Sunday, March 29, 2009

Coming Out of the Gulag: With a Really Good Tan

There is more good news on the adult stem-cell science front. But don’t sneeze, you may miss it.

Human trials under way at the University of Miami and other hospitals in Europe, Asia and Latin America using immature adult stem cells are showing promise for people with Type 2 diabetes.

In a University of Miami clinical trial published recently in the online journal Cell Transplantation, 25 patients achieved better insulin production, lower blood-sugar levels and reduced need for insulin injections.

In the trial, still in its pilot stage, doctors extracted immature adult stem cells from the patients' own bone marrow, purified and concentrated them, and injected them into arteries near the pancreas. They then put the patients into hyperbaric oxygen chambers like those used for divers with decompression sickness -- also called the bends -- and subjected them to 10 hours of pure oxygen at 2.4 times the atmospheric pressure at ground level.

Researchers said they believe the high-pressure oxygen pulled extra stem cells from the patients' bone marrow, adding to the stem cells injected near the pancreas. They said the immature stem cells developed into pancreatic cells, regenerating the pancreas's ability to produce natural insulin. (“Stem cells offer hope to diabetics”).

I would think a successful experiment regenerating a diabetic’s pancreas would deserve something more than 300 words below-the-fold on 13A. I guess I should be grateful (I am grateful) that editors allow stories like this to see the light of day at all.

Because, as we’ve seen, stories of proven success with adult stem cell research receive little to no coverage. Nothing like the optimistic birdsong journalists break into over the heroic missionaries of embryo-destructive stem-cell research--which has yet to live up to the price we pay for it in both money and, much more important, its destruction of human lives.

This was where we stood last October:

As even the New York Times (no champion of embryos to say the least) said only last year, “For all the hopes invested in it over the last decade, embryonic stem cell research has moved slowly, with no cures or major therapeutic discoveries in sight.”
No matter. On Thursday Laura Berman--the one-woman pep squad for Al Taubman at the Detroit News-- wrote an ode to stem-cell research scientist Dr. Eva Feldman, returning triumphantly to Taubman’s U of M Medical Research Institute from a 6-month exile in--San Diego. ("Stem cell researcher returns"). (God, that must have been awful!). San Diego, Berman writes, “is as good as gulags get.” One would think so.

In case Berman's little gulag joke is too subtle, she means that before last November, when Michigan voters passed Proposition 2, embryonic research’s Enabling Act, our pre-enlightened state was the moral equivalent of Stalin's U.S.S.R., repressing free thought and banishing subversive intellectuals like Dr. Feldman to the frozen wastes, of, in this case, UC--San Diego.

Now I personally can’t remember Solzhenistyn writing about anyone who voluntarily packed up and went to the gulag just because Siberia had a more favorable grant-funding climate for slave laborers. As far as I can see, Dr. Feldman took her research to San Diego because the California government was dumping money into it. (It’s always governments dumping money into this research: private investors don’t seem to think it’s as promising as promised). Regardless, now Feldman is coming back to take advantage of Proposition 2 and promised stimulus funding in Michigan. She is “furiously rewriting grant requests” so she can continue her work as one of Al Taubman’s personal witch doctors.

Taubman is buying a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Feldman hasn’t cured anything yet, a point that rankles her when it’s mentioned. “It’s frustrating when people say that this research hasn't produced a cure when, until now, I haven't been able to do one experiment in my own Michigan laboratory.” Except no one else has produced a cure, either, even in enlightened and well-funded California, where they’ve got scads of government research bread, fridges full of tiny frozen humans, and dramatically better weather.

But that's not the point, either. The point isn’t that embryo-destructive research hasn’t worked yet and that's why it’s wrong--the point is that it’s wrong because destroying human life arbitrarily is wrong, and this research necessitates destroying human life. The only reason I mention the lack of cures at all is to call attention to the utter disconnect between the consistent poor results of embryonic research on the one hand, and the amount of enthusiasm, money, and public advocacy being thrown at it. (She is “furiously rewriting grant requests”). This is especially illogical when the non-controversial adult stem-cell research has been more successful and has already been recognized (by scientists, no less), as having made the issue of embryonic stem cell research moot.

Personally I believe the advocates for embryo-destructive research want cloning, not cures, and this is the quickest way to get there.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you.

Ray Mumme said...
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