| In the State of the Union last night, president Bush again tried to edge toward a ban on embryonic stem cell research. A few months ago, scientists here and abroad reported creating pluripotent stem cells from skin cells. Many researchers, and others who follow stem cell research, have known this was coming for some time and awaited an announcement with a combination of anticipation and dread. Anticipation because the ability to "de-differentiate" a normal adult somatic cell back to its ultimate antecedent would be the ultimate route to immune agnostic regenerative medicine, and dread because an early breakthrough like this would give a dishonest, manipulative administration like the Bush administration one more bait and switch argument to kill stem cell research. The Bush administration has a fertile history of doing just this. By one count they lied more than 930 times in getting the US into Iraq--those lies clustering around events where they lobbied to either start or expand the war. They did the same thing with global warming--rewriting scientific papers and forbidding scientists from talking to journalists. It is a clear and objective fact that this is a dishonest, and manipulative administration.
So what about embryonic stem cell research, how are they now trying to derail it in light of this new discovery? Again, this is where manipulation thrives in a public that has been "trained" to ignore the details, and focus in, instead, on the more showy aspects of a situation--often to our peril. Creating pluripotent stem cells from adult body cells, or somatic cells, is very new. Researchers have created cells that "appear" to be pluripotent stem cells. The word appears was put into the previous sentence because this research is still very new. True pluripotent stem cells are hard to characterize. There are issues of propagation in vitro (the ability of the cells to form a useful line), issues of true pluripotency (the ability of the cells to differentiate into any cell of the body), issues of purity, and many other issues. Eventually, all this will probably get sorted out, but in the meantime embryonic stem cells are needed to help characterize the new cells--the way we know they are pluripotent stem cells is by comparing them to the only cells we really know to be plurpotent, and that is embryonic stem cells. These comparisons are made genetically, biochemically, and behaviorally. The creators of these new cells have estimated that these cells will probably not be ready for use in human clinical therapy for about ten years.
It is a fact that as of this time the only stem cells that hold the promise to unleash the true potential of regenerative medicine in the human clinical sphere are embryonic stem cells. Within the next ten years, while newer sources of stem cells come on line for real human clinical treatments, embryonic stem cells have the potential of treating thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of suffering people--from paralysis to diabetes, from Parkinson's to cardiac patients. About seventy percent of the American public want regenerative medicine provided by embryonic stem cell therapy. Ethical guidelines can be derived for their use, just like every other therapy in use today. We must not let a group with an agenda beyond medicine do what they have done in the past, rob the American people of yet another opportunity for a better life.