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Thread: Remarkable turnaround in media reporting concerning stem cell research in the past we

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    Remarkable turnaround in media reporting concerning stem cell research in the past we

    Spate of Good Media Articles about Stem Cell Research in the past week

    I have been really down on journalists for their bad reporting of stem cell research. However, in the past week or two, there have been several excellent, thoughtful, and well-researched articles (both pro- and anti- embryonic stem cell research). It has been a remarkable week of the good journalism both for and against stem cell research.

    The Stem Cell Shuffle by the Editors of Technology Review Magazine (May 2004)
    This MIT magazine says that 2004 "may well be the year of the stem cell", describing the continued shuffle of scientific paper that supports embryonic or adult stem cell research. It reviews Douglas Melton most recent work where he showed new pancreatic islet cells are produced by existing pancreatic islet cells rather than by stem cells, concluding that "there are two demonstrable sources to replenish pancreatic beta-cells: one is an embryonic stem cell, and the other is an already existing beta-cell." Both, he says, need to be pursued.

    Stem cell research could help my child and millions of other by Jeryn Konezny at TwinCities.com Pioneer Press (June 1, 2004)
    • This is a story by a mother who has a 2-year old daughter that suffered extensive brain hemorrhage at birth and expressing gratitude to Representative Jim Ramstad for his support of embryonic stem cell research. It expresses worry that "stem cell research got caught up in political controversy." She hopes that "President Bush listens to the calls for change".

    Stem Cells: A Way Forward, A new report provides some moral guidelines by the Editors, Scientific American (May 31, 2004)
    • This article starts by describing recent progress in stem cell research, including the first cloning of human stem cells and the announcement of 17 new stem cell lines at Harvard, pointing out that "a conspicuously missing partner in that progress is the U.S. government" and that "federal funding restrictions present the illusion of compromise, but they are really a fig leaf for befuddlement". This is an excellent article that summarizes the situation that nobody wants and a solution.

    Economics enters debate on cloning by Laura Maggi, Times-Picayune (May 30, 2004).
    • This article describes the stem cell debate in Louisiana where there are two competing bills, one banning and the other promoting embryonic stem cell research. It describes the tough position that the governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, and the dilemma she faces being a strong proponent of economic progress and a life-long member of the Catholic Church which strongly opposed such research. Laura Maggi has a May 31 article entitled Congress asks Bush to relent, in which she describes the legislation being debated.

    Bush's Jeremiah Pokes at Science Establishment by Andrew Ferguson (Bloomberg.com)
    • At the beginning, this seems to be a critical article bashing the Presidents Bioethical Council by a columnist. However, if you read on, you find that it is actually complimentary to Leon Kass for practicing bioethics "without commercial conflicts of interest or unbridled enthusiasms, and return to the original impulse of disinterested inquiry".

    Hematologists Support Efforts of House of Representatives to Open Avenues to Embryonic Stem Cell Research by Advance Newsmagazine (June 1, 2004).
    • "The American Society of Hematology (ASH) joins with close to 200 members of the Housel of Representatives and leading health and research organizatioins to urge President Bush to remove the restrictions his administration placed on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research", supporting the efforts of Reps. Mike Castle (R-Del.), Duke Cunningham (R-Calif), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Cal Dooley (D-Calif.). In a separate statement, ASH supports both adult and embryonic stem cell research.

    Scientists to Lobby UN for Destructive Embryonic Stem Cell Research by Steven Ertelt of LifeNews.com (May 31, 2004).
    • The title and source of this article tells the reader that this article is against embryonic stem cell research. However, it provides a clear listing of countries who are for and against embryonic stem cell research, and the vote in the UN. "Costa Rica and 60 other nations... would ban both human cloning for reproduction as well as research purposes. However, a smaller group of nations led by Belgium and other European countries preferred a ban on only reproductive cloning. The tension prompted a bloc of more than 50 Islamic nations, led by Iran, to propose delaying the vote for two years so the issue could be studied further. Advocates of the partial ban joined forces with them while the Bush administration lobbied heavily in an attempt to defeat it. The U.N. General Assembly vote was close to 80 countries voting [in] favor of the delay, 79 voting against it and 15 abstaining." Note that this is a very interesting development. The Islamic countries wanted the U.N. not to ban embryonic stem cell research for two years. The UN voted overwhelmingly in favor of delaying the ban. The Bush is strongly against the delay and wants to delay the ban by only one year. The scientists hope that the U.N. will vote in favor of "the Belgian led proposal to ban reproductive cloning but allow human cloning for research."

