Who Needs Embryonic Stem Cells?

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Posted on May 3, 2009 in Cell Biology, Health, Politics and Ethics

Cells can be “reprogrammed” to act just like embryonic stem cells, a Nature stem cell blog called The Niche reported.  This eliminates the need to use viruses or inserted DNA to induce the cells to become pluripotent.  The resulting cells are “morphologically indistinguishable” from embryonic stem cells, the article said.
    The prior week, Nature News reported that work is going “fast and furious” on induced pluripotent stem cells, in which adult cells can be made like embryonic stem cells without the need to create and destroy human embryos.  Martin Pera wrote for Nature last week that these induced stem cells from adult tissue are safer than embryonic cells: “New techniques circumvent a roadblock to the production of embryonic-stem-cell-like lines from adult tissue.  Such reprogrammed cell lines should be much safer to use for therapy.1  Science Daily reported on Canadian researchers who produced a large number of laboratory stem cells from a small number of blood cells obtained from bone marrow.
    Another discovery may remove the need to use stem cells from any source.  Science Daily reported that a Stanford team succeeded in turning skin cells into muscle cells, and vice versa, bypassing the need for stem cells.
    Despite these advances, some researchers continue to press for more funding and freedom to tinker with human embryos.  The FASEB journal editor thought the Stanford study would “complement” the use of embryonic stem cells.  And Nature News seemed delighted that Japan is cutting the red tape for scientists to work on ES cells.  By only getting permission from their local institution, Japanese scientists will now be able to do almost any experiment on human embryos – including cloning.  Starting this month, “the ministry will also free up the previously forbidden creation of cloned human embryos, although only for basic research into serious diseases.”
    In the United States, scientists continue to be “smitten” with President Obama’s relaxed policies on stem cells, increased funding, policies on global warming, and trust in scientific institutions.  Jeff Mervis wrote for Science May 1, “Obama Courts a Smitten Audience at the National Academy.”2  NAS President Ralph Cicerone expressed the mood of the meeting by saying, “the speech was inspiring and credible.  We are extremely lucky to have him in the White House.”  The biggest applause line was not about the new Apollo-benchmark funding levels, but his promise that “under this Administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over.
    Meanwhile, the President is working to reverse former President Bush’s environmental policies, reported PhysOrg.  Neither Nature nor Science seems to have any criticism of Obama.  President Bush, since the day he took office, was routinely railed in these journals for allegedly mixing ideology with science.  Bush had sought the guidance of leading scientists and ethicists when formulating his policy on stem cells.  When Obama swept those restrictions aside with the stroke of an executive-order pen, “the big question became how far scientists could go,” reported PhysOrg.


1.  Martin F. Pera, “Stem cells: Low-risk reprogramming,” Nature 458, 715–716 (9 April 2009) | doi:10.1038/458715a.
2.  Jeff Mervis, “Obama Courts a Smitten Audience at the National Academy,” Science, 1 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5927, pp. 576–577, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_576a.

How to spot a liberal: look for someone in a dream world who thinks everybody else is dreaming but them.  Liberals think they have no ideology; only conservatives do.  Liberals believe they have no religious motivation; only conservatives do.  Liberals think they uphold scientific integrity but call conservatives ideologues.  Liberals think of themselves as children of the Enlightenment but consign conservatives to the Dark Ages.  Liberals are positivists; conservatives are constitutionalists.  Liberals equate science with its institutions; conservatives equate science with evidence.  Liberals look for the scientific consensus; conservatives look for the one who can prove his case with facts.  Liberals believe science should rule the state; conservatives believe science should serve the people.  Conservatives believe in the power of the vote; liberals look to the power of judges or presidents that can hand them what they want by decree.  Conservatives want open debate to air both sides of each question; liberals think letting the public hear only their side is “fair” – they try to shut up conservatives by calling opposing views “politically incorrect” or “religiously motivated.”  Liberals praise tolerance but are intolerant of conservatives.  Liberals denounce hate, but scream vile epithets at conservatives.  Liberals impose uniformity of thought but praise diversity as the highest good.  Liberals started the Free Speech movement but now enforce speech codes on campus.  Liberals exalt their favorite atheists but consider themselves non-religious.  Liberals worship idols (like life-emergent molecules and Charles Darwin) but call their religion “secular.”  Now apply this picture to the creation-evolution issue and everything becomes clear.

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