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Debunking Some Of The Far-Fetched Arguments Used Against ESCR

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  • Debunking Some Of The Far-Fetched Arguments Used Against ESCR

    In honor of the "Last Anniversary" of the severe restrictions on ESCR, here is a great example of a SCAN member debunking arguments of a physician (Ferlic)opposing ESCR. The SCAN member responses are in italics:

    Published Sunday
    July 11, 2004

    Midlands Voices: Too many questions in rush to use stem cells


    The author, an Omaha physician, represents District 8 on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

    There are serious secular (non-religious) concerns that we should examine when considering stem-cell research on embryonic cells obtained from in- vitro fertilized eggs or from surgically induced abortions.

    First, there is the hype associated with the potential of these cells. The promise of immediate cures of diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cancer and immune diseases all are cited as expedient reasons for the rush to make use of embryonic stem cells.

    I challenge Dr. Ferlic to cite any responsible embryonic stem cell research advocate who has claimed that immediate cures are available but for current restrictions on stem cell research. More typical are comments I made before the Board of Regents (including Dr. Ferlic) on September 7, 2001; "There is no doubt that such results are uncertain and many years off, at the earliest." Similarly, Dr. Irving Weissman of Stanford University, a pioneer in the field of stem cell biology who first isolated adult stem cells of any kind, included the following in recent testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee:

    " should not be susceptible to the hype that tomorrow, or even 5 years from now we will have transplantable cells from NT [nuclear transplantation] lines for therapies, as these cells are developed from early stage cells, and will need to undergo the changes all of our stem cells naturally undergo to give rise to mature tissue stem cells. We should remember that high quality research takes time, and we must not overestimate how quickly the work will go. But if we don't start, we'll never get there."

    The suggestion that embryonic stem cell research advocates promise immediate cures is frankly puzzling. The hype to which Dr. Weissman refers exists in my view only as the straw man that research opponents, including Dr. Ferlic, set up. Virtually every statement in support of stem cell research refers to its promise for greater understanding of disease leading to potential new treatments and cures, not to the "promise of immediate cures."

    There is a potential for these embryonic cells to grow to adult human beings like you and me. Why not allow them to mature and then harvest the cells or organs needed?

    It is difficult to determine what Dr. Ferlic is suggesting here. As written, the paragraph straightforwardly advocates harvesting cells and organs from adult human beings raised for such purpose. Perhaps it is meant to equate the adult human beings and embryonic stem cells, in which case Dr. Ferlic has a very steep hill to climb to make that case, and he doesn't do it here. In any event, Dr.Ferlic is incorrect. Referring to the creation of pluripotent stem cell lines through somatic cell nuclear transfer, Dr. Weissman in his recent Senate testimony stated:
    "These pluripotent cells lack the capacity to make reproductive clones, and only make all tissue types in a disorganized fashion. Neither these nor true embryonic stem cells can make embryos, or fetuses, and therefore it would be a misnomer to claim they can be used to generate 'embryo farms'."

    The initial volume and intensity of publicity for most scientific "discoveries" is usually inversely proportional to its long- term value. Normally, it takes 25 years or more to adapt to most medical advances.

    Indeed, new medical advances do usually take a long time before they result in practical clinical applications, and initial excitement in the media is almost always overblown. Again, however, responsible embryonic stem cell research advocates acknowledge this. As I further stated before the Board of Regents in 2001, "There is no doubt that other, heavily touted and much debated research directions have yet to yield the hoped-for results." But I went on to note that, "other promises have been fulfilled, and we have not stopped trying to find answers in those unfulfilled areas just because the work has proved harder than expected." And again, Dr. Weissman:
    "No line of fundamental biomedical research at the beginning results in short-term therapies. One hears often that embryonic stem cell research or pluripotent stem cell research must be lacking in possibilities as no cures have yet been found. Using that logic, funding NIH and NSF should be abandoned. Human embryonic stem cells were first reported in 1998, first distributed beyond the founder lab a couple of years later, and first allowed for NIH funding in 2002, following the President's executive order. Any clinical trial with cells takes at least 1-2 years to get the cells properly established to be safe and nontoxic, and of course several years of preclinical animal experiments to show there is an indication for a trial. It is frankly impossibly premature to conclude they will not work."

    An important example of a research breakthrough that did not take 25 years to lead to clinical applications, however, was the first use of human fetal tissue cultures to grow the polio virus in 1948. The resulting acceleration of research resulted in an effective polio vaccine less than 15 years later. Similarly, it took less than 25 years for practical applications of recombinant DNA technology, the last biomedical technological breakthrough that attracted similar attacks to that being directed against stem cell research today.

