Saturday, November 06, 2004

Stem Cell Research 

One major issue people love to tackle is Stem Cell Research. They're uninformed and have no idea what they're talking about, but they want to quickly blame the Republicans for banning Stem Cell Research. Recently, we've been able to narrow "Republicans" down to "Bush," so we can handle this as Bush Bashing.

Well, let's bring up some facts, and some speculation. I'll note that I'm not a biologyst; but I will explain where my logical conclusions come from for certain things. Don't argue with me unless you have a Ph.D. in biology and medicine; I'm not interested in bitchmatches with people who aren't qualified to refute my analysis.

I'll keep this simple and use a narrow range of resources. You can use google.

CLAIM: Bush banned Stem Cell Research; Bush wants to ban Stem Cell Research; Bush restricted Stem Cell Research; Bush is being an ass about Stem Cell Research

Example: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6142664/
Found by: Google: bush ban stem cell research

Counter-example: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2004-08-15-stem-cells_x.htm
Found by: Google: bush fund stem cell research

FACT: Embreyonic Stem Cell Research was never banned by Bush. In fact, federal funding for such was never banned by Bush. Bush made it easier to fund Embreyonic Stem Cell Research.

First, from our example, we'll point out the major theme: "facing a president who is trying to ban research vital to finding new treatments and cures." These two quotes below we may start with.
On Aug. 9, 2001, in his first major speech to the American people, Bush announced that he had settled on what he called a "compromise" with respect to embryonic stem-cell research. No more embryos could be destroyed in research funded by the federal government. But, drawing what can only be generously described as an arbitrary moral line, Bush said he would allow research using embryonic stem cells already in existence as of the day of his speech.

The president, they insist, compromised. "Use what was around before 2001" is not a ban, they say. And, they self-righteously point out, this president has allocated more funding — nearly $25 million — for embryonic stem-cell research than any other president.

Well, sorry fellas, but prohibiting the expenditure of federal funds on embryonic stem-cell research after August 2001 is a ban. It is a ban of limited scope but a ban it most certainly is.

OK. Let's step down to our counterexample now.
Three years ago, President Bush made the decision to open, for the first time, the laboratory doors to federal funding for human-embryonic-stem-cell research. He determined, however, that federal funds should not be used to encourage or support the destruction of living human embryos, a principle that has been part of federal law since 1996. Funds would be made available for research derived from embryos that had already been destroyed. He placed no limits on private funding of research.
The president's policy is working. Federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research has grown from zero dollars in 2001 to $24.8 million now, with no cap on future funding. Most of the established U.S. scientists in this field have received funding, and shipments of stem-cell lines are going out to researchers in record numbers. More lines are available in the USA than in any other country.
At the same time, state governments and the private sector are supporting research outside the federal guidelines. One study estimates that 1,000 scientists at more than 30 firms spent $208 million experimenting on embryonic and adult stem cells in 2002.

Much important stem cell work is also being done without wrestling with the ethics of research on embryos. Last year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded $190 million in "adult" stem-cell research on, for example, cells from bone marrow or placental tissue.
First thing to notice: There has been a ban on federal funding of Embreyonic Stem Cell Research since 1996. Clinton was in office for the two terms before Bush, 1992-2000. This puts the blame of the all-out ban on federally funding Embreyonic Stem Cell Research on the Democrats, the Clinton-Gore Administration.

Second thing to notice: Somebody else is funding Embreyonic Stem Cell Research. "Bush" is giving them $24.8M; but somehow they spend $208M. The money is coming from somewhere. Even if you want to attack the low level of funding--which is almost one quarter of the total spent in 2002--you have to realize that because of Clinton, they were getting ZERO from the fed for funding. You compare $24.8M with $0. Let's say, $24,800,000 vs $0. Which is larger, and by how much?

CLAIM: Embreyonic Stem Cells are a Magic Cure; Superman could/would have walked if we had funded Embreyonic Stem Cell Research; all disease will bow to the awesome bitchin' powers of our kick-ass Embreyonic Stem Cells when we behead King George II

Example: http://irregulartimes.com/paulsstoryshort.html
Found by: Google: stem cell cure bush ban

Counter-example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem_cell
Found by: Being able to use Wikipedia

FACT: We do not know enough about Embreyonic Stem Cells to know this; if we did, we wouldn't need to do a little thing called "research." Also, Adult Stem Cells provide many cures and may provide many more, without the need to destroy life or tackle piles and piles of political and ethical bullshit.

From our example, we can show the following:

My formerly athletic son has been crippled in the last eight months by an autoimmune arthritis for which there is currently no cure, only harsh medicines with dangerous side effects that may temporarily slow the inevitable progression of the condition.

Last summer he was a basketball player and laser tag champ, this summer he can barely hobble a few yards at a time with braces on his knees and a cane in his hand. The condition is entering his spine. He is in constant pain.

