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America's Culture War: Stem-Cell Research

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Therapeutic Embryonic Stem-Cell Research “Just Not Realistic”

by  Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) is a leader in embryonic stem-cell research, a process whereby living human beings are killed (“California Institute...,” 2007; see Thompson and Harrub, 2001). Recently, a “pioneering Australian biologist who was among the first scientists to grow human embryonic stem cells in a laboratory” will be the new president of the institute (Engel, 2007).

On September 14, the institute’s oversight board announced that Alan Trounson, director of the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories in Melbourne and a founder of the Australian Stem Cell Centre, will take over as soon as he works out visa requirements (Engel, 2007; cf. “Professor Alan...,” 2007).

It is unsurprising that the board of the California institute chose a man with Trounson’s qualifications. Trounson holds a doctorate in embryology from Sydney University (“Renowned Scientist...,” 2007). In 1998, he was part of a team of scientists from Singapore and Australia, racing to be the first to remove stem-cells from days-old human embryos and grow them in a lab (Engel). Trounson was the first scientist to freeze embryos for future pregnancy attempts (Engel).

Dr. George Q. Daley, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, called Trounson a “terrific, inspired choice” (quoted in Engel). “This position is going to be the single most important steward of stem cell research internationally,” Daley said, adding, “We’re all envious of California” (quoted in Engel).

Over the past 30 years, Trounson founded eight companies devoted to infertility treatment, biotechnology, and stem-cells (“Renowned Scientist...”). He is a sheep farmer who has cloned cows and wombats (Engel). Trounson definitely is qualified academically and professionally to lead a group such as CIRM. He obviously has no ethical problems with embryonic stem-cell research.

But is he confident that CIRM can accomplish its objective to “heal” people as a result of stem-cell research? Curiously, Trounson has expressed skepticism about the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem-cells: “The so-called therapeutic cloning to my mind is a non-event,” he told Nature Medicine in 2005. As a method for developing cures for dreaded diseases, “it’s just not realistic” (quoted in “Australian Appointed...,” 2007). It is ironic that the man slated to lead one of the world’s premier embryonic stem-cell research centers, is highly doubtful of the possibility of his accomplishing one of the center’s primary objectives.

Evidently, Trounson’s own research suggests what Kelly Hollowell observed:

The best sources of stem cells are (1) from our own organs—termed adult stem cells or tissue stem cells; (2) cord blood (the small amount of blood left in an umbilical cord after it is detached from a newborn); (3) bone marrow stem cells which have been demonstrated to make more than blood but also bone, muscle, cartilage, heart tissue, liver, and even brain cells; (4) and neuronal stem cells which can be stimulated to make more neurons, or to take up different job descriptions as muscle and blood.

Bone marrow and cord blood are already successfully being used clinically, while clinical use of embryonic stem cells is years away. Current clinical applications of adult stem cells include treatments for cancer, arthritis, lupus and making new corneas, to name a few (2001, emp. added).

How sad that many scientists adhere to the technological imperative that we should do whatever we are capable of doing. Any procedure that results in the death of embryos—regardless of the potential for a perceived good—is unethical and unbiblical (Proverbs 6:16-17; see Thompson and Harrub).

REFERENCES

“Australian Appointed Head of California Stem Cell Institute” (2007), BioEdge, [On-line], URL: http://www.australasianbioethics.org/Newsletters/266-2007-09-19.html.

“California Institute for Regenerative Medicine” (2007), [On-line], URL: http://www.cirm.ca.gov/.

Engel, Mary (2007), “Stem Cell Pioneer to Lead State’s Institute,” [On-line], URL: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-stemcell15 sep15,1,1296150.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california.

Hollowell, Kelly J. (2001), “Nobel Laureates Letter to President Bush Contains Misinformation and Omissions,” The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, [On-line], URL: http://www.cbhd.org/resources/stemcells/hollowell_2001-03-02.htm.

“Professor Alan Trounson” (2007), Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development, [On-line], URL: http://www.med.monash.edu.au/eprb/staff/trounson.html.

“Renowned Scientist to Lead California Stem Cell Institute” (2007), California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, [On-line], URL: http://www.cirm.ca.gov/press/pdf/2007/09-14-07.pdf.

Thompson, Bert and Brad Harrub (2001), “Human Cloning and Stem-Cell Research—Science’s Slippery Slope” [Parts I, II, & III],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2877.




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