Since I'm paying less attention to stem cell research at Fight Aging! these days, I feel it's worth reminding folks that other blogs - such as Today's Stem Cell Research and Hype and Hope - keep up a regular patter of postings. But onwards; recent good news from Korea may, if we're lucky, cause productive ripples in restrictive Western stem cell politics:
Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology comments that the researchers "have demonstrated that therapeutic cloning can work in a medically useful way. Prior to this study, there was a question as to whether it was biologically possible. ... The answer is yes, it works. And they did it in a dramatic way - they used therapeutic cloning to derive stem cells that genetically matched patients who had real diseases that could be treated using this technology."
Ronald Bailey put out a piece for Tech Central Station in a very short period of time - it hits many of the points I was considering for this post:
The Korean researchers allowed the stem cells to differentiate into various cell types including skin, nerve, kidney and muscle cells. The stem cells produced by Hwang and his team are immunological matches for specific patients, and that means that if they were transplanted that they would not cause immune rejection. While this research is a tremendous breakthrough, the researchers hasten to point out that it is too early to consider actually transplanting the cells into patients. First, because some of the cloned stem cell lines carry the defective genes that led to diabetes and immunodeficiency disease. Second, because researchers still have to learn how to safely and stably transform stem cells into specific cell types, say, pancreatic islet cells to treat diabetes.
The House of Representatives has twice voted to criminalize precisely this research, proposing to toss therapeutic cloning researchers into prison for up to ten years and fine them one million dollars. In fact, if this effort to criminalize research on cloned human stem cells were to succeed, Americans who go abroad to seek cloned stem cell treatments, say, to cure their diabetes, could be jailed for up to ten years for illegally "importing" cloned stem cells. The Bush Administration was also pushing the United Nations to adopt a treaty to outlaw both cloning to produce transplants and reproductive cloning.
Some of the most promising research into cures for age-related conditions has been held back and underfunded for years in the US. But regular readers know this already; much of the recent news regarding stem cell research has been nothing but politics. It is a great pity that we live in a society that places so little value on individual responsibility, freedom and choice, especially in those areas of human endeavor where the most good could be accomplished. Centralization and socialization of medicine are terrible things; why do we allow the uninformed and unskilled to squander resources and hold life and death decisions over our heads?
The bottom line: politicized medical research is slower, less effective, less efficient medical research. The slower it goes, the more likely you are to suffer and die from an age-related condition that might otherwise have been cured. The slower it goes, the less likely we are to make serious progress towards a cure for the aging process itself. Politicians can do nothing but destroy and delay; they should leave well alone - let those who are willing to work put their talents, unhindered, towards creating longer, healthier lives for all.