Thursday, July 16. 2015
It has been several years since the height of the stem-cell controversy, where every day debate raged over the destruction of embryos for embryonic stem cells. These human embryos, conceived in a lab by the hundreds of thousands, are only days old but hold inside a mass of stem cells that scientists told us held the key to regenerative medicine.
These little lives, no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence, were deemed disposable, easily sacrificed to advance medical treatments for everything from paralysis to Parkinson’s.
In the great stem-cells wars, we learned that embryonic stem cells are immature and unwieldy, causing tumors in animal models. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are more stable — and therefore safer for treating patients. As the years have passed, we have heard more and more about adult stem-cell successes and less and less about the failure of embryonic stem cells to become the cure-all many promised.
But the stem-cell wars are far from over. There is a third designation of stem cells that is little known but is gaining momentum: the fetal stem cell. Human beings are called embryos for the first eight weeks after fertilization. After that, we enter the fetal stage, which is from nine weeks post-fertilization until birth. Fetal stem cells are stem cells harvested during the fetal stage of development.
Fetal stem cells, often procured from elective abortions, are disingenuously classified as “adult” stem cells simply because they do not come from embryos. Needless to say, this creates great confusion, even causing pro-lifers to tout “adult” stem-cell successes when the stem cells originally came from an aborted fetus.
Hockey legend Gordie Howe was in the headlines this year for his remarkable recovery from a stroke after a stem-cell treatment in Tijuana, Mexico. Former San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback John Brodie also received the same treatment. Initially, the reports indicated that Howe and Brodie were treated with “adult” stem cells. Pro-life news feeds lit up with the news.
But enterprising USA Today sports reporter Brent Schrotenboer revealed last month that the treatment Howe and Brodie received from Stemedica Cell Technologies included stem cells derived from an aborted fetus.
Continue reading at the National Catholic Register>>
Monday, June 22. 2015
Hockey legend Gordie Howe was in the headlines this year for his remarkable recovery from a stroke after a stem cell treatment in Tijuana, Mexico. Initially the reports indicated that Howe was treated with "adult" stem cells, and so the implication was that his treatment was non-controversial. But Brent Schrotenboer, of USA Today, reported last month that Howe's treatment included stem cells derived from an aborted fetus.
Stemedica, a San Diego company that provides the stem cell treatment to clinics like the one in Mexico, combines two types of stem cells -- meshenchymal stem cells from an adult donor and neural stem cells from a 14 to 16 week old aborted fetus. Stemedica claims that fetal stem cells are "adult" stem cells because they behave more like true adult stem cells than embryonic stem cells. USA Today reports:
The company, Stemedica Cell Technologies of San Diego, says calling them "adult" stem cells is scientifically correct because they are considered more mature stem cells with a specialized function, as opposed to embryonic stem cells, which are more akin to "blank slate" cells that are considered riskier and more likely to cause tumors....Unfortunately, this is not new. Scientists and companies like Stemedica often call stem cells that come from aborted fetuses "adult" stem cells simply because they did not come from an embryo.
Stemedica's silence on where they got their stem cells has caused great confusion. Confusion they are not eager to correct,
Continue reading at LifeNews>>
Friday, August 15. 2014
You have no doubt seen a video of a friend on Facebook being doused with buckets of ice water. What would possess a human being to do something so chilling? It is the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often called Lou Gehrig's Disease. ALS is a devastating, progressive neurodegenerative disease that is fatal and has no cure.
Here is how Ice Bucket Challenge works. People video themselves getting doused with ice water then share that video on social media. They challenge others to do the same in the next 24 hours. If anyone rejects the challenge they are encouraged to give $100 to an ALS charity.
Bringing money and awareness to ALS is a noble goal indeed. The Ice Bucket Challenge seems like a silly stunt, but it is working. It has gone viral, and money is pouring in to ALS charities. Celebrities, politicians, and everyday people are getting cold and wet to help those with this devastating disease
The ALS Association, the "preeminent ALS organization", reports that they have taken in over $4 million this year; four times what was donated last year.
But not all ALS charities are the same. For example the ALS Association reported that that last year they gave $500,000 to Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS), the largest association of ALS clinical researchers in the world. Likely, the ALS Association will give more to NEALS this year with the popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
NEALS helps run clinical trials for ALS. On their website, they say that a "NEALS-affliated" trial is one where the "sponsor of the trial has contracted NEALS Coordinating Centers to help conduct the trial. A sponsor may contract NEALS to manage an entire trial or just a portion of the work."
I found a NEALS-affliated active trial on their website that clearly states it uses stem cells that originated from an electively aborted fetus. The trial is being funded by NeuralStem Inc. and the description states:
These stem cells have been engineered from the spinal cord of a single fetus electively aborted after eight weeks of gestation. The tissue was obtained with the mother's consent.Of course the fetus, from whom the "tissue" was taken, did not "give consent."
