Thursday, June 28. 2012
This is so typical of the media. The Vancouver Sun is reporting that, for the first time EVER, Type I diabetes in MICE has been reversed...with embryonic stem cells that is:
VANCOUVER -- For the first time ever, University of B.C. scientists have used human embryonic stem cell transplants to reverse Type 1 diabetes in mice with the disease, giving hope to about 300 million people around the world who suffer from the chronic disease.Sounds fantastic right? Embryonic stem cells cured Type I, also called Juvenile, diabetes in mice. Hooray!
Except five years ago the Journal of the American Medical Association reported on a study where much the same was accomplished in HUMANS using a different approach and the the patient's own adult stem cells. This small Brazilian trial did not get much press in the United States, but U.S. Representative Dr. Dave Weldon tried to get the word out with this press release at the time:
WASHINGTON, April 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In yet another advance in adult stem cell therapy, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) today released a study in which 14 of 15 Juvenile Diabetes patients demonstrated significant improvement as a result of an adult stem cell treatment. According to U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, M.D. (R-FL), the study is significant in that it's the first attempt at using stem cells of any kind to reverse the effects of Type I diabetes in humans.But the embryonic stem cells in mice HAVE to be better right? Because the media says they are the BEST right?
Well let's see. If you read more carefully, the Vancouver Sun article reveals some interesting facts: 1. some mice were found to have cartilage and bone growing where the embryonic stem cells (ESCs) were injected and 2. the mice were designed to be unable to reject the ESCs that naturally come from another organism. Both are major obstacles to human trials:
Although the research showed that stem cells may one day provide a cure for diabetes, it also revealed hurdles to overcome before agencies like the Food and Drug Administration in the United States or Health Canada can approve the therapy.So once again, likely issues with rejection and strange tissue formation. At least the article mentioned it. But where was the mention of the above study in HUMANS with a patient's own adult stem cells, meaning no rejection and no weird tissue formation? Maybe the reporter didn't know about it. My question then is: why didn't she?
Well, I guess we have learned we cannot expect balanced reporting when it comes to stem cells. That would allow for the masses to actually be educated on the issue and that would be bad. (Because then we might ask our favorite charity, like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, why they gave $2 million to adult stem cell research and $4.9 million to embryonic stem cell research in the same year.)
And with accurate reporting you wouldn't end up with such great bigoted comments like this one:
All those against stem cell research should be banned from getting any treatment derived from it. But we all know they will be first in line. Once again, religion holding back progress.
Wednesday, June 27. 2012
I was not going to write about this new development in prenatal genetic testing for a couple of reasons. First because I have written about this technology that allows a peek into the womb from a maternal blood sample before. And second because I feel I have said what I am going to say so many times that I feel some poor dead horse somewhere will get an unnecessary beating.
I am sure you have seen the news already. Scientists at the University of Washington have put together the entire genome of an unborn baby using only a maternal blood sample, with minute fragments of fetal DNA, and a paternal saliva sample. From DiscoveryNews:
In a development scientists are calling a "tour de force," researchers have reconstructed the genome of a fetus using DNA samples from the parents....
I feel compelled to write about this I am seeing the pro-life side once again slide into the rhetoric of how awful this technique is. It will naturally lead to more abortions and therefore is inherently evil.
Tuesday, June 26. 2012
While the country breathlessly waits for the Supreme Court to decide on Obamacare, there is another court battle to keep an eye on. While this battle is not as critical as the one on our health care system, it is important for the health of anyone with DNA.
For decades the U.S. Patent Office has been issuing patents for naturally occurring genes. Many people are not aware that about 25% of all human genes are patented. This means that a company or university owns the genetic code that makes up that gene. They own the sequence of genes that you have and use in your body everyday and once your DNA is isolated from your body, they "own" your genes.
Gene patenting affects you directly whether you know it or not.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Monday, June 25. 2012
Do you remember Saturday Night Live's Pat, the androgynous character played by Julia Sweeney? Sketch after sketch, the cast of SNL ask a barrage of questions trying to figure out of Pat is a boy or a girl. The assumption is that Pat is either male or female and hilarity ensues when anyone tries catch a clue as to which Pat is. The segments were called "It's Pat!"
It is Pat. "It" is the pronoun used because, even though Pat is either a man or woman, we don't have any clue to which is correct.
It seems that, in the English language, this is the conventional pronoun usage for any human being that we know has a gender, we just don't know what that gender is...yet.
I am envisioning the endless "It's a girl!" balloons and "It's a boy!" napkins at my local party supply store. Lately, I am asking myself why not "She's a girl!" and "He's a boy!"?
This conventional language usage is as unfortunate as it is inaccurate, because "it" is a pronoun more commonly used used for things that are not human.
Which is why I think "it" is a pronoun that should not be applied to the unborn, either fetuses in their mother's womb or embryos in the IVF clinic. Even the earliest embryos are either male, having a Y chromosome, or female, lacking a Y chromosome. So why do we use "it" and "its" when we refer to them and their qualities? Why not use "he or she" and "his or hers"?
