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Myths and Realities about Stem Cells
President Obama today signed an order allowing the increase of federal funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research. The last President also dealt with this controversial issue early in his first term. President Bush continued President Clinton’s ban of creating embryos for research and permitted federal funding only on 21 existing embryonic stem cell lines. The regulation President Obama lifted did not prohibit Embryonic SCR, only the federal funding of that research for more than the 21 lines. In the last eight years scientists have actively conducted Embryonic SCR while being funded by private entities and state governments and not to mention foreign entities and governments.
While President Bush restricted federal funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research, he greatly increased the funding and attention on Adult Stem Cell Research. In these last eight years, scientists have been making great strides in Adult Stem Cell treatments and therapies. They have discovered these stem cells, which do not create or destroy life to study, may be as flexible as Embryonic Stem Cells which aids in the number of therapies These stem cells are found in multiple places in the adult human body and may be harvested from the same person they are used to then treat. Adult Stem Cells are currently being used in over 80 different treatments across the world making a real difference in people’s lives. Adult stem cell therapy has resulted in successful treatments for brain injury, stroke, retina regeneration, heart tissue regeneration, angina, diabetes, bone cancer, nerve regeneration, cerebral palsy, cartilage regeneration, Parkinsons, kidney damage, liver cancer, lupus, multiple sclerosis, leukemia and more.
Scientists are making amazing progress reversing the neurological dysfunction of early-stage multiple sclerosis patients by transplanting their own immune stem cells into their bodies and thereby “resetting” their immune systems. The study, which was released online in January 2009 at The Lancet Neurology, shows a reversal of symptoms in early-stage multiple sclerosis patients that will be confirmed in a randomised trial.
The most recent success in the study of Adult Stem Cells is the proven reversal of Parkinson’s effects. The results were published in the February issue of the Bentham Open Stem Cell Journal which outlines the long term results of the trial. “We have documented the first successful adult neural stem cell transplantation to reverse the effects of Parkinson’s disease and demonstrated the long term safety and therapeutic effects of this approach,” says lead author Dr. Michel Levesque.
How does that compare to Embryonic Stem Cells? Research on Embryonic stem cells does not reflect the promise that politicians like to spout when garnering public support for this controversial research that creates and destroys human life. Embryonic Stems Cells have not not proven successful in any treatment in humans. Just recently there was the sad case reported in Israel of a young boy whose Embryonic Stem Cell treatment for a fatal neuromuscular disease caused brain and spinal cord tumors. Scientists report this is not a surprise, but a real possibility with ESC treatment. They have not learned to harness the building blocks contained in ESC to grow only the tissue they desire for the treatment. Studies have shown mice treated with ESC have also grown debilitating and fatal tumors.
The larger concern is why does the media and politicians treat this issue as though Embryonic Stem Cell Research is a miracle cure but that the life saving research has been prevented until now. This controversial research which destroys human life for science has been privately funded and researched over the past eight years both here and abroad, with no success. Providing U.S. federal dollars for this research is purely political. If the President were serious about enabling science to find cures and therapies using Stem Cells, he would strengthen the research that has not only shown potential, but also is actually being used to save lives every day around the globe.
Lisa Henley Jones