Cry me a river.

My son's suffering is apparently due to a deficiency in a kind of white blood cell that suppresses autoimmune reactions. It is called a T-regulatory cell. Autoimmune diseased mice have the same problem. Rockefeller University researchers can take a few of the scarce T-regs out of an autoimmune diseased mouse and grow millions and millions of identical T-regs on a bed of ESCs in just a few days. By putting these lab grown T-regs back into the mice, researchers have STOPPED the mice's autoimmune condition dead in its tracks.
This is something we know? OK, this is no longer research.
An AIDS patient for whom drugs no longer work, could be saved with this technique by growing unlimited amounts of his own CD4 cells. Pneumonia patients with a drug resistant bacterial infections could be given the specific kind of WBC that would kill that pneumonia bacteria. Patients sickened or dying of viral diseases like SARS, hepatitis, viral pneumonia, mononucleosis, herpes, chicken pox, even small pox could be cured by growing the right kind of WBC's in mass and giving them back to the patient.
OK, here's my meat for today. In case you're too lazy--and I don't blame you--to read this BS, I'll highlight the major points.

First off, his kid is sick, he has an autoimmune disease and yadda yadda he's in pain he's dying understand? This is horrible, yes, we know. It sucks to hear that, I'm sorry, my heart goes out to you, try and get some help.

Second, apparently we know we can take Embreyonic Stem Cells and make them fix this. This is done, as I understand, by growing white blood cells using the stem cells and reinjecting them into the body. OK, good, nice. We have a cure, yay, but it involves killing people, so we have a problem, because it's really tragic that we have to make such a harsh moralistic decision.

Third, and finally, he says these techniques can be used to cure AIDS, pneumonia, SARS, smallpox, etc etc etc things we don't like. This is all awesome, I love this, you love this, but we're faced with a moral dilema which now we have to try and solve. Obviously since we're sitting on the cure for AIDS today, we have to try and solve this quickly.

To start, let's take some quotes from my counter-example.

There are three types of stem cells: totipotent, pluripotent, and multipotent. A single totipotent stem cell can grow into an entire organism. Pluripotent stem cells cannot grow into a whole organism, but they can become any other type of cell in the body. Multipotent (also called unipotent) stem cells can only become particular types of cells: e.g. blood cells, or bone cells.
Short version: Totipotent can become a whole body; pluripotent can become anything; and multipotent can only become one or a handfull of things. Let's point out that "multipotent" Stem Cells come from source X, and can produce any cells of type M[X] where M is a list of lists of types of cells (blood, bone marrow, kidneys, brain, skin, etc) and M[n] is a list of types of cells producible from multipotent Stem Cell type 'n'.

Stem cells are also categorized according to their source, as either adult or embryonic. Adult stem cells have been successfully used in treatments for over one hundred diseases and conditions. The use of embryonic stem cells has not yet resulted in any successful treatments, although many researchers believe that they have great potential as the basis of treatments. Research with embryonic stem cells requires destruction of embryos, and is highly controversial because this is considered by some to be a form of murder.
OK, how sad, we have to kill people for Embreyonic Stem Cells, and apparently we don't actually have results (despite above claims by our attacker) yet. Now let's find what an Adult Stem Cell is before I tell you we don't have to kill people to get them--oh shit, sorry, spoiled the ending.
Blood from the placenta and umbilical cord that are left over after birth is a source of adult stem cells. Since 1988 these "cord blood" stem cells have been used to treat Gunther's disease, Hunter syndrome, Hurler syndrome, Acute lymphocytic leukaemia and many more problems occurring mostly in children. It is collected by removing the umbilical cord, cleansing it and withdrawing blood from the umbilical vein. This blood is then immediately analyzed for infectious agents and the tissue-type is determined. Cord blood is stored in liquid nitrogen for later use, when it is thawed and injected through a vein of the patient. This kind of treatment, where the stem cells are collected from another donor, is called allogenic treatment. When the cells are collected from the same patient they will be used on, it is called autologous.
So blood from the icky junk left over after the baby is ejected can be used to harvest Adult Stem Cells? Interesting, no killing. We can even hack up the cord to try and get some. These have also been used to cure a lot of diseases.

Stem cells can be found in adult beings. Adult stem cells reproduce daily to provide certain specialized cells—for example 200 billion red blood cells are created each day in the body. Until recently it was thought that each of these cells could produce just one particular type of cell—this is called differentiation (see Morphogenesis). However in the past few years, evidence has been gathered of stem cells that can transform into several different forms. Bone marrow stem cells are known to be able to transform into liver, nerve, muscle and kidney cells.

Adult stem cells may be even more versatile than this. Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine have extracted stem cells from the bone-marrow of mice which they say are pluripotent.

