Delellis

  • http://win365bingo.com/ invalid-0

    I think the least controversial method of obtaining embryonic stem cells will be from those that are considered medical waste. So instead of throwing them away they can be harvested for their stem cells.

    Another possible way is to clone existing stem cells so that there will be a renewable supply of stem cells obtained from the original batch.