    Bush's stem-cell politics leaves Dad to wither by Jonathan Turley in Op/Ed - USA Today (May 18, 2004).
    • This passionate op-ed article in USA Today says: "My father is dying from an American political disease." He has Parkinson's disease. Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public interest Law at George Washington University and he says "I have become blind to iraq, environmental laws, civil liberties and taxes. I have the myopia that comes with desperation. I cannot see beyond a chair in Chicago where a man sits who once carried me on his shoulders and protected me against every danger."

    Inflated Promise, Distorted Facts by Eric Cohen of the National Review (May 25, 2004).
    • I include this editorial to balance the one by Turley above. This article claims that members of the U.S. senate are planning to send a letter to President Bush as well but that they should check the facts before they do so. It calls misguided the view that "the possibility of medical progress in the future outweighs any respect owed to nascent human life in the present". It gives the history of Congressional protection of embryos, starting with the Dickey Amendment (1995) which prohibits Congressional funding of research involving destruction of human embryos, that it does not ban embryo research and does not fund embryo research. As the article pointed out, "It is a policy of public silence". It points out that this private-public separation is the "fundamental bargain of the policy: no limits on embryonic-stem-cell research in the private sector (unlike much of the world, which regulates this practice), but no public subsidies to encourage a limitless industry of embryo destruction." It claims that stem-cell advocates are "exaggerating the promise of the research and confusing the public debate". It goes on to mount very strong (although misguided, in my opinion) arguments against embryonic stem cell research.

    Is Stem Cell Research A New Bay Area Revolution by Raymond Barglow and Marion Riggs, Berkeley Daily Planet (June 1, 2004).
    • This is a thoughtful and detailed pro-stem cell research summary of the debate. It points out that not only the religious right but also "some leftists, who give expression to a widespread public concern that stem cell science may be harnessed to the harmful aims of reproductive cloning and eugenics." It asks: "Does research of this kind merit the considerable economic investment that it requires? It can be argued that public health and preventative measures are today neglected and should be medicine's highest priority. For instance, the social/environmental factors that contribute to diabetes' incrase over the past two decades need to be addressed. Yet anyone who has seen a child suffering from diabetes surely hopes also that a medical remedy will be found." The article concludes, "And that remedy should be available to every person who needs it. Federal funding for stem cell research can best insure that the research is properly overseen, serves the public good, and is not held back by patent and other proprietary interests."

    A Jewish perspective on brave new world of cloning by Jackie Hermanson, The Kansas City Chronicle, May 28, 2004.
    • This article describes the view of Rabbi Mark Washofsky, Professor of Rabbinics at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, and chair of the responsa committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. The rabbi stated that "preservation of life or pikuach nefesh, is a mitzvah and one of the highest values... that Jewish law does not prohibit destruction of an embryo that is not in utero... for that matter, destroying such embryos is not prohibited in any way... and that a fetus is not a nefesh - a legal person... a zygote outside of the uterus has no chance of developing a human person and there has even a lesser status in Jewish law than fetuses in the first stages of gestation." However, Rabbi Washofsky says that it is harder to argue that creation of pre-embryos with the intention of destroying them is permitted: "To go that far would be to manipulate human life, its creation as well as destruction, in a way that the responsa committee found to be inconsistent with the sanctity of the human organism and our duty of reverence towards it." He suggests that the responsa committee "takes the position that there is good reason to create embryos for the purpose of taking their stem cells" but that if there is reasonable scientific prospect that stem cell therapy would contribute to preserving human life and health, pikuach nefesh would demand it.

