April 11, 2007

Bloody Cheek

Hatched by Dafydd

I stand foresquare for scientific progress, particularly in the field of medicine (I want to live forever)... and most particularly for the hot field of stem-cell research. I have no moral qualms about even embryonic stem-cell research, especially when the stem cells are extracted without destroying the embryo that contains them; and I have argued the point rather forcefully.

But it's bloody awful and a bloody shame that the Times of London has just been caught with its knickers down, defending embryonic stem-cell research by pointing to a new miracle cure... brought about by adult stem-cell research.

They've got some bloody cheek!

I refer to this passage in the story:

Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again....

Previous studies have suggested that stem-cell therapies offer huge potential to treat a variety of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neuron disease. A study by British scientists in November also reported that stem-cell injections could repair organ damage in heart attack victims.

But research using the most versatile kind of stem cells -- those acquired from human embryos -- is currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush.

Darn that theocratic Bush! This is one of the most stunning breakthroughs of stem-cell therapy, and he wants to throw it all away, just because his "religion" doesn't agree with science. Science, man! Does Bush think he's God?

Why is the Bush administration trying to stop such a wonderful medical advances from embryonic stem-cell research as a cure for diebetes?

Of course, the elipses above indicates something was cut out. Here is the next paragraph after the first above:

Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again.

In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood.

Needless to say, the diabetic subjects were not embryos, or they couldn't have signed the consent forms.

The chutzpah of the Times aside, I don't want to minimize the medical breakthrough reported here. More and more, we're starting to realize that stem cells may be the "magic bullet" that offers us a splendid panoply of cures for a laundry list of disease and dangerous and crippling conditions -- not just alleviate their symptoms:

They enrolled Brazilian diabetics aged between 14 and 31 who had been diagnosed within the previous six weeks. After stem cells had been harvested from their blood, they then underwent a mild form of chemotherapy to eliminate the white blood cells causing damage to the pancreas. They were then given transfusions of their own stem cells to help rebuild their immune systems.

Richard Burt, a co-author of the study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said that 14 of the 15 patients were insulin-free for some time following the treatment. Eleven of those were able to dispense with supplemental insulin immediately following the infusion of stem cells and have not had recourse to synthetic insulin since then, he said.

“Two other patients needed some supplemental insulin for 12 and 20 months after the procedure, but eventually both were able to wean themselves from taking daily shots,” he added. One patient went 12 months without shots, but relapsed a year after treatment after suffering a viral infection, and resumed daily insulin injections. Another volunteer was eliminated from the study because of complications. The therapy, known as autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, has already shown benefits to individuals with a range of auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and lupus.

I am steadfast in my support not only for proven therapies using adult stem cells but also for even greater potential therapies from placental, uterine, and embryonic stem cells.

Anent the last, I understand that a great many people see deliberately killing an embryo as a form of abortion, thus infanticide. However, as we discussed here back in August (linked above), researchers have already developed a very promising technique for extracting embryonic stem cells without harming the embryo, which continues to live and reproduce normally.

But my cause is not helped by elite media idiots who try, for political purposes -- and with all good intentions, I can only assume -- to shoehorn embryonic stem-cell research into a story that is entirely about adult stem-cell research, with the clear implication that Bush's policy would prevent future advances... such as a cure for diabetes.

You cannot raft into truth through a cataract of lies. It is a lie that embryonic stem-cell research shows no promise at all; but it's just as much a lie to say that embryonic stem-cell research has a track record of proven cures. It is at the same stage now as gene therapy was in the 1980s, prior to its first successful use in 1990.

Given time and continued research, stem-cell advances will likely be more significant to future medical care than anything since the description of DNA by James D. Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. We're already seeing extraordinary cures by the use of stem cells; and there is every reason to pour resources into all forms of stem-cell research, including embryonic -- with proper safeguards to avoid killing embryos.

But please, folks on both sides of the debate... stick to the truth: The web is tangled enough as is.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2007, at the time of 2:22 PM

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The following hissed in response by: AMR

Fact: embryonic stem-cell research has yet to offer a cure for anything. There are more than 77 treatments, to date using adult stem cells, yet congress continues to push for federal spending on embryonic stem-cell research.
Private money has left embryonic stem-cell research to the more promising adult or umbilical cord stem cell research. And this is not due to the politics of the issue because non-government money follows where there is promise and profit. It is government money that follows political direction. Remembering that federal monies are only prevented from being directed to NEW embryonic stem-cell research, all the private money in the world can be spent on embryonic stem-cell research. What angers me is that when one listens to news reports and many politicians, I notice that usually it is phrased that the federal government will not spend money on STEM cell research. Even the LA Times story did not make it perfectly clear for all levels of readership that adult stem cells were used in this therapy; they used the standard stem cell tag. The media, politicians and, yes Michael Fox, conveniently "forget" to differentiate between the two types of cells in their claim about government non-support of stem cell research; as well as which is most promising and what is prohibited. This entire charade needs to stop now and direct any appropriated money where it will help research and patients the most; adult or umbilical cord stem cell research.

The above hissed in response by: AMR [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 7:21 PM

The following hissed in response by: wtanksleyjr

AMR, Dafydd clearly knows that -- he referred to it when he called the "embryonic" cures "potential".

Dafydd, I appreciate your nuanced stance on this. I agree that there is a lot of potential, at least for learning, in embryonic stem cell research. One clarification, though: the experiment you cite was not a success in extracting stem cells without killing the embryo. It failed on two fronts:

1. It killed all of the embryos involved by extracting too many cells from each of them.

2. It did not demonstrate anything new.

Scientists have been searching for a while to find how to extract and culture a single cell from an embryo; but in this experiment, they extracted multiple cells one at a time, and then cultured them together. We still don't know how to culture one cell at a time, which is the real technical hurdle.

So, sadly, that experiment was pure hype.

The above hissed in response by: wtanksleyjr [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 7:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


So, sadly, that experiment was pure hype.

Can you give me a link on that? Thanks,


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 4:18 AM

The following hissed in response by: boffo

I think this is more incompetence than malice. I'm guessing the reporter doesn't even understand there's a difference.

It's only natural that reporters' mistakes would all be biased the same way. When they make a flawed assumption that matches their preconceived notions, they're much less likely to fact-check it. Whereas if they misinterpret the facts to be something they didn't expect, they'll look more closely to make sure that's right.

Incompetence is generally the best explanation for bad reporting. If reporters knew [stuff], they'd be doing [stuff] for a living instead of getting paid $30,000/year to work 12 hours a day writing about it.

- Dafydd's brother Steve

The above hissed in response by: boffo [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 9:30 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Dafydd's brother Boffo:

Anent that point, see what you think about the post I just put up, Was McCain Really an Early Advocate For "Counterinsurgency?" Actually - Yes!

I believe there is both bias and stupidity; but in some very important areas, the stupidity is more damaging.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 3:20 PM

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