Adult Stem Cell Breakthrough Ignored by Media and Politicians
Although adult stem cell research continues to produce concrete therapeutic applications and has shown feasibility in the treatment of most major diseases, media attention has been dismal. Instead, overtly positive articles focus on embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of a human life.
The most recent example is that of a breakthrough by scientists at Australia's Griffith University which is so significant that it could render the debate over embryonic stem cell research moot. Newsmax reports (HT: The Black Kettle):
The results of the four-year research project showed that olfactory stem cells can be turned into heart cells, brain cells, nerve cells – indeed, almost any kind of cell in the body – without the problems of rejection or tumors forming, a common side effect with embryonic stem cells.
"Our experiments have shown adult stem cells isolated from the olfactory mucosa have the ability to develop into many different cell types if they are given the right chemical or cellular environment," research team leader Alan Mackay-Sim told the paper.
Mackay-Sim's team of scientists managed to grow nerve cells, glial cells, liver cells, heart cells and muscle cells from cells harvested from the human nose.
The breakthrough, first announced two months ago, has been largely ignored by the U.S. media, which has focused on embryonic stem cell research as the only option to cure debilitating ailments like Hodgkin's, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
Earlier this year I wrote about a team in Argentina that had demonstrated the effectiveness of adult stem cells for treating diabetes. In an interesting portion of an article coverning the work, Dr. Jorge Saslavsky wa asked why there seems to be a far greater emphasis worldwide on embryonic stem cell research as opposed to adult stem cell research, Saslavsky suggested the reason could be economic.
Because the procedures involved in embryonic stem cell research are far more complicated, they can attract greater funding for laboratories, while resulting treatments would be more costly as well.While there is some merit to the reason presented by Saslavsky, I don't think it is the only one, or even the dominant factor.
By contrast, the procedure for using adult stem cells from the same patient is much simpler and thus far less expensive, as it is limited to the cost of the catheters used to extract the bone marrow and inject the stem cells and the reagents needed to harvest them.
As a society, we look for miracle cures that promise a solution to life's trials and are willing to pour money into them. We want medical breakthroughs and want them now. When scientists suggest that ESC could cure paralysis, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, blindness, heart disease, and numerous other chronic diseases, the public willingly follows. In fact, special interest groups will rally supporters to demand that the government get involved for the good of mankind.
In addition, scientists, and people in general, seem to have a fascination with "creating life" and controlling it. The desire to "be like gods" has motivated man since the first sin was committed by Adam and Eve. The desire to control the inception and development of life certainly parallels the original sin and motivates individuals to step over moral boundaries.
Embryonic stem cell research fits these two categories well and, fueled by those willing to exploit the issue for political gain, has been effectively marketed and funded. Although many researchers are altruistic, all require money and must market their ideas by providing suitable scenarios to fit the expectations and desires of the funders.
Posted May 30, 2005 10:14 PM