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Sunday, November 28, 2004

Take Up Your Pallet and Walk!

Posted by Tim Tagaris

If we needed any more evidence that stem cell research promises unimaginable breakthroughs in human health, I offer you this article from from AFP.

A South Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

Hwang Mi-Soon, 37, had been bedridden since damaging her back in an accident two decades ago.

Last week her eyes glistened with tears as she walked again with the help of a walking frame at a press conference where South Korea researchers went public for the first time with the results of their stem-cell therapy.

In a made for television moment that would make the Reverend Benny Hinn proud, the South Korean woman stood up from her wheelchair and took a few steps forward with the help of a walker. 

While there is still a long way to go for stem cell technology and research, we are "turning a corner" where benefits of the break though transcend speculative science into the realm of reality.

Stem Cells in the News:

This weekend, over 2/3 of Swiss voters approved a measure allowing "allowing scientists to experiment on stem cells taken from human embryos."  Complete article from The Guardian can be found HERE

Article about Stem Cells potentially offering a cure for Leukemia.  Article from Life News can be found HERE.

Adult stem cell research could save the lives of thousands of adults who are suffering from leukemia, according to new studies involving umbilical cord blood.

A European study found that adult patients who received cord blood were   as likely to be leukemia-free two years later as those who received bone marrow. In addition, a U.S. study, also published in the New England   Journal of Medicine, found similar results.

Frame Alert:

As we all know, Republicans have a way of attaching titles, images, and phraseology coloring their issues in the way they want the public to see them.  Examples that immediately come to mind with modern implications are:  "Nuclear option" to "Constitutional Option" (Filibuster Rule). "Iraqi insurgents" to "Anti-Iraqi Forces," and now we must beware of their new frame for Stem Cell Research:

"Embryonic Stem Cell, "clone and kill," Research.

Just a warning, cause that is the argument you might be seeing a lot of.

For additional information on Stem Cell Research, the following sites are available:

Stem Cell Research Foundation.

National Institute of Health on Stem Cells
International Society for Stem Cell Research
Thanks for listening,


Posted at 11:45 PM in General | Technorati


There has been no, none, zero progress in embryonic stem cell reaserch. In fact it killed a a man when they inplanted embryonic stem cells in his brain. So why continue to creat baby humans and then slice them up for parts? I can't figure it out. Are you stupid or just evil?

Posted by: Robert A August at November 29, 2004 01:41 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

In my experience seeing right-wing rhetoric on various Tv programs (O'Reilly, for example, or what's her name, the author of "Treason"), the pattern is to assert something is true, just as Mr. August did, with no backing, facts, citations or even common sense. Any opposing guest on these programs is treated to this. The second step is to assert some sort of ideological fervor -- opposing viewpoints are "evil." The very best thing to do is ignore this.

Examples abound, from anti-terror specialists, generals, economists all being cut down simply because they agree with the ideology of the pundit. For example, when studies came out showing that as many as 1 in 9 death penalty recipients are innocent, a southern Republican called these studies "gobbledygook," and end of story. When I said that "red" states are subsidized by blue states (and a few pinks like Colorado), this FACT supported by Congressional research was called "bullsh*t" by one poster. As I've said before, we are facing a virulent anti-intellectual, anti-professional movement that replaces qualified people and ideas with hacks.

I have utmost respect for moderate Republicans, many of them northerners; and utmost contempt for rabid right-wing ideologues.

Posted by: Marc at November 29, 2004 02:12 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Stem cell use isn't just about "implanting stem cells."

From the University of Wisconsin research team:

"The first potential applications of human embryonic stem cell technology may be in the area of drug discovery. The ability to grow pure populations of specific cell types offers a proving ground for chemical compounds that may have medical importance. Treating specific cell types with chemicals and measuring their response offers a short-cut to sort out chemicals that can be used to treat the diseases that involve those specific cell types. Stem cell technology, therefore, would permit the rapid screening of hundreds of thousands of chemicals that must now be tested through much more time-consuming processes."

But let's use Robert's line of argument from above. Once again, from the University of Wisconsin:

"For example, diseases like juvenile onset diabetes mellitus and Parkinson's disease occur because of defects in one of just a few cells types. Replacing faulty cells with healthy ones offers hope of lifelong treatment. Similarly, failing hearts and other organs, in theory, could be shored up by injecting healthy cells to replace damaged or diseased cells."

Robert, I don't think that anyone would accuse you of hating kids with diabities, or the millions of Americans that have died from heart disease.

Those of us that would like to see research continue legally, expanding into embryonic stem cell research recognize the risks, especially early in use, but hold out hope for a myriad of potential cures that would positively impact millions of people across the world -- and their families.

Taking your claim at face value, despite the absense of a link, I would guess that the deceased man was in a woeful state and gave doctors consent to attempt the procedure -- possibly as a last ditch effort to save his life.


Link to University of Wisconsion stem cell information: http://www.news.wisc.edu/packages/stemcells/

Posted by: Tim T. at November 29, 2004 03:27 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

No one questions that stem cell technologies are not ready for prime time. They aren't ready to be used and are probably a number of years from being at that level. This is why government funds are needed to help nuture the technologies.

I also think that the "So why continue to create baby humans and then slice them up for parts?" question is not accurate either. As I understand it, these stem cells are no more "baby human" than one of the hairs on my head is.

Perpetuating arguements like these hurts all of us. Remember "Uniter not a Divider"?