I have referred to an embryo as an "it" before, as have many other pro-lifers. I vow to strive to never do so again.
After all, embryos and fetuses are not "it"s. They are either a he or a she. Just because we don't know which does not mean they are any less human.
With a $5 million gift from alumni Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher, Notre Dame is ramping up its adult stem cell research. From Phys.org:
Alumnus Michael Gallagher and his wife, Elizabeth, have made a $5 million gift to establish the Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher Family Professorships in Adult Stem Cell Research at the University of Notre Dame.See no matter how many times advocates, politicians and the media repeat that the Catholic Church is against stem cell research it will not make it true. The Catholic Church is and always has been for stem cell research, the ethical kind whether little human organisms are not ripped apart for their harvestable biological material.
Continue Reading at LifeNews >>
Thursday, June 14. 2012
A British ethics committee has recommended going forward with creating human embryos with 3 genetic parents. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent body that considers issues in biotechnology and medicine, has found the genetic engineering technique is ethical and should move forward even though the technique is currently against the law in the United Kingdom.
Why would doctors want to engineer an embryo with the genetic material from 3 people? Because, it will “prevent” the inheritance of mitochondrial disease. Not all of our DNA that we inherit is in the nuclei of the egg and sperm that join at fertilization. In the cytoplasm of our mother’s egg are mitochondria. Mitochondria have their own DNA called mtDNA. We inherit our mtDNA only from our mother because sperm’s mitochondria are dumped at conception. There are genetic mutations that cause very serious disease found in mtDNA and a woman with a such a mutation cannot help but pass this mutation on to her children.
This is where the three parent embryos come in.
There are two different ways to approach the making of a embryo with 3 genetic parents. In the first method, called pronuclear transfer, doctors would take the nucleus out of an embryo that had a mutation in his or her mtDNA and put it into an embryo whose mtDNA was normal, after removing the nucleus of that embryo of course. (For an illustration of this method click here.) The alternative method, called maternal spindle transfer, would be to remove the nucleus of an egg from a woman with mitochondrial disease, place it into a donor egg with normal mtDNA (after the nucleus of that egg was removed) and then fertilize the engineered egg with sperm. (The Nuffield Council has a description and current state of research for both pronuclear transfer and maternal spindle transfer.) In either technique, the result is an embryo with the nuclear DNA from its mother and father and the mtDNA from another woman.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has determined that either technique would be ethical. The problem is that this kind of genetic engineering would be inherited not just by the child produced, but also by every generation after.
Continue Reading at LifeNews.com >>
Wednesday, June 13. 2012
The first gay couple in the UK to be recognized as parents on a birth certificate have come to America to ensure they have a girl. Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow went to a U.S. IVF clinic and have hired a surrogate mother at the cost of £65,000 to "balance" their family with another girl. They have to travel to the Brave New United States because, like in most sensible countries, the sex selection is illegal in the UK. From The Daily Mail:
Personally, I think dressing your kids in lederhosen and a dirndl to recreate the Von Trapps in a family photo might just be considered child abuse.
Continue reading at Creative Minority >>
Tuesday, June 12. 2012
The Church has always rejected surrogacy and for very good reason. It objectifies both the woman whose womb has been rented and the child for whom a contract has been made for delivery. Nowhere is this arrangement more exploitive than when rich westerners go to places like India and get a uterus on the cheap. Not only are the embryos sometimes shipped by FedEx overseas to be transferred to a woman the parents have never actually met, but the dangers to the surrogate are substantial. Because she is usually poor and "working" to help support her family by renting out her body, the contract she signs often places the health and well-being of the child above her own, something that would not happen with a Western surrogate.
The media often portray international surrogacy as a win-win for all involved and as empowering poor women. Those who have researched the practice know this is not the case. (I recommend Scott Carney's Red Market:On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers for a look into surrogacy and other body markets.) Finally someone is making sense regarding the need to protect poor women who are surrogates. Kishwar Desai writes in The Guardian:
India's surrogate mothers are risking their lives. They urgently need protectionOf course the rich westerners rationalize all day long about how using these poor women to get the child they so desperately want is OK. This exchange between Megan, a woman who used an Indian surrogate and a donor egg to have a child of her choosing (I mean why not adopt? Seriously.) and Wesley J. Smith who argued that commercial surrogacy should be outlawed is a perfect example:
Friday, June 8. 2012
When I talk to my fellow Americans about biotechnology, they have this idea that all the bad stuff will happen in places like China and that the horrors of Huxley's Brave New World will never happen here. Cloning, human genetic engineering and the like will happen somewhere else, but not in the good ol' USA.
Unfortunately we Americans are woefully ignorant about biotechnology and the laws that govern emerging technologies in other countries. Essentially, that other countries have laws and we don't.
