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One More Time

The song starts out like this, “Oh I’m goin’ down south just to see my gal singin…”
I was shocked to see that my daughter did not know the rest of the words to this song. In fact, in an independent study, financed completely by me, I have deduced that only people over 50 are relatively assured to know the rest of the words. I thought I taught my children well. I was certain that I had imparted the wisdom I had acquired through the years to my children, but evidently not. So I sit here, staring wanly out the window, singin’ “Polly Wolly Doodle all the Day.”
There was an experiment routinely performed a number of years ago that was rather cruel, but perhaps somewhat necessary, though I’m not sure. It was an experiment where monkeys, or orangutans were placed in a chair and there was a device built into the chair that simulated the sudden impact of a collision from the rear of a car, and it generally resulted in breaking vertebrae of the orangutans. Animal rights groups argued, and rightfully so, that the experiments were performed in unnecessary superfluity. Whatever data needed to be gleaned from so damaging the animal could have been gained from one or two, or even ten experiments, but the experiment did NOT NEED TO BE PERFORMED OVER AND OVER BY DIFFERENT SCHOOLS AND DIFFERENT LABS ALL OVER THE United States. The experiment was performed perhaps hundreds upon hundreds of times.
There was a court ruling this past Monday by Judge Royce Lambert, U.S. district Court, that will prohibit Federal Grant money for going to use in projects that result in the destruction of a human embryo. It appears that the Judge’s ruling will even prohibit the federal money from being used in cases where cells were from the ‘already gleaned line of cells’ that were approve by the Bush administration for continued government sponsored research. Here’s my interest in this: There are cells that have been researched to considerable extent in Europe and Asia and to some degree in the U.S. They are called IPS cells. In layman’s terms, these are basically cells derived most often from human skin cells. They show great promise in the areas of research with regard to cell regeneration, nerve and tissue repair, and all of the areas that stem cell research was hoped to show promise in. They have one great advantage over embryonic stem cells:
They are gleaned from the skin cells of the individual who needs the repair work done, thus the possibility of rejection by the body is practically zero.
Unfortunately, embryonic stem cells do not share this. Research on cell embryos, which ploughed ahead originally in Europe and Asia, was stalled here partially because of the legal wrangling over government funding and to a greater degree because private groups for some unknown reason just didn’t see fit to sufficiently fund it; ironically, this very research has caused labs in Europe and Asia to move ahead in a different direction than embryonic stem cell research. In part this was due to the revelation that even embryonic stem cells when used to repair the tissue of an individual share all of the potential for rejection that is experienced in any other sort of tissue transplant between individuals. As a result, embryonic stem cell research has been somewhat left in the dust as the dawn of new promises and brighter hopes ala IPS cells and other technologies arrive.
What is it about certain areas of Science where we have to perform the dismantling ourselves; we can’t read the studies and plethora of research that has gone before. Instead, we have to spend government money to redo what’s been done, instead of building upon the foundation that’s been painstakingly set. (Mathematicians don’t do that!) Think of how much progress we could make, if instead of starting at square one, and redoing what many others have done, we put out energies into moving ahead with new work on the amazingly promising IPS cells. Sometimes it’s just about politics. It’s about, “We won’t be told we can’t do this!” Whatever side you are on in the issue, there should be something comforting in the idea that the system our forefathers set up over two-hundred years ago, to make sure one group with a particular way of thinking didn’t completely run rough-shod over another group, still somewhat works. We’ve lived through a year and a half of untested and very expensive policies, bills and laws flying past our eyeballs. Laws, bills and braggadoccio flurried around in a storm of ,”Just a few short months and the housing market will be booming,” Just eight months and the economy will be right on track with lots of new jobs!”, and for an additional 6 years of a very liberally controlled Legilature we have heard, “Soon we’ll have all sorts of treatments from embryonic stem cell research!” Not a single one of those empty promises bore fruit. It’s nice to see someone with power and authority say, “Whoa! Slow down there! Now with whose money were you going to do this?”
Note that there is nothing to stop the private sector from funding research on embryonic stem cells. If there are people who feel very strongly that, despite the possibilities of tissue rejection, and despite more promising strides in other more positive directions embryonic stem cell research is still promising and worth putting money into, there is nothing to stop people from funding it, and supporting it through private labs and private research. It’s a matter of how deeply you believe in it. Do you believe in it when it’s your own money?

-copyright August 28th, 2010 by John P. Schumake


 




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