    True scientists embrace doubt and acknowledge uncertainty.

    It is certainly the case that "true scientists embrace doubt and acknowledge uncertainty." Among those engaged in the stem cell research debate, however, the transgressors of these principles are those who argue that we don't need research using embryonic stem cells because recent studies "prove" that adult stem cells can transdifferentiate from one type of tissue to another (e.g., blood to heart muscle). They cite the very overblown media reports to which Dr. Ferlic so objects. Dr. Weissman and his colleagues reviewed all the recent scientific papers that claim such transdifferentiation results and sought to replicate the results of many. They could not do so, nor has any other lab. In fact, they showed that the reported results showed rare occurrences of apparent transdifferentiation, unlike true adult stem cell therapies that require very few cells to create very many new cells. As a result of these reviews, Dr. Weissman proposes the following criteria for acceptance as scientific fact of any reported results in stem cell research:

    1) The original research finding must be published in a peer-reviewed journal...,but that is not enough.

    2) The experiments as reported must be replicated in several independent laboratories...,but that is not enough.

    3) Any way you investigate the phenomenon you should be able to come to the original conclusions...,but that is not enough.

    4) Preclinical (i.e. animal) experiments should show that the injected cells can robustly regenerate the damaged tissues in a timely fashion before they should be considered for human clinical trials.

    In contrast to the overblown claims for adult stem cell research by embryonic stem cell research opponents, the scientific consensus that has developed in favor of human embryonic stem cell research, including the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer to create pluripotent stem cell lines, is based not on overblown media reports but the very careful, peer-reviewed and repeatable results that characterize scientific facts.

    Second, the politicization of disease actually corrupts the natural direction and funding of scientific endeavors. The conditions of a 93-year-old ex-president (Ronald Reagan) with Alzheimer's disease or an actor (Christopher Reeve) who falls off a horse and is paralyzed are poor reasons to redirect our resources to their causes at the expense of more prevalent diseases and disorders.

    Had embryonic stem cell research moved forward in its natural direction and funding, it would be fully funded and supported by the federal government today. The research is supported by the National Academies of Science, the American Medical Association, the American Society for Cell Biology and numerous other scientific organizations. The National Institutes of Health issued guidelines governing federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, which were revoked by the incoming Bush administration for political and religious reasons.

    The suggestion that the research was politicized by its supporters is outrageous. Indeed, the research was politicized by its opponents who oppose the research primarily for religious reasons. They seek to impose their particular religious views and beliefs on everyone in violation of the fundamental right to conscience embodied in the First Amendment. As one Maryland pastor put it regarding a related topic, "those who might choose to suffer or even die themselves do not have the right to require others to become unwilling martyrs."

    Furthermore, the suggestion that the suffering of a few prominent individuals is the primary motivation for embryonic stem cell research supporters ignores the more than 100 million people who suffer from diseases for which stem cell research opens promising new directions for new therapies and potential cures. The fact that a few celebrities have lent their voices to this cause is a testament to their character and determination to overcome the afflictions that plague them and others.

    Witness the record of AIDS research funding over the past two decades. As important as a cure for that disease is, funding for AIDS research has limited funding for research into heart disease, stroke and breast and prostate cancer, to name a few.

    While I don't have data going back two decades, the data for more recent fiscal years belies Dr. Ferlic's unsubstantiated assertion that AIDS research funding has "limited funding" for research into other major diseases. According to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, federal funding for HIV/AIDS research grew from $1.8 billion in FY1995 to $3.0 billion in FY 2004, a 66% increase. Over that same time period, overall NIH funding increased from $13.6 billion to $27.9 billion, a 105% increase. These figures imply that AIDS research funding as a proportion of overall funding has declined. At the very least, they call into question Dr. Ferlic's premise.

    Another factor to consider is what is included in the AIDS research number. A footnote on the NIH disease funding table explains that the AIDS number "Includes research on HIV/AIDS, its associated opportunistic infections, malignancies, & clinical manifestations as well as basic science that also benefits a wide spectrum of non-AIDS disease research." The latter point is underscored by the following quote from the Surgeon General's web site:

    "Impact of HIV/AIDS Research in Other Areas. The nation's investment in HIV-related research is also improving understanding and treatment of a wide spectrum of other infectious, malignant, neurological, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases. Basic knowledge of the biology of HIV infection and the processes by which it causes AIDS benefits other fields in basic research. Areas include immunology, virology, microbiology, molecular biology, and genetics. Knowledge gained from the study of HIV-related drugs has helped establish new approaches for the design and conduct of more rapid clinical studies. This includes studies that address the special recruitment requirements of women, minorities, and other underserved populations."

