Don't Bow Down to Those Who Would Steal Your Freedom

It's a simple motto to try to live by: no appeasement; don't bow down to those who would steal your freedom. It's increasingly hard to live that way, of course, what with armies of government employees willing to apply force to back up any number of cages upon your behavior. But it's human nature to want to live free, just as, sadly, it's human nature to shrug when forcing the loss of freedom upon others. This might go a little way to explaining the mixed reception to Advanced Cell Technology's latest technology demonstration:

researchers at Advanced Cell Technology have created a line of such cells from a single human embryonic cell. Unlike existing methods, the procedure leaves the embryo viable, raising the possibility it could be widely used to create embryonic cells without destroying embryos.

Advances in the efficient development of stem cell lines are important - researchers will likely need access to thousands of lines in the course of developing therapies and cures through embryonic stem cell research. This demonstration was presented in more of a political context, however:

There is now no rational ethical argument against stem cell research, now that we can preserve the embryo," he says. "The existing cell lines are weak, they're old, there are too few of them, and they are difficult to maintain. What we wanted to do with this process was to ensure that there are enough lines available. This should give the entire field a boost."

This strikes me as an attempt to mollify people who are not really all that rational when it comes to their opposition to stem cell research. This is not a sound strategy, and I'm not alone in that view:

the idea that blastomere derived cell lines are an 'alternative' to embryonic is quite simply all hype. ... the only people who will let you pull a blastomere off of one of their embryos are people who dont plan to use them anyway!


some of these scientists are worried about showing any acquiescence to the anti-abortion folks who have been campaigning against embryonic stem cell research.

If you're going to fight for your freedom of research (and fight we certainly should), then don't fight on their terms and their ground. The freedom to research human cellular biochemistry is essential to rapid progress towards the medicine of the future. Without the results of this research, tens of millions will die every year from age-related diseases and conditions that might already have been cured.

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guess you missed this:

With Few Factors, Adult Cells Take On Character Of Embryonic Stem Cells

With the introduction of just four factors, researchers have successfully induced differentiated cells taken from mouse embryos or adult mice to behave like embryonic stem cells. The researchers reported their findings in an immediate early publication of the journal Cell, published by Cell Press.

The cells--which the researchers designate "induced pluripotent stem cells" (iPS)--exhibit the physical, growth, and genetic characteristics typical of embryonic stem cells, they reported. "Pluripotent" refers to the ability to differentiate into most other cell types.

"Human embryonic stem cells might be used to treat a host of diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, and diabetes," said Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan. "However, there are ethical difficulties regarding the use of human embryos, as well as the problem of tissue rejection following transplantation into patients."

Those problems could be circumvented if pluripotent cells could be obtained directly from the patients' own cells.

Further, the researchers who take the ESC from an embryeo do NOT KNOW if it damages it or not. As you point out, anyone doing this probably plans to discard the embryo anyway.

It could happen that, if used the resulting human being would be damaged. no one has done the work, and indeed, it would be un-ethical according to the Japanese researcher above, to do such an expirement.

"Lets just damage these human embryoes in varying degrees, then implant them and see what happens if they go to full term. We could even follow them thru to adulthood and see if they're normal adults."

Sounds like something out of Nazi Germany.


Posted by: b0b at August 25th, 2006 10:35 AM

You may be interested in an Ayn Rand Institute press release on this issue. Excerpt:

[In response to the researcher quoted as saying "There is no rational reason left to oppose this research."]
"But there has never been a rational reason to oppose embryonic stem cell research," said Dr. Brook. "The opposition comes mainly from religious conservatives and is--by their own declaration--based on faith, not on reason. It is based on the irrational belief that a mere clump of cells is a full-fledged human being."
"It is a mistake to try to appease religious conservatives on this issue. What they are opposed to, fundamentally, is science as such."

Posted by: Adam Spong at August 26th, 2006 8:36 PM
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