Discussing
Embryonic stem cells: what's the big deal?

Steve Matheson

Rally
June 25, 2009

I completely recognize the potential of ESC research and I respect the pro-ESC research position. However, the pro/anti ESC arguments (like so many) have become completely polarized. <br><br>Can we work together on fleshing out and learning more about the spectrum of choices between adult stem cells and ESCs? For instance, right now, cord-blood-derived embryonic-like stem cells provide almost as much developmental potential as ESCs. And there are millions of umbilical cords just thrown out every year. <br><br>While we come together and discuss the ethical implications of ESC research, can we not also come together on promoting research on alternative sources of embryonic-like stem cells?

Dons
June 26, 2009

Thanks for the dispassionate and clear explanation of the unique nature (and potential) of the ESC. This is the first time I've seen/heard this, and it promotes a sympathetic position toward those advocating it.<br><br>If only people would be as sympathetic to the issue of sanctity of innocent human life. Yes, the public debate is polarized, but for some of us it's hard to see how "compromise" can take place on this issue, especially given the reality of the "slippery slope." <br><br>Meanwhile, rally makes a great point. I'm not aware of anyone protesting against harvesting cord cells or anything other than destroying embryos. Perhaps part of the "polarization" problem comes from the majority of media reports only referring to "stem cell research" without defining the difference.

James Watkins
June 26, 2009

The solution is placenta and adult stem cells. They're just as effective and don't destroy life:<br><br><a href="http://www.jameswatkins.com/stemcells.htm" rel="nofollow">http://www.jameswatkins.com/st...</a>

SiarlysJenkins
June 28, 2009

Any line of research, development, and treatment, which produces the same results as embryonic stem cells, without posing any of the moral dilemmas currently being debated, would be preferable. Not only does it offer a sound basis for mutual respect among people with differing beliefs, it makes practical use possible, without having to resolve the moral arguments. It would be simple common sense. It would be the most pragmatic solution. The sticking point is that many preferable sources of pluripotent stem cells "may" offer the same results.<br><br>I love Jim's column, which is probably where I found my first link to thinkchristian, but I frankly do not believe that a zygote, or a blastocyst, or an embryo, is a human being. A zygote has exactly the same genetic content as any cell, in the body it may become, would have. Every cell is "life." There are elements of consciousness, ability to live and grow outside the womb, and the unknown question of when the physical body becomes the host for a "living soul," which make the difference between mere organic life, potentially human, and a human being. I would not close off any line of research until we know we have a widely accepted means of treating, e.g., diabetes, pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer's disease, etc. Then the are the more limited moral questions of harvesting placentas for research.

SteveMatheson
June 28, 2009

rally and dons, you're anticipating the direction I'm going in the series. Cord blood is just one ethically uncomplicated source of multipotent stem cells, and there might be good scientific/therapeutic reasons for preferring such approaches. (You might want to check out an <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/science/10lab.html" rel="nofollow">interesting overview in the New York Times</a> written by Nicholas Wade shortly after President Obama's new order.) So yes, let's work together to lay out the "spectrum of choices." It's more complicated (and interesting) than Mr. Watkins suggests, as you might have guessed if you looked at his sources.

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