    Rethink restrictions: Stem cell research funding needs to be expanded by the Editors of Register-Guard (May 26, 2004).
    • This editorial points out that a "growing group of abortion opponents is willing to acknowledge that the life-saving benefits of stem cell research should not be dismissed out of hand". It credits Bush for trying to strike a compromise 3 years ago but points out that only 19 of the 64 lines available at the time are available for study and "that number is never likely to rise above 23, according to the National Institutes of Health... but the number of cell lines available to researchers worldwide who don't receive U.S. government funds is up to at least 51 and could rise to more than 100 over the coming year." It further points that Senator Bill Frist and Nancy Reagan, and other longtime abortion opponents, are presssing the president to revisit his 2001 decision. It concludes that Bush should "summon that courage again and provide U.S. researchers with federal funds to study embryonic stem cells discarded by fertility clinics."

    Matters of Life and Death: Scientists in stem-cell coverup... deliberately exaggerate embryonic advances, ignore adult by Michael Fumento of Insight/News World Communication (May 25, 2004).
    • This is anti-embryonic stem cell article that has done its homework. It unfortunately makes the unwarranted claim that "it's a war being fought partly over ethics, but mostly over money" but it goes on to review the case for adult stem cells, saying that "stem-cell research constitutes one of the most exiting areas in medical science," takes a bash at Christopher Reeve, and then quotes Darwin Prockop, Director of Gene Therapy Center at Tulane University in a letter to the magazine Science that, "We do not know enough about adult stem cells or ESCs to make dogmatic statements of either". It cites the work of Catherine Verfaillie, Helen Blau, Ira Black, and Elizer Huberman. It goes on to cite examples of what the author believes are exaggerations of the potential of ESCs. Despite the ESC bashing, this article does make a surprisingly strong case for ASCs.

    The False Controversy of Stem Cells by Michael Kinsley in Time Magazine (May 31, 2004).
    • This is a very well-written essay by the editor of Slate magazine pointing out that embryonic stem cell research is a false controversy. I commented earlier on this article in another topic.

    Rethinking Stem-Cell Research by Martin Schram in Capitol Hill Blue (May 24, 2004)
    • This political commentary reviews the impact of Nancy Reagan's "poignant and powerful call to undo President Bush's most wrongheaded domestic policy". The article pointed out that Nancy Reagan's lobbying of Republicans has harvested results, including Senator Bill Frist and many other members of the House of Representatives. It cites Nancy Reagan's statement:
    Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him. Because of this, I'm determined to do whatever i can to save other families from this pain. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this... Science has presented us with a hope called stem cell research, which may provide our scientists with many answers that for so long have been beyond our grasp... We have lost so much time already. I just really can't bear to lose any more."
    .

  2. #2
    Senior Member rvr's Avatar
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    as you noted, I've also witnessed a similiar shift in public perception over the last few months...local news, talk shows, etc...talk about fear of the unknown - literally.... good thing xenotransplants lacked potential...just imagine the reptilian-humanoid on the anti-poster eating a newborn or whatever!! yiikes...a hollywood field day... hope they stick to robots and bad weather...

    I usually cringe at the thought of TIME covering anything other than worst dressed/best dressed for the year... but this time the "educator of the masses" seems to have a fairly balanced view...I suspect the big guns are realizing the payoff potential and are pulling the strings to shift public opinion...

    like the forbidden fruit, cell research is ok to ignore until you are hungry, or personally involved w/someone that could benefit...go nancy! for SCI alone, not enough mass, but if we toss in w/other diseases, it's a different story...thank god for parkensens, alzheimer's etc...(just this once)

    of course, it's an image thing as much as a science thing... ironic to see us support a war, the death penalty, religious abberations, but have such a problem w/something we can't even see w/the naked eye and that could help so many...