Why not? We have Roe v. Wade. I am no constitutional scholar, but I can see the writing on the wall. See Roe v. Wade is not simply about abortion. Thanks to the landmark decision we think we have rights found in our Constitution that aren't actually in there: "reproductive rights." A right to reproduce or not. Which means a right to have a child or not. Which means children are a right, not a gift. I doubt the framers of our Constitution thought there was such a right, otherwise it would have been included, specifically. The Declaration of Independence does not say that part of our inalienable rights are, "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.... oh! and a child when we want, however we want, and one of our choosing."
The legacy of Roe means that anytime any federal legislation is proposed that would address the ethical implications surrounding new technologies like prenatal testing, IVF, cloning or genetic engineering, it will fail to pass (or will be struck down in court) because somewhere, somehow, someone's "reproductive rights" might be affected.
Continue Reading at Creative Minorty >>
Dr. Jérôme Lejeune was a remarkable man. He was the geneticist who discovered the cause of Down Syndrome and his was a devout Catholic. Dr. Lejeune was appalled at the way his discovery was being used in a prenatal seek-and-destroy mission against those with Down Syndrome. My father met Jérôme Lejeune and spoke with him for a couple of hours. Read my father's touching recollections here.
Dr. Lejeune died in 1994, but his tireless work for those with Down Syndrome continues on in the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation USA whose goal is to "help researchers find a therapeutic treatment that will improve the intellectual abilities of persons who have Trisomy 21."
Two brothers are embarking on a grueling coast-to-coast bike ride to support this worthy foundation. From the press release:
TWO BROTHERS RIDE FROM COAST TO COAST TO SUPPORT THE JEROME LEJEUNE FOUNDATION, USA.Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Thursday, June 7. 2012
More proof that the Church is not anti-science. It is anti-unethical science. From Reuters:
A new collaboration has begun between the largest European family adult stem cell bank, Cryo-Save, and Europe's most important Catholic university, "Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore" (UCSC). Policlinico "Gemelli" University Hospital based in Rome, Italy, is part of the UCSC Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and is owned by the Vatican. The partnership aims at promoting and improving knowledge on the cryopreservation of mesenchymal stem cells from the umbilical cord tissue. Both parties strongly believe in the potential of their use.
Wednesday, June 6. 2012
I have realized what separates the progressive way of solving humanity's problems and the right way. Poverty, disease, pain, disability, unintended pregnancy: all issues we have to deal with in this life. The right way acknowledges that man's problems are just that: of man. Humans are the owner and the problems belong to us. They are ours to solve. The right way to deal with these issues sees that every human life is valuable and that to address our problems we start there: intrinsic value of human life.
The progressive way is to equate the problem with the person, then get rid of the person and call it good.
Crisis pregnancy? Don't support adoption to a loving family, instead kill the fetus.
Genetic disease? Don't find a cure, instead find a way to detect the problem earlier, and then kill the fetus or throw away the embryo. (And call that a cure.)
Disability? Don't affirm and support the disabled, instead deny them treatment or food and fluids so they die. (Because no one would want to live that way after all.)
Pain and discomfort with terminal disease? Don't find a better way to treat the pain, depression or discomfort, instead kill the patient with a lethal dose of drugs.
Widespread poverty? Don't stabilize governments and institute policies for economic success, instead push "population control" complete with forced contraception, forced sterilization and forced abortion.
A great piece on eugenics in The Guardian from February, reminded me of this progressive way of dealing with humanity's problems. When discussing the eugenic assertion that poverty was an inherited trait, Jonathan Freedland aptly points out the progressive mindset:
"It was not poverty that had to be reduced or even eliminated: it was the poor."The progressive has never abandoned this approach. They continue to advocate getting rid of the people with the problem instead of tackling the problem.
The progressive way is not only evil, it never works. Why? Because untimely death is not a solution. Death instead steals away any possibility of a solution. The problem remains to plague another.
Tuesday, June 5. 2012
Having a bit of writer's block this week so in the meantime, read my friend Chelsea's uplifting reflections on life in a wheelchair:
Push Girls: When You Can’t Stand Up, Stand Out
Friday, June 1. 2012
A Georgia man stepped on a piece of glass and decided to fix the injury himself...with super glue. (I use super glue to fix just about everything, but really?) Not surprisingly, it got infected. Unfortunately for him, his foot was infected with necrotizing fasciitis, more gruesomely known as flesh-eating bacteria. In an attempt to save this man's foot, a podiatrist tried an experimental procedure using stem cells from placenta. From Fox Atlanta:
DALTON, Ga. - A cutting edge procedure in the fight against flesh-eating bacteria could land a Georgia podiatrist in the history books.Awesome. Just awesome. But the last quote leaves a sour taste in my mouth. "...it's not like what they think about stem cells. It's something good."
At the height of the stem cell debates, proponents of embryonic stem cell research (advocates, media, and the like) purposefully tried to blur the line between adult and embryonic stem cells. Their intent was to piggy-back onto the successes in adult stem cells and ride them into embryonic stem cell utopia.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
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