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.

Technorati tags: , ,