    In regard to some diseases, we have been told in many research funding requests that cures are around the corner. But lifestyle changes would have eliminated the diseases' occurrence in the vast majority of persons afflicted.

    As a physician, Dr. Ferlic certainly understands that there are no lifestyle changes that will eliminate Type 1 (Juvenile) diabetes, Parkinson's disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease and the many other diseases and conditions for which stem cell research offers promising new research directions. In addition, I challenge Dr. Ferlic to produce evidence that the research funding requests to which he objects proclaim "that cures are around the corner." This is certainly a big lie with respect to human embryonic stem cell research.

    Throwing money at a problem does not in itself produce scientific efficiencies or discovery. Most scientific breakthroughs are made in out-of-the-way places by out-of-the-way people. Serendipity and the prepared minds of people working intently on a problem usually yield the changes necessary for true breakthroughs.

    Once again, Dr. Ferlic states a truism to support of his argument that actually supports the opposing view. It is certainly true that many important scientific discoveries have been serendipitous. It is also true that many breakthroughs came about from sustained, well funded effort based upon a long-term development plan - the Manhattan Project being a good example. It is because we don't know from where the next breakthrough will come that it is so important that we pursue multiple, promising directions. Witness the various collateral benefits from the AIDS research cited above. Money does not in itself lead to breakthroughs but lack of money for well thought out research programs can certainly prevent or delay them. It is worth restating that virtually every scientific organization that has reviewed embryonic stem cell research has concluded that it opens entirely new directions in medical research. Medical research is like putting together a puzzle; you are unlikely to get a complete picture if you throw away a significant percentage of the pieces before you get started.

    In this regard, Dr. Ferlic appears unaware of the different areas where expanded human embryonic stem cell research offers great promise in deepening our understanding of the biological processes of disease and developing cures and therapies. These go beyond so-called regenerative medicine, where the aim is to transplant differentiated stem cells into patients to regenerate damaged tissues. Human embryonic stem cell research, including the creation of pluripotent stem cell lines through somatic cell nuclear transfer, provides opportunities to study intra-cellular biological and genetic processes of disease in the laboratory in a way unavailable today.

    This greater understanding is as likely to lead to the development of non-stem cell based therapies and cures as it is to stem cell-based regenerative approaches. Just recently (July 31, 2004), scientists at MIT reported that a somatic cell nuclear transfer experiment with mice settled a principal biological question that malignancy is not always the fate of cancer cells indicating a fruitful new avenue for cancer research, targeting the mechanism in cancer cells that activates certain genes. Researchers are now stymied from confirming the same results with human cells in a mouse model.

    When they say it is not about money, it is about money. Witness the ballot initiatives, patent fights, country and company sequestration of scientific knowledge, etc., in the quest to gain the upper hand in research on embryonic and surgically aborted stem cells. This is a huge commercial enterprise that many wish to be publicly funded and privately profitable.

    By this logic, we should stop all public funding of basic medical research, as all practical results ultimately become profit making endeavors for companies, hospitals or prominent Omaha-based thoracic surgeons, under our capitalist, free enterprise system. Once again, Dr. Ferlic takes no account of the potential alleviation of suffering that is the ultimate result of successful medical research. Such advances benefit all of us directly or indirectly in improved quality of life, greater productive effort on the part of those who would otherwise be too ill to work and the elimination of tens of billions of dollars in health care costs now devoted to the care and treatment of the chronically ill. One recent study concluded that almost one-half of the improvement in living standards in the last half of the 20th century was a result of the increase in public health derived from medical research.."

    Third, there is always the quest by some scientists to be first. This pioneering effort is not necessarily bad, but can become pathological if guided by self-aggrandizement and promises of wealth and notoriety. It can short-cut the methods and methodical application of scientific discovery and application.

    The moral and ethical considerations of society must be weighed in setting criteria to guide scientific efforts. Zeal can be transformed into zealotry.

