Stem cell research
Much was made of Ron Reagan’s speech last night at the Convention. I must admit that I don’t watch political conventions, but read the speech. The speech is, at the very least, inaccurate, and I would say, misleading. Some have called it cruel and contemptible .
As it stands today, stem-cell research is legal in the USA, and is presently being funded through private companies and the National Institutes of Health, which, as you can read in this document, started being funded during the present administration
Through the President’s leadership and the extraordinary efforts of the NIH, we are making good progress in meeting the potential of this exciting new field of science- a field that had not been federally funded prior to the President’s historic address to the Nation on August 9, 2001
and the government would spend $250 million on research involving stem cells from other (non-embryonic) sources, e. g., umbilical cord, placenta, adult and animal tissues.
The prior administration had prohibited federal funding on research to support the creation of human embryos for research purposes and directed NIH not to allocate resources for such research. Currently, cloning, and the creation of human embryos solely for research purposes are prohibited; you can read more details on other limitations in the Background and Legal Issues Related to Stem Cell Research document.
A great deal of the research involves adult stem cells. There is much controversy on the use of embryonic stem cells. Many people, like myself, fully support adult stem cell research but have great misgivings on the use of any human embryonic tissue, on the use of human embryos at all, and on the ethical long-term implications.
As you can see from this last link, the research is still in its early stages and there’s much promise. It is not clear yet what the advantages are of one type of stem cell over another, much less what diseases might be cured,
Currently, it is not clear whether stem cells from adult tissues or umbilical cord blood are pluripotent. The comparison of human embryonic stem cells to adult stem cells is currently a very active area in research, and one that will hopefully lead to cures for tissue degenerative diseases in the future
however, Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs), present in the bone marrow and precursors to all blood cells, are currently the only type of stem cells commonly used for therapy.
Ron Reagan’s political speech (and political it is by definition, given its venue, in spite of his claims to the contrary) focused entirely on the subject of the role the Federal government might play in funding embryonic stem cell research. His dream for a cure for “a wide range of fatal and debilitating illnesses” is simply that, a dream. Cures might develop, but they are presently highly unlikely. What might come from the embryonic stem cells is unknown and unknowable at this time. Exploiting his parents’ fame — which is why he was at the Convention — while confusing embryonic stem cell research with HSCs (“And finally, those cells — with your DNA — are injected into your brain where they will replace the faulty cells whose failure to produce adequate dopamine led to the Parkinson’s disease in the first place“) to make a political point is unforgivable.