Posted by: Dan Hogan at November 29, 2004 04:39 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

"So why continue to create baby humans and then slice them up for parts?"

"Embryonic Stem Cell, 'clone and kill,' Research."

These are the arguments we are going to hear so it might be best to prepare the frame for the rebuttal. It's what the Republicans have always been good at.

Making it sound like supporters want "baby labs" where we cherry pick parts from little infants in freezers is best shot the red team has at "stemming the tide" of public support.

By the way, an overwhelming majority of Americans support Stem Cell Research and its government funding, by a 2-1 margin.

Poll link: http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/DailyNews/poll010626.html


Posted by: Tim T. at November 29, 2004 04:48 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Thanks for the poll, Tim, and I guess its true we should be ready for these arguments rather than ignoring them as I said. I heard some pundits thought Kerry "lost" the question on stem cell research in the last debate, despite most Americans supporting it. In Switzerland (as someone of Swiss descent, I have voting rights and actually get the initiatives in the mail, albeit in French) hard-core environmentalists and right-wing religious voters united in opposition to stem cell research, with particular concern for human cloning, especially reproductive cloning; the ammendment the voters approved has safeguards such as banning reproductive cloning.

This being said, I remember in that third debate I winced when Kerry mentioned existing stem cell lines being "contaminated with mouse cells." This would play to the unfortunate American tendency to view science as cold, clinical, and valueless -- and shows why we need to speak in value terms about the benefits of this research while letting people know the basics of what it is -- there are no "baby labs" or, under Kerry's preference, no embryos being created simply to extract stem cells; nor is there reproductive cloning proposed.

Posted by: Marc at November 29, 2004 05:36 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Now that I���ve thought about this subject for a day, I���ve decided to change the way I look at this issue. There is one thing that everyone has to consider when we talk about issues involving the development of a human child, including abortion and stem cell research. There are those like Mr. August above who will just simply never agree with us. I wish this wasn���t the case, but it is. I would like to think that any well thought-out, honest opinion deserves a well thought-out, honest response ��� even if it is just as a matter of common courtesy. But arguing with him just isn���t going to get us anywhere with the electorate. The voters that we have to think hard about are those ���values��� voters who don���t necessary disagree with us. They���re just still too uncomfortable with our platform on these issues ��� for now ��� to agree with us.

It seems to me there are two questions that all of us have to answer on this. The first is where do we believe human life begins. This is a very personal belief that all of us have to decide for ourselves. Once each of us has made this decision, this is the point where we believe it is wrong to terminate that life or to use that life for research purposes. The second question is at what point should we consider human life to exist for purposes of imposing law. This is the point where enough of us believe that life begins so that government can impose sanctions against others that want to terminate that life or use it for research. We have to understand that these are two totally different questions.

Those to take the Bible literally, chapter and verse, would say that human life starts at conception. (Personally, I have a very difficult time believing that we can consider a handful of cells in a petridish to be human life. I would be looking at things like a self-sustaining heartbeats, muscular control, or preliminary cognitive function.) If you take the Biblical view, the idea that stem cell research is ���clone and kill��� isn���t unreasonable. It isn���t right for us to call this guy anti-intellectual, anti-professional, or a hack (sorry to single you out, Marc). There are a number of questions that we can be raising here, though. (1) Does this person hold other beliefs that contradict this? (2) Does this person truly understand that they are describing a clump of undifferentiated cells as ���baby humans���? (3) Is it right for this person to implicitly impose a given belief regarding the start of human life on all of us through law? (4) Just how far away from the mainstream is this view?

I firmly believe that those ���values��� voters voted against us because we haven���t done a good job of addressing their concerns, of which this ���clone and kill��� thing is not unreasonable to someone who isn���t educated on the issue. Similar things could certainly be said about the abortion issue as well. If this debate boils down to us calling them ���hacks��� and them calling us ���evil,��� those uncomfortable values voters are going to go to the side that they know doesn���t kill babies.

Posted by: Dan Hogan at November 30, 2004 10:10 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Dan -- to clarify, to say that stem cell research is useless in making discoveries that will lead to medicine, that stem cell-derived therapy will kill people, and therefore should be discontinued; and to say this as if it is a fact has to make one a hack. To say that despite the promsie of stem cell research, I believe we shouldn't do it, is a far different matter. I saw O'Reilly last week and wondered why any progressive guest would go on that show, because that is exactly the way he talks -- saying things as if they were fact when indeed they are conjecture or opinion. This is where we get statements like "no innocent people are on death row" or Muslims "hate us because we are free." It is a poor way to debate issues and when not just the people, but the leadership, talk like this, we are in trouble.

But I think you are exactly right -- the far right will never support us; we need to court moderates who for example are uncomfortable with abortion. I think you propose some very good criteria that would allow society to come to terms with the issue -- if the middle, not the extremes, can lead the way.

Posted by: Marc at December 1, 2004 05:32 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I guess what worries me most is that the field here is tilted against us. All the right has to do is yell "baby killer" or "it doesn't work" a few dozen times and, if we can't find a good way to respond, they win. If we are drawn into a shouting match, they win. If we respond in a way that sounds too scientific and cold, they win. (Its reassuring to hear that 80% of the public agrees with us on stem cells.)

I'm getting frustrated with the fact that the Republicans have gotten really good at being the lazy-man's party. Their beliefs are so easy to understand and ours always seem to be more complicated. It's not the the media want things into a 10 second sound-byte, the voters do.

Posted by: Dan Hogan at December 3, 2004 03:05 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment