Monday, January 08, 2007

Go, Go Gadget Stem Cell

As I've posted before, I'm vehemently against embryonic stem cells, because for me, it involves the destruction of life. Instead, I have always felt there are other possibilities yet to be explored that, should embryonic stem cell research be allowed, might get left behind and never tried.

But today, in the news, another source of stem cells, potentially as valuable as embryonic stem cells, has been revealed: stem cells from amnio fluid.

This is what scares me about this whole thing. Scientists (and those persons longing for cures for their respective diseases) have been pushing for embryonic stem cell research so hard you'd think it was the Holy Grail. Yet, in doing so, they are missing a vital stepping stone: finding a source of stem cells that doesn't depend on destroying life. Of course, to those who don't see embryos as "life" in the same sense I, and other like me, do, it is no big deal.

But to me, this new source solves the problems. It gives flexibility unseen before in adult stem cells (despite the fact that several different therapeutic uses of adult stem cells have been developed...something which embryonic stem cell research can't claim). It also shows how utterly blinded much of the research community has been, staunchly trying to push embryonic stem cells as the only real source, rather than thinking creatively in new ways to use stem cell research without controversy.

Of course, in one article, a scientist is quick to say something to the effect of, "Well, this doesn't mean we should stop embryonic stem cell research." No. Of course not. Because that would be admitting that, just perhaps, the hoopla around embryos as the only source isn't true. Rather than celebrate this as a great advancement, the scientist is still trying to hold to a principle.

Not that I necessarily blame them. We all do it, don't we? When we believe in something, and work hard at something related to that belief, we will be skeptical. And, truth is, we don't know for certain that amnio fluid as a source of stem cells is completely as flexible as embryonic stem cells, even though early research points that it is. Of course, we also don't know that embryonic stem cells will ever result in therapeutic cures either. It is all theoretical right now.

But for now, I'm ecstatic about this discovery. If offers a controversy-free way to progress in stem cell research, which should make both sides of the debate happy.

And, me being a skeptic myself, I'm still not convinced that I'll ever see a cure for my diabetes in my lifetime, no matter what the source is for stem cells. But if it offers hope to some, that's great. I can say that with tremendous confidence and relief, now knowing there is a new path for stem cell research that does away with the destruction of new life.

It is still a waiting game, however. Years of research behind us, and there is still years of research ahead of us, for which I'm still thankful for companies such as Lifescan, which makes my blood testing meter, and Minimed, which makes my insulin pump, and Lilly, which makes my insulin. Because until there is a cure...until we can say, "Go, Go gadget Stem Cell" and watch it miraculously transform in a new beta cell...there is still the need for treatment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've heard about that news too and it was quite exciting for me as well. The other news I've heard about a few days before that was recent Nobel prize in biology (?). It was about how immune system attacks the body - it's not yet understanding how my 5 year old got diabetes but I feel like "dig here". As for stem cells , I hold high hope that in next 10 years diabetes will be cured. Just from the view that biomedicine is now like rockets in 60s or quantum mechanics in 20s or computers in 70s - hot research topic, best brains and lots of money. It got momentum.