    Dr. Ferlic certainly is painting unfairly with a broad brush here. His mean-spirited point seems to be that those scientists currently pursuing and advocating embryonic stem cell research are all egotistical zealots who care only for fame and wealth. The fact is that the vast majority of researchers in the field will never obtain either, and they know it. Many, like Dr. Douglas Melton of Harvard, are working to find cures for diseases that afflict their own children (juvenile diabetes in Dr. Melton's case) or other loved ones. Such scientists also understand that science advances by increments (even failed experiments are valuable in identifying paths not to pursue) and their incremental contributions are important to achieving the ultimate goal - cures and treatments.

    One could certainly argue instead, however, that it is zealotry that prevents this important research from moving forward. A vast number of institutions and organizations in our society, both secular and religious, deem this research to be both moral and ethical. The overwhelming majority of organizations that oppose it, however, are motivated by religious belief. It is their zeal to impose their religious beliefs on unwilling sufferers that borders on zealotry.

    Fourth, what happens to our cultural capacity for compassion, empathy and sympathy when our quest for perfect offspring harms the diversity of our progeny?

    If our children have no defects or diseases, where will our Beethoven and our Stephen Hawking of the future derive intellectual nutrients for their endeavors when they have no physical impairment to focus their work?

    What is the value of children with trisomy 21 (mongolism), manic-depressive creativity and autism? Should we all be perfect in body and similar in personality and thoughts? There are other examples of eugenic pursuits.

    Dr. Ferlic's detour into eugenics is both mystifying and illogical. Embryonic stem cell research is not about creating "perfect offspring;" it is about alleviating suffering among current and future generations. Dr. Ferlic's suggestion that Stephen Hawking was other than a brilliant physicist before being afflicted with ALS, or that Beethoven would not have been the composer he was had he had his hearing, is unsupported by the facts to the point of being ludicrous. His further suggestion that we should be unconcerned that our children suffer and die with diabetes, MS, muscular dystrophy, mongolism, autism, manic depression and other debilitating diseases, in order that they may have a "physical impairment to focus their work" is chilling. Where is Dr. Ferlic's compassion, empathy and sympathy?

    Fifth, there are some serious questions about the DNA-RNA relationships of embryonic stem cells and even of potential cloned cells that need answers before either is applied to human beings.

    Recent research has found that the nucleus of a cell and the cytoplasm (cell solution) that surrounds it often communicate with one another. This finding raises questions, because embryonic stem cells in the laboratory sometimes are nurtured in cytoplasm of other species.

    Even in embryos derived from in-vitro fertilization, there are questions. For instance, sperm from old men that fertilize young women's eggs are associated with increased schizophrenia in the offspring.

    Instances such as this indicate that we are only at the threshold of understanding the contributions of the egg and the sperm. Defects in the quality and quantity of either can alter the makeup of a human being and often predispose him or her to maladies such as tumors or mental disorders.

    Stem cells have the ability to communicate genetic information to their host but also could be unintended conduits of disease and disorder. These questions have to be answered before such cells are used to treat humans.

    Sixth, where does the liability reside for premature application of this technology and poor or untoward results? This litigation minefield could be a lifeline for every class-action and avaricious lawyer.

    Again, I challenge Dr. Ferlic to cite any current proposals for clinical trials of human embryonic stem cell-derived therapies. Instead, research proposals are focused where they should be for a field at such a preliminary stage - in the laboratory and in animal models. We can answer the questions he raises only through doing the research that Dr. Ferlic opposes. Again, Dr. Ferlic's misplaced concerns about tort liability (which are no different for this field than any other) evidence his misunderstanding of the current state of the research. No one is advocating the immediate application of stem cell therapies in human clinical trials.

    Seventh, there is an issue of academic freedom in these events. I believe that one is free to speak, write and expound upon these matters, but not necessarily to act.

    Egregious academic examples of the abuse of academic freedom arose in Nazi Germany in its pursuit of eugenics.

    In one case, a Berlin University student was granted a Ph.D. for work on how well Gypsy orphans adapted when intermingled with German children. When they were judged deficient, they were executed, and she was rewarded for her research.

    In another case, a German physician studied ovulation in immediately executed females without regard to the origin of his subjects. You could say this was certainly expedient!

    All the above questions would probably prompt legislation. But, strangely enough, I would not support this avenue, because I believe that this type of formality freezes further scientific developments, just as Formalin (formaldehyde) fixes tissue in a site and time in space.

    I think the better tack is to allow society to openly debate and become educated about the issues, without name-calling, phony promises and hype in our quest for a perfection defined by only a few.

