Stem Cells and Politics, More of the Same

It looks like matters are gearing up for another round of more intense political battles (or more accurately, battles in which the public at large plays a greater role) over tax dollars for embryonic stem cell research. So much waste - and those folk campaigning in support of tax dollars for research are justifying and propping up the very source of the problem ... the fact that the trough of tax dollars exists at all, alongside politicians with meaningful power and no commensurate accountability for their actions, and for that matter the whole corrupt (and corrupting) system of governance that gives rise to this mess.

If politicians and unelected legislators did not have the power to block, constrain and greatly increase the cost of research and commercialization, this would all be a non-issue. Responsibility for science is far better left to the scientists - in other words the people who have the ideas, raise the funds, do the work, understand what is taking place, and have direct accountability for results.


Here are a couple of items on the dread beast politics that caught my eye while winding my way across the web in search of people performing actual work to advance the science of regenerative medicine - you know, getting out there and doing something, rather than jumping up and down clamoring to spend other people's money for them.

Stem cell research bill resurfaces in Congress:

In the House, voting will proceed on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which is identical to the one that was passed in the House and Senate last year and then vetoed by the president. A Senate version of the bipartisan bill should come up for a vote after committee consideration in coming weeks, says Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a bill sponsor.


Although the House bill is expected to pass easily, the real question is whether it will attract enough votes, two-thirds of the total, to override another veto, says Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., a bill co-sponsor. Last year, the bill passed 235-193. A veto-proof majority is more likely in the Senate, Harkin said Tuesday.

"It is just a matter of time before the bill passes," DeGette says. "Even if it will be the next president of the United States who signs it."

House resumes stem cell research debate:

The author of a study on amniotic stem cells urged Congress on Tuesday not to consider his work a substitute for the search for disease-fighting material from embryonic stem cells.

"Some may be interpreting my research as a substitute for the need to pursue other forms of regenerative medicine therapies, such as those involving embryonic stem cells. I disagree with that assertion," wrote Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University, the author of a study published this week and widely seized upon by opponents of embryonic stem cell research as a more moral option.

And across the pond, yet more of the same nonsense in the UK:

Luddites and Moralists:

Two research teams in London find out today whether they will be allowed to create animal-human hybrid embryos as part of their work. Informally, they have already been told by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that their application is unlikely to succeed, despite it being allowed under current regulations. Last week several scientists got together to express deep concerns about the impending decision and delivered a stark message: banning the creation of hybrids will stifle development of treatments for diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's.


The only conceivable explanation is that the HFEA is feeling undue political pressure from its host department. The Department of Health seems to have made its decision based on a misconception about public unease over hybrid research. It is difficult not to conclude that the HFEA is worried that funds will be cut off if it doesn't fall into line.

Central control, socialization of cost, arbitrary power over others, lack of accountability for costs of regulation, and willful ignorance of the many times these structures have destroyed cultures in the past - it's the path to a bad place. It's certainly not the path to progress in medical science.

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