    looks like it's finally changing.... CR has really been a relentless cheerleader in that regard...I'd thank a god for him, but everyone is still fighting over which god is responsible...maybe I should just thank CR HIMself!!

    rvr

  3. #3
    Wise,

    Thanks for the really excellent references on stem cell. You have presented a remarkably balanced view which addresses my own concerns. The Korean stem cell researcher who was discredited, nevertheless DID clone a dog. He said he takes embryos to the 68 cell stage, at which point he hopes to create stem cell lines. This is so early. Unless I am mistaken, the frozen embryos at fertility clinics which are discarded if no longer needed are at the 256 cell stage. I wonder if it would help if we called this "pre-embryonic". Are we caught in a semantic dilemma which was not necessarily descriptive of some milepost when life is actually present? To discard the embryo seems no more ethical at the extremely early stage than to use them to create stem cells to me, but I am just a person. We seem to need a prophet here to tell us what God thinks. I just can't think discarding frozen embryos is right morally if it could cure severe illness. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to grow life so we could parasitize it for our benefit. Thank you again for the list of articles and objectivity. Thanks also for your interest and hard work in pain. I am one of the hardened characters who never took meds, let the dentist do his work without deadening, etc. just to prove something. Now here I am cringing in fear of the pain I must encounter each day and at night, even worse. There is no doubt that a change has taken place in my nervous system. Worse, it has morphed my entire way of living life. I am still tough to ordinary pain, but the dysesthesia has infused me with constant fear. I hate this to where I will occasionally permit some painful thing just to prove to myself I still have it, but as to the burning, I run from it in whatever way possible. Twenty seconds of towel on the legs and I am ready to give up. This should tell you how nuts CP makes you. Only Alan can put it into words. CP has a direct line to your psyche. I can mentally deflect nocicetion as well as anyone I know. I am having trouble finding good literature on tumors caused by stem cell infusion. If you come across anything I would appreciate your posting it.

    Thanks for all.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by dejerine
    Wise,

    Thanks for the really excellent references on stem cell. You have presented a remarkably balanced view which addresses my own concerns. The Korean stem cell researcher who was discredited, nevertheless DID clone a dog. He said he takes embryos to the 68 cell stage, at which point he hopes to create stem cell lines. This is so early. Unless I am mistaken, the frozen embryos at fertility clinics which are discarded if no longer needed are at the 256 cell stage. I wonder if it would help if we called this "pre-embryonic". Are we caught in a semantic dilemma which was not necessarily descriptive of some milepost when life is actually present? To discard the embryo seems no more ethical at the extremely early stage than to use them to create stem cells to me, but I am just a person. We seem to need a prophet here to tell us what God thinks. I just can't think discarding frozen embryos is right morally if it could cure severe illness. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to grow life so we could parasitize it for our benefit. Thank you again for the list of articles and objectivity. Thanks also for your interest and hard work in pain. I am one of the hardened characters who never took meds, let the dentist do his work without deadening, etc. just to prove something. Now here I am cringing in fear of the pain I must encounter each day and at night, even worse. There is no doubt that a change has taken place in my nervous system. Worse, it has morphed my entire way of living life. I am still tough to ordinary pain, but the dysesthesia has infused me with constant fear. I hate this to where I will occasionally permit some painful thing just to prove to myself I still have it, but as to the burning, I run from it in whatever way possible. Twenty seconds of towel on the legs and I am ready to give up. This should tell you how nuts CP makes you. Only Alan can put it into words. CP has a direct line to your psyche. I can mentally deflect nocicetion as well as anyone I know. I am having trouble finding good literature on tumors caused by stem cell infusion. If you come across anything I would appreciate your posting it.

    Thanks for all.
    Dejerine, thank you so much for your perspective. For those people who live with spinal cord injury and pain, the continued debate concerning stem cells must seem ridiculous. Let me answer your question concerning tumors associated with stem cells in another thread.

    Wise.

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