Adult-stem-cell therapy used to cure diabetes

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ProLifeBlogs notes that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is promoting his bill to provide federal funding for research using stem cells extracted from living human embryos, and he had this to say:

Think about it: If you were treating someone with embryonic stem cells, would you rather use stem cells that came from a healthy embryo, or a dead embryo? The dead embryo died for a reason. There's something wrong with it. Chances are, the stem cells that come from that dead embryo aren't so great, either. So why does anyone think a dead embryo holds the secret to curing juvenile diabetes?...

If this year's debate goes like last year's, then we can also expect opponents of S. 5 to make a lot of unfounded claims about adult stem cells. To repeat, I'm all for adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells are being used successfully today in treating several blood-related diseases. Our scientists should continue this area of research.

But adult stem cells have their limits. They can't do everything that embryonic stem cells can do.

As it turns out, the secret to curing juvenile (Type 1) diabetes isn't in embryonic stem cells at all:

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.

What kind of stem cells? Embryonic cells, you ask? Nope. (Emphasis added.)

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.

The results show that insulin-dependent diabetics can be freed from reliance on needles by an injection of their own stem cells. The therapy could signal a revolution in the treatment of the condition, which affects more than 300,000 Britons.

(Via Dan Paden.)

MORE: The Times writer added this irrelevant detail to the story:

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

Penraker notes the distorting effect of media bias:

Damn George Bush! He and his cronies are sentencing millions of people to death!

Or so they would have you believe. This is the worst, most repulsive kind of journalism - the kind that actively tries to mislead the public by leaving out information. Nowhere does it tell you that Bush explicitly endorses the kind of research on adult stem cells that produced this breakthrough. It tries to mislead the public into thinking that this result was brought about by the type of stem cell research Bush opposes.

Some readers will fix on that line while skimming this story and come away with the impression that this was the result of embryonic stem cell therapy.

Not only does the statement misdirect the reader's attention, Michael Williams points out that it's flat out wrong:

The claim in the first phrase above is false: embryonic stem cells are no more "versatile" than stem cells taken from, e.g., amniotic fluid. Furthermore, embryonic stem cells tend to turn cancerous and cause brain tumors.

So why are leftist politicians and reporters such enthusiastic promoters of research that has yet to show promise of a cure and so dismissive of research that has accomplished a great deal already? Here's Williams's answer:

Why are so many people so eager to slaughter babies and harvest their stem cells despite the fact that embryonic stem cells can't cure anything? I can think of only two explanations. First, scientists who have invested their careers in this direction want to keep the grant money flowing. Second, pro-abortionists recognize their need to increase acceptance of abortion among an increasingly pro-life population.

I'm reminded of a bit in the satirical book The 80s: A Look Back (published in 1979): The humane objection to clubbing baby harp seals for their pelts vanished when it was discovered that the brain fluid of clubbed baby harp seals cured cancer.

At some point, with enough funding, they're bound to find some cure involving embryonic stem cells. Many Americans, pragmatists that we are, will conclude that the destruction of embryonic human life is worthwhile, which will encourage a more cavalier attitude toward life in the womb.

But if more Americans come to understand that all the cures to date have come from non-embryonic stem cell research, the push for embryonic stem cell research will dry up.

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George said:

Michael, your position is unpersuasive. Because adult stem cells have value it does not follow that embryonic stem cells will not.

More importantly, I do not understand the opposition to embryonic stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell lines are made from fertility clinic embryos (more precisely, blastocysts) already slated for destruction. Preventing these cells from being used for research won't save them. It means they'll be disposed of in a medical waste facility instead of being used to find cures for disease.

If opponents of the embryonic stem cell proposals are honest, then they must raise their voices against in-vitro fertilization and fertility clinics. Using the language of the opponents of embryonic stem cell research, these medical facilities and the people who use them trade in death, even murder.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 11, 2007 5:52 PM.

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