    Nothing stifles open public debate more than rolling out the Nazi research red herring. Calling someone the equivalent of an "evil Nazi doctor" is the ultimate in name calling. Once again, Dr. Ferlic here repeats the big lie that research advocates promise immediate cures from a change in human embryonic stem cell research policy.

    Again, Dr. Ferlic is confusing the search for treatments and cures for diseases with eugenics. The former seeks to alleviate suffering among all those who suffer, regardless of race or heritage, while the latter seeks "a perfection defined only by a few." Is it only an elite few who would define the elimination of the need for 5 and 6 year old children to begin a lifetime regimen of multiple daily finger pokes and insulin injections to control their diabetes, or the elimination of the risk of early death and disfigurement from the ravages of the disease, as a good thing? Is it an elite few who would view keeping Parkinson's, ALS or Alzheimer's from robbing the humanity and vitality of our loved ones from before our very eyes, often bankrupting those they leave behind, as a good thing? What does it say about someone's view of America when they compare our political culture to that of Nazi Germany?

    Those who advocate for human embryonic stem cell research recognize that there are profound issues to consider in embarking on this research. We recognize that it is important to regulate and monitor the research appropriately to insure that it is done within the boundaries of broadly shared values and the results are distributed equitably and justly. It is indeed strange, bizarre and totally illogical for Dr. Ferlic to suggest that such regulation and "formality" would unduly stifle further scientific developments more than banning such research altogether!

    Finally, Dr. Ferlic here refuses to acknowledge the debate over the very issue that underlies his arguments - his valuing a collection of undifferentiated stem cells in a Petri dish over a five year-old juvenile diabetes victim or a 50 year-old attorney laid low by Parkinson's. The ethical, moral and legal issues surrounding this research have been debated at length in numerous forums nationally and locally for years. Numerous authoritative panels have explored the issues and put forth recommendations for funding and regulating human embryonic stem cell research. It is another big lie of research opponents to suggest that there has been inadequate debate.

    In the end, we must abide by primum nocere ("first, do no harm"). A suitable program that researches adult stem cells in humans and embryonic stem cells in mammalian (non-human) species might guide us as to the real potential of therapies.

    Dr. Weissman addressed these very points in the summation of his Senate testimony ("NT" refers to nuclear transplantation-produced pluripotent stem cell lines.):

    "I urge you to think hard whether you wish to overrule good science and medicine and ban some kinds of biomedical research and therapies for the first time in American history. In my own personal moral view, those in a position of advice or authority who participate in the banning or enforced delays of biomedical research that could lead to the saving of lives and the amelioration of suffering are directly and morally responsible for the lives made worse or lost due to the ban, or even of a moratorium that would deny such treatments in that short window of time when it could help or save them. I recognize that for some there are strong religious and/or other moral bases for beliefs that the NT 'blastocyst' has the same rights as born friends and family. In our pluralistic society they have the sovereign right to act on their beliefs for their own conduct. But my reading of the oath I took upon receiving my MD that the health of the patients is my first priority. This supersedes any personal moral, political, ethnic, and religious beliefs that would block the treatment of current or future patients; and that oath has guided my career. If you have real concerns about our economy, or our ability to recruit and train the best and brightest for biomedicine, or our ability to develop and prescribe the best therapies for our patients, I believe you will choose the American way of sensible actions, and when appropriate, regulation, not abolition.

    In summary, adult tissue stem cells, embryonic stem cells, and NT stem cells each have important and unique properties to allow the biomedical and clinical community the opportunity to pursue the understanding of human development, the regeneration of damaged tissues, the development of human genetic diseases, and the broadest possible approaches of translating those discoveries to the treatment of patients with grievous diseases. In my view it is irresponsible to fail to pursue all such avenues in parallel to stop or ameliorate the tragedies our families endure because of these diseases. And of course, in my view it is worse than irresponsible to ban these pursuits."

    In the end, life itself is a terminal illness, and most humans under perfect conditions will die at age 85, plus or minus 15 years.

    It is shockingly callous for anyone, much less a physician, to basically say, we're all going to die anyway, so what's all the fuss. How about the years of pain and suffering and the financial ruin imposed by the debilitating diseases for which human embryonic stem cell research advocates seek cures?

    Most important, I think that an arrogant assault on existence itself is a worthy issue for humanity to consider.

