Once again, I’m riled-up (maybe I do need some Zen therapy).
This time the offenders are those lying to Mrs. Reagan, using her devotion and grief to shamelessly promote the morally vacuous practice of embryonic stem-cell research. Given President Reagan’s documented stand for the sanctity of all human life, Mrs. Reagan has been undoubtedly drawn into the fowler’s snare by the promise that ESCR holds a future cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The fact is ESCR will never provide such a cure.
Sure, ES cells can morph into any cell type. And researchers hope that by guiding them into specific cell types they can be used as a “universal patch” to treat diseased or injured tissue. But Alzheimer’s is a whole-brain disease. That means even if ES cell therapies reach the point of clinical application, Alzheimer’s is an unlikely candidate for treatment. Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t affect a subset of cells that could be replaced with targeted ES cells.
What’s more, there are no animal models or research studies that show how ES cells could be a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. But why let the truth get in the way of such a good promotional opportunity?
As a high-profile conservative whose husband held a famously regarded pro-life stand, proponents could not hope for a better advocate or opportunity to turn public opinion and the political tide in favor of this ethically charged debate over ESCR.
Surprisingly, Mrs. Reagan isn’t the only one being taken for a ride on Big Biotech’s political agenda. Fifty-eight senators recently signed a letter urging President Bush to ease ESCR restrictions. Fourteen were Republicans and several abortion opponents.
Have they lost their minds, changed their stand on issues of life or are they simply confused by the so-called facts surrounding ESCR?
The truth is scientists with the aid of an all-too-willing media have “allowed” the general public to believe wrongly that ES cells are a likely treatment for Alzheimer’s and a miracle cure for countless other diseases and injuries. To hear them tell it, the only obstacle is a contingency of fanatical right-wingers standing in the way of advancing medical technology. But the very subject of ESCR is convoluted by a classic bait and switch technique of terms and results. So here’s the true skinny on the subject.
To obtain ES cells an unborn child must die. That means the real issue dividing the nation over ESCR is whether human embryos are people or property. As a result, those who oppose ESCR and those who support it will never reach an acceptable point of compromise.
That white elephant aside, the most under-reported fact is that there are no currently approved treatments – and there have been no human trials – involving ES cells. Worse, frightening drawbacks to this research abound.
First, use of human ES cells requires lifelong use of drugs to prevent tissue rejection. That’s because the transplanted cells come from another person with another chemical make-up. Second, using ES cells can produce tumors. According to one report, “transplanted ES cells spontaneously differentiate into any of cell types – sometimes into a disorganized mass of neurons, cartilage and muscle; sometimes into tumors containing an eye, hair or even teeth.” Third, injecting fetal brain cells (a precursor study to ESCR) into the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients had devastating results on the participants in the study. Results included uncontrollable movements: writhing, twisting, head-jerking, arm-flailing and constant chewing. Fourth, mice cloned from ES cells were genetically defective. Fifth, many of the existing stem-cell lines are contaminated with mouse cells that could introduce animal diseases into humans if used as treatments.
Now for the second most under-reported fact – there is a positive and currently available alternative to ESCR. It is adult stem-cell research. Use of AS cells presents no ethical obstacles. It presents no problems of tissue rejection or tumor formation. Clinical applications of AS cells have been in use since the ’80s. Current clinical uses include treatment of cancer, heart disease, leukemia, lupus, arthritis, corneal scarring, stroke, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injury. Thousands of patients are treated using AS cells. Sources for AS cells include placenta, cord blood, bone marrow, teeth, even fat cells.
So why all the hype over ESCR and all the silence on ASCR?
Contemporary morals issues follow the flow of money. ESCR is about transforming the mystery and majesty of human life into a marketable commodity. In other words, this is big business offering great fame and fortune to the academic pioneers and biotech companies who master the secrets and harness the power of life through ESCR.
As the saying goes, “money talks,” but private investors are not coughing up the dough for ESCR. That speaks volumes to its” potential” for success. Not to be dissuaded, Big Biotech now has its sights on taxpayer dollars to fund this research. But there is just no way federal funding should be used to condone ESCR anymore than abortion.
Despite the hype and distortion of truth, political pressures and high-profile spokesman, too many taxpayers know these practices are wrong. As for the people exploiting the grief and long-suffering of Mrs. Reagan – they should be taken to the woodshed for some therapy of a different kind.