Sunday, July 31, 2005

More Stem Cell Stuff

Okay, I'm beating a dead horse here. But hear me out. Umbilical chord blood also has stem cells--lots of them.

Scientists believe (there's that word again) but it's not proven, that blastocyst stem cells are the most capable of solving health problems because they have the most potential (pluripotent--infinite functions--rather than multi--many potential functions--and uni--one function), but this still doesn't solve rejection problems (just like rejecting an organ you can reject a cell).

Also, new research has shown that a blood stem cell can be coaxed to develop into a cardiac cell or a neuron (brain cell). Imagine, using your own stem cells and thus no rejection.

Those who believe like me--leave the embryos alone--are being branded "crazy" and "anti-science". Not so. The 60% of Americans are for "stem cell research" is an oft-quoted rationale for why the federal funding should go forward, but this stat (as so many of them are) is bogus.

Stem cell research is a complicated topic even for those who are given to look into these things. Are the people being polled differentiating between the kinds of stem cell research?

Furthermore, I was reading a liberal dude's blog about his perspective on stem cell research. He thinks that people who believe like me equate a blastocyst with a live human being. Not so. I'm fully aware that up to 50% of fertilized eggs never make it to babyhood. But this is NATURE's job not some guy in a lab coat's. A woman's body decides which baby to carry and not to.

Fertility treatments work less than 30% of the time. The number one cause of infertility today is PID (pelvic inflammitory disease) which is related most often to genital warts (eww gross, I know) and other STDs. In addition, a woman's fertility drops precipitously each year after 30. And even more so after 35 especially if this is her first child. The majority of the 30% of those who do get pregnant with infertility help are in their late 20s and early 30s. As women approach 40, their chances with invitro slip to 1 in 10 and less depending on the clinic (and almost all of them lie about their success rates).

The infertility business is an abomination. Men and women hang their hopes on crazy treatments that exhaust them emotionally and financially. Few end up with children. The ones who do and the ones who don't almost always have "left over" embryos. Left overs, isn't that nice?

Are these embryos people? Not yet, but they could be as the 30% success rate attests to.

Regulation of this industry is nearly non-existent. The legal ramifications of all the permutations of this "intervention" have yet to be worked out and now we are adding a new wrinkle: donate your embryo to science.

The schpiel? "At least SOME GOOD could come out of this difficulty." It's like donating an organ. Somebody, like Christopher Reeve could walk again. Wouldn't that be great? And it would be because you gave your embryos. Why, it's downright noble!


My heart goes out to childless couples. Children are the best gift in the world, I'll be the first to attest to that and worthy of pursuing.

But I have a big problem with an unregulated industry creating all of these morally questionable situations: parents with slim to no chance of having a kid thus creating surplus embryos, people so self-absorbed that they believe it is their "right" to have a child at "all costs". The child seems like the cherry on top of a narcisstic ice cream sundae.

So out of this mess...embryonic stem cells. Now to the stem cell side: there are no regulations, no standardized procedure, no ethical guidelines at all as to how to handle these. There aren't at the fertility clinic either. Some have rituals associated with "disposal" some just throw them out.

In the labs, how are they dealt with? Well, we know the nuclei is sucked from them, we know that the constituants of the blastocyst are necessarily teased apart to "see how they work". Then what?

Do you see how this whole process is as clear as week-old pea soup? It is in grey areas like this this, where people have the "best intentions" that really bad things happen. It's called the law of unintended consequences. And there are already layers and layers of those before the embryo ever reaches the high-minded scientist ready to save the world.

I stand by my opinion. Embryos should not be used for research. Excess embryos shouldn't be sitting around to begin with.

The ethical problem began way before a sperm ever was injected into an egg. Way before. Link
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