    And finally, is Dr. Ferlic here asking humanity to consider undertaking an arrogant assault on existence itself? Or does he mean to suggest that he views the proposed use of human embryonic stem cells in basic medical research as an arrogant assault on existence itself that should be carefully considered by humanity before being embarked upon? If so, it is merely a repetition of the big lie that there has been insufficient debate and dialogue regarding the moral, ethical and legal issues involved in human embryonic stem cell research. Dr. Ferlic's statement presupposes that such research is an "arrogant assault on existence itself." He has provided no valid arguments to substantiate these overbearing and presumptuous claims.

    "Whatever else you do, come November 2nd, I urge you, please, cast a vote for embryonic stem cell research."- Ron Reagan Jr.

  • #2
    Faye, who is the SCAN member? It is very well-written, a measured and calm response that I hope that Dr. Ferlic will respond to. If you don't mind, I would like to add to it from my perspective.

    Dr. Ferlic makes several spurious arguments based on false beliefs that need to be strongly refuted. Let me address three of the beliefs. First, he equates embryonic stem cells to embryos. Second, he assumes that embryonic stem cell research will detract from other forms of research. Third, he claims that the promise of embryonic stem cell research is overblown. Let me address each of these in turn.

    Embryonic stem cells are equal to embryos. Embryonic stem cells are not equal to embryos. Their potential to become embryos is no greater or less than adult cells. After all, Dolly the sheep was cloned not from an embryonic stem cell but from an adult differentiated cell. That adult differentiated cell has just as much potential to create a embryo as embryonic stem cells. The main difference between embryonic stem cells and other cells is their abiity to produce many kinds of cells and to grow indefinitely. The latter is important because it means that embryonic stem cells can generate googles of cells for research and therapy whereas adult stem cells cannot. It is important that scientists be allowed to study these cells to understand how they do what they do.

    Embryonic stem cell research will detract from other avenues of research. Research is not a zero-sum game where one advance will always steal from another field. Availability of human embryonic stem cells for research will markedly accelerate research on other diseases, as well as adult stem cell research. Unless scientists are allowed to study human embryonic cells, we cannot know the difference between embryonic and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are also a critical tool for studying many genetic diseases. For example, at the present, scientists have very limited access to human cells with genetic disorders. If we want to study these diseases, we have to rely on biopsy or cadaveric material, or animal models. Embryonic stem cell lines created from people with genetic disorders will allow us to study these diseases in human cells. For example, although the gene for ALS was discovered over 10 years ago (SOD1), we still do not know why it kills motoneurons. Yes, the SOD1 gene has been placed in transgenic mice but much has been learned from such mice, it is not a substitute for seeing what this gene does in human cells. If scientists had access to human cell lines that express the SOD1 gene, they can study these cells in culture and find out what the gene does. The same can be said about hundreds of other genetic disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, juvenile onset diabetes, Huntington's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Access to such cell lines will make research more efficient, will save animals, and will accelerate research to find therapies for these and other diseases.

    The promise of embryonic stem cell research has been exaggerated. On the contrary, I think that the promise of embryonic stem cells has been under-rated by people who oppose such research. In addition to accelerating adult stem cell research and providing scientists with essential tools for studying human genetic disorders, embryonic stem cell research is critical for understanding basic biological phenomena such as development, differentiation, aging, and pluripotency. How can a cell produce many different kinds of cells. What signals affect an embryonic stem cell? How does an embryonic stem cell keep from becoming a tumor cell? How are embryonic stem cells different from fetal and adult stem cells? How does an embryonic stem cell know when to grow and stop growing, to produce and stop producing different kinds of cells, and to die? What do embryonics stem cells need to continue growing? What causes DNA aberrations in these cells. There are a myriad of crucial questions that can only be answered by studying embryonic stem cells. The answers to these questions will provide us with deeper understanding not only of genetic disorders but development and non-genetic disorders such as cerebral palsy, autism, and cancer.

    Curtailing embryonic stem cell research is devastating to our ability to take the next step forward in biology, to move beyond the current limits of biology. Let me give just one example to illustrate. For 75 years, we have been collecting blood to transfuse to people. We don't know how to grow blood and we are forced to collect and store adult blood at great expense and risk. Millions of people have contracted hepatitis, AIDS, and other infectious diseases from blood transfusions. We currently a severe shortage of blood for transfusion. Embryonic stem cell research will allow us to solve this very serious problem and save lives. Embryonic stem cells can provide feasible sources of transplantable cells to treat diabetes, stroke, leukemia, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus erythematosus, neuropathic pain, and almost every condition that we know.