Point: We can get Adult Stem Cells from your body, or at least from a person's body; and some apparently can perform all of the functions we can perform with Embreyonic Stem Cells except for cloning; we can't clone you with Adult Stem Cells, just with Embreyonic Stem Cells. We can use Adult Stem Cells to allegedly regenerate any tissue in your body, however.

In fact, useful sources of adult stem cells are being found in organs all over the body. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have extracted stem cells from skin that are able to differentiate into many types of tissue, including neurons, smooth muscle cells and fat-cells. These were found in "dermis", the inner layer of the skin. These stem cells play a pivotal role in healing small cuts.

In the same way that organs can be transplanted from cadavers, researchers at the Salk Institute in California have found that these could be used as a source of stem cells as well. Taking stem cells from the brains of corpses they were able to coax them into dividing into valuable neurons. However, whether they will function correctly when used in treatment has not yet been determined.

We can get Adult Stem Cells from all over your body; this widens the number of X indicies for the groups we can produce of M[X]. If we map out each X--each type of Adult Stem Cell--to each set M[X] that describes what it can transform into, we can find a large number of available cures which may actually allow us to use your condition to compute a set of values of X which will allow us to use your own tissue to heal you, even when some of our sources in you of Adult Stem Cells are damaged themselves.

Adult stem cells have been successfully used to treat thousands of patients and over one hundred diseases and conditions, while all attempts to use embryonic stem cells have failed, most commonly resulting in tumours. This fact has been used to argue that limited public health funds should focus on extending adult stem cell research success, until privately funded research on animal embryonic stem cells shows some results.
Translation for the weak minded: Embreyonic Stem Cells fail to work in every case tested on humans, whereas over one hundred diseases have been cured in thousands of patients using Adult Stem Cells. To put it simpler, Embreyonic Stem Cells are pure and total bullshit.

For over 30 years, bone marrow stem cells have been used to treat cancer patients with conditions such as leukemia and lymphoma. During chemotherapy, most growing cells are killed by the cytotoxic agents. These agents not only kill the leukemia or neoplastic cells, but also the stem cells needed to replace the killed cells as a patient recovers. However, if the stem cells are removed before chemotherapy, and then reinjected after treatment is terminated, the stem cells in the bone marrow produce large amounts of red and white blood cells, to keep the body healthy and to help fight infections.

Since the 1980s stem cells have been taken from the blood instead of the bone-marrow, making the procedure safer for older people. Although normally scarce, the number of peripheral blood cells can be increased by a course of drugs, which release the stem cells from the bone-marrow. These are removed before chemotherapy, which kills most of them, and are re-injected afterwards.

Adult stem cells have been successfully used to treat paralysis due to spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

Some cute things we've done with Adult Stem Cells. Notice the last line here, about spinal cord injuries and paralysis. Could we have made Superman walk before he died? Perhaps Reeve wasn't kept in the wheelchair by Bush?

Working with critically ill heart patients, researchers in Vienna have successfully used Mesenchymal stem cells to regenerate healthy new heart tissue. The stem cells were harvested from the patient's own bone marrow and injected into the ventricle. The heart is stopped for approximately two minutes to allow the stem cells to attach to the existing heart tissue. The patient is only under local anesthesia so that the surgeons can monitor how the lack of cerebral oxygen is affecting the patient. The heart is then restarted and incisions closed. The procedure is minimally invasive, as far as heart surgeories are concerned.

All of the patients that received the new treatment experienced repaired scar tissue and most had nearly complete return of proper heart function. As stated previously in the article, autologous stem cell implants such as these could alleviate legal and moral issues revolving around stem cell therapies. Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes could be cured with stem cells in the future.

Truth be told. This is research on Adult Stem Cells and it could cure cancer, heart disease, and Type 1 Diabetes.

So what should we do? I say we shitcan Embreyonic Stem Cell research and go with Adult Stem Cell research. Why? Have you not read my post? Fine, I'll recap:

  1. Embreyonic Stem Cell research has too many political and ethical issues surrounding it, and any attempt to actually work towards this stuff despite its potential will be clogged as the left attacks the right's attempts to aid it and then uses the stall against them, while the right refuses to really pull out all the stops.
  2. Embreyonic Stem Cell research has never helped anything. All uses of Embreyonic Stem Cells in patients have failed, and many have resulted in tumors. Embreyonic Stem Cells have apparently not even worked in animal research.
  3. Adult Stem Cells have been used to cure hundreds of diseases in thousands of patients, and are continuing to show results, not empty and mystical promise, in current research. Adult Stem Cell research has no annoying moral issues surrounding it, and can therefor not be used to support more political bullshit and is immune to the clogging resulting from trying to pass large amounts of fecal matter through the narrow piping that today's politicians have created.
Does this satisfy your thirst for blood? Go Adult Stem Cell research!

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