    Dr. Ferlic seems to be a caring doctor. Likewise, many people who oppose embryonic stem cell research say that they care for people and that is why they oppose the research. It is truly unfortunate that they have been bamboozled into thinking that embyronic stem cell research kills embryos. Regardless of when one might think that human life starts (i.e. at conception, when a fetus forms, or at birth), I have not yet heard any credible opponent of embryonic stem cell research say that they think trashing frozen eggs is better than using them to save lives. Thousands of eggs are being thrown out because their parents don't want them and they have been stored too long to be safely used to create babies. Don't they realize that President Bush's policy has not saved a single embryo from destruction and may have strongly encouraged unmonitored and unregulated destruction of many embryos. Don't they understand that by stopping progress, they are simply prolonging the time that we have to continue harvesting cells from embryos, fetuses, not to mention sitting by helplessly watching millions of adults suffer and die.


    [This message was edited by Wise Young on 08-10-04 at 09:58 AM.]


    • #3
      There is a potential for these embryonic cells to grow to adult human beings like you and me. Why not allow them to mature and then harvest the cells or organs needed?

      It is difficult to determine what Dr. Ferlic is suggesting here. As written, the paragraph straightforwardly advocates harvesting cells and organs from adult human beings raised for such purpose. Perhaps it is meant to equate the adult human beings and embryonic stem cells, in which case Dr. Ferlic has a very steep hill to climb to make that case, and he doesn't do it here. In any event, Dr.Ferlic is incorrect. Referring to the creation of pluripotent stem cell lines through somatic cell nuclear transfer, Dr. Weissman in his recent Senate testimony stated:
      "These pluripotent cells lack the capacity to make reproductive clones, and only make all tissue types in a disorganized fashion. Neither these nor true embryonic stem cells can make embryos, or fetuses, and therefore it would be a misnomer to claim they can be used to generate 'embryo farms'."
      • Embryonic stem cells are equal to embryos. Embryonic stem cells are not equal to embryos. Their potential to become embryos is no greater or less than adult cells. After all, Dolly the sheep was cloned not from an embryonic stem cell but from an adult differentiated cell. That adult differentiated cell has just as much potential to create a embryo as embryonic stem cells. The main difference between embryonic stem cells and other cells is their abiity to produce many kinds of cells and to grow indefinitely. The latter is important because it means that embryonic stem cells can generate googles of cells for research and therapy whereas adult stem cells cannot. It is important that scientists be allowed to study these cells to understand how they do what they do.
      I don't agree one bit with the gist of what Dr. Ferlic is arguing, or his intent, or his underlying dogma. However, reading his quoted sentences, it can be easily argued that he was equating embryonic cells or blastocysts rather than embryonic stem cells with adult human beings. Even then Dr. Ferlic has a very steep hill to climb to make the case that using stem cells from a blastocyst is equal to harvesting cells and organs from an adult human being. The blastocysts being used to derive stem cells have not been harvested from the womb during pregnancy which if allowed to continue would have ultimately created an infant and then an adult human being. These blastocysts have been created in a petri dish, were never intended to be implanted into the womb because they are too old or in excess, and were going to be destroyed any way. As such, there is no potential for these embryonic cells or blastocysts to grow to adult human beings. Actually, there is quite a bit of similarity between organ donation by donors at death and stem cell derivation from donated blastocysts from IVF clinics. If Dr. Ferlic is truly concerned about the unrealized potential of such blastocysts used to derive stem cells, to grow up to adult human beings, he must insist on implanting all the excess and/or old blastocysts into original egg donor women, so the blastocysts can realize their potential.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Quad62:

        If Dr. Ferlic is truly concerned about the unrealized potential of such blastocysts used to derive stem cells, to grow up to adult human beings, he must insist on implanting all the excess and/or old blastocysts into original egg donor women, so the blastocysts can realize their potential.
        WOW, great point!!!

        Dr. Young,

        The author and SCAN member who wrote the rebuttal is Sanford (Sandy) Goodman.

        "Here in America, we don't sacrifice science for ideology. We are a land of discovery - a place where innovators and optimists are free to dream and explore. Where government encourages creativity and entrepreneurship instead of stifling it." - John Kerry

        [This message was edited by Faye on 08-11-04 at 11:38 PM.]


        • #5
          Thank you, Faye. Sanford Goodman is the Volunteer Executive Director of Nebraskans for Research (NFR) which conducted a poll in 2002 indicating that over 2/3's of Nebraskans support fetal cell research at the University of nebraska Medical Center. Apparently, 88% of the respondents in the poll were very convinced on their positions and opinions, and were not swayed by arguments for or against the research. Some 66% of the respondents not only support the research but felt that state funds should be used to support the research

          Mr. Goodman recently gave a talk to the Congregation of the First Unitarian Church of Omaha in January 25, 2004 that gives the argument for human stem cell research from the perspective of morality and religion. Some people on this site might be interested in the argument that stem cell research is not only moral but a moral imperative.



          • #6
            I support stem cell research and its sheer stupidity on part of people who oppose it.


            • #7
              Thanks faye this is g1.

              Stem cell research ‘consistent' with Jewish law, rabbi says

              Published Sunday, January 14, 2007
              by Staff Reports

              Medical bioethics expert Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler of Yeshiva University in New York City recently told a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 in Boca Raton that Judaism permits embryonic stem cell research and that there exists a mandate to seek cures of diseases that cause great human suffering.

              "One of the great tragedies of the Bush administration has been the weakening of the wall between church and state, between the religious and the medical," the rabbi said in a lecture sponsored by the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.

              Citing Torah sources, the 80-year-old biology professor and Rosh Yeshiva of the university's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) explained that harvesting stem cells from an early-stage embryo on day five or day six does not violate Jewish law concerning when an embryo achieves legal status as a human being. That only occurs after 40 days when the embryo has already reached human form and developed all of its organ systems, including having a heartbeat, Tendler said.

              In addition, he said, embryos in a laboratory in a Petri dish have no chance of becoming children without being implanted in a womb. Some Christian groups equate embryonic stem cell research with abortion, but that is not Judaism's position, the rabbi said. The groups oppose the culling of stem cells, which by necessity results in the destruction of embryos.




              • #8
                I spoke alongside Rabbi Moshe Tendler once in a synagogue. He is a great teacher. He is not only a rabbi and scientist but he also knows a lot about other religions. It was after listening to him that I got my first insight into why the Catholic Church opposes embryonic stem cell research. He pointed out the great discomfort that the Catholic leadership has with anything that disturbs the natural order of procreation. Their opposition to in vitro fertilization, any interference with the pregnancy, and even creation of "snowflake" babies to save embryos stems from that deep discomfort. It was the first time that I understood that death of embryos is not the crux of their argument against embryonic stem cell research. Avoidance of sin comes first, not the saving of lives. I did not understand this until I heard the Rabbi compare the Christian and the Jewish positions on embryonic stem cell research.

                In my opinion, the Jewish position on embryonic stem cell research is very much pro-life. The Torah explicitly places a very high value on the saving of lives. Thus, on sabbath, a doctor may break a lot of Jewish laws to save a life and it is not only acceptable but a mitzvah or duty to do so. It is a moral philosophy that pays attention to the logical consequences of one's actions. If a blastocyst will be thrown away instead of being used to discover a cure or even be used to cure somebody, that would be immoral. The consequence is that the blastocyst will die and there will be no cure. Because of its attention to consequences, it is a self-consistent moral philosophy that does not lead to ever more precarious moral positions that can lead to tragic consequences.

                Those who oppose embryonic stem cell research have grossly oversimplified morality of their position. For example, the White House statement that they oppose the research because it will destroy embryos. This is misleading for reasons. First, the current administration policy not only has not saved any embryos (they are being thrown away anyway) but is encouraging unregulated and unmonitored destruction of embryos for commercial purposes. Second, the restriction on the research is resulting in the deaths and suffering of millions who could potentially benefit from such research. Third, it is holding back research on what scientists universally agree is the most important problem in biology, i.e. how cells develop and differentiate.

                The White House is clearly sensitive to the argument that their opposition to embryonic stem cell research is hurting people. They therefore continually claim that adult stem cells not only can do everything that embryonic stem cells do but are already curing many dozens of diseases. How can the White House have the gall to make this claim in the face of millions who are dying and suffering without cures? It is also hypocritical because, despite their oft-repeated belief that adult stem cells have great therapeutic promise, they have held back funding of adult stem cell research and diverted nearly a third of federal biomedical research funding to biodefense, away from care and cure research.

                The Bush Administration's biomedical research policy is not only immoral and illogical but has other significant consequences for the nation, including the holding back science that everybody agrees is the future of medicine and therapeutics. The United States is losing ground as a leader of biomedical research and industry, possibly the most important sources of income and economic growth for the country. The United States has not only fallen behind other countries in areas such as automobile manufacturing, consumer electronics, and computer hardware and software but it is throwing away its leadership in biomedical research and industry, the one area where the United States still is the undisputed champion.