So if you give to the ALS Association your money may end up supporting clinical trials that use aborted fetal cells. Even if the money is not directly going to facilitate such research, it will be going to organizations that see no problem in using aborted innocents as biological material for medical use. That legitimizes and encourages the practice which is unacceptable in my estimation.
So who can you give your Ice Bucket Challenge money to? I know of one charity that is not focused on funding the research, but on making the lives of those with ALS better through technology and on raising awareness for the disease. Team Gleason, founded by former NFL player and ALS patient, Steve Gleason, has the following mission:
• Help provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries with leading edge technology, equipment and services.No one is ever certain where every penny of their charity dollars go, but I think Team Gleason is a better choice, just in case you are challenged and an ice bath is not for you!
Thursday, July 26. 2012
In the comments section of yesterday's Russian news report that 248 human fetuses aged 12 weeks gestation were found discarded in the Ural mountains, suspected of being used to harvest stem cells, one Russian reader was horrified enough to write, "Oh my God !! Not in Russia !! I thought these things only happen in the USA !!"
As a proud American, my knee-jerk response was to be defensive and wonder where in the U.S. are the aborted unborn routinely found discarded by the side of the road. Nowhere, of course. So why, in the United States, would we be expected to have such a gruesome find?
And then I remembered I have been the one screaming about the Brave New United States for years. Good ol America. The country with "reproductive rights" instead of laws prohibiting the mass creation and destruction of embryos for research, or laws regulating the fertility industry, or laws outlawing sex-selective abortion, or laws prohibiting human germ-line genetic modifications, or even laws that outlaw human cloning. While other industrialized nations have some protections in place for the youngest and most innocent human lives, we are a shining example of callous disregard for the unborn.
We are even proud of our research using cells from the bodies of aborted innocents, as I was reminded by this report from Massachusetts's Institute of Technology's (MIT) Technology Review. It is a glowing review of a California company that would like to start human trials for Alzheimer's using neural stem cells obtained from aborted fetal tissue:
Last week, a California biotech company announced that its human stem cells restored memory in rodents bred to have an Alzheimer's-like condition—the first evidence that human neural stem cells can improve memory.Well isn't that special. It seems, according to MIT's Technology Review, there is no controversy using stem cells from unborn babies ripped from their mother's womb. No big deal. Routine business. Nothing to see here. Move on.
While still off base, I think I understand that Russian comment a bit better now.
I wonder if StemCells gets FDA approval for such a trial whether they will ensure that the participants are well informed about where the "stem-cell product" originated. It really is time for The Fair Labeling and Informed Consent Act that will ensure that patients and consumers are informed before any treatment or procedure that contains aborted fetal tissue or where aborted fetal tissue is used in the manufacturing or development of a product.
Wednesday, July 25. 2012
If there were not gruesome pictures that go along with this story, I may have doubted its veracity. It is just too horrible. A Russian news outlet is reporting that 248 human fetuses aged 12 weeks gestation were found discarded in the Ural mountains. Speculation is that these little lives were victims of legal (and illegal) abortion and possibly slated to be used in research or harvested for valuable fetal stem cells. From RT.com: (Warning graphic photos)
Medical experts and investigators are pondering the origins of more than 200 human fetuses found disposed in the Urals. Speculation ranges from illegal abortions to illegal stem-cell research.I have said it many times. We abandon the human embryo at our own peril. Once we see one segment of our species as harvestable biological material, more and more of us start looking like meat for harvest as well. It doesn't matter if stem cells or research was the intended use for these innocent lives or not. It is telling that so many are speculating that it was. Culture of death indeed.
Wednesday, May 16. 2012
Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, is on the rise. There is a outbreak right now in Washington State. From MedPageToday.com:
Pertussis infections have reached epidemic proportions in the state of Washington, officials there said, with more than 10 times as many cases this year as were counted by early May in 2011.Pertussis is nasty. It causes violent and uncontrollable coughing. In infants it can be deadly. Vaccinations for pertussis do not start until age 2 months and take several subsequent vaccinations to build immunity, so if you have an infant, make sure everyone around him or her has been vaccinated.
Make sure your children are up to date on their pertussis vaccinations AND make sure that your teenager or young adult in your life has HAD A BOOSTER!!! It is this group that is vulnerable because their immunity has waned. Also pregnant women in their third trimester should also have a booster. Here is the info from the CDC. (DTaP is for children and Tdap is for adolescents and adults):
Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis VaccinesI know that some of you are worried that DTaP or Tdap are part of the set of vaccines that are grown in aborted fetal cells. They are not. There is one combined vaccine that you should avoid though. According to Children of God for Life, Pentacel by Sanofi Pasteur is a combined shot for DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), polio and HiB. The polio portion is made in MRC-5, a cell line derived from an aborted fetus. Instead ask for Glaxo SmithKline's Pediarix which is a combined vaccine for DTaP, polio and hepatitis-B but does not used MRC-5 cell line in its manufacture.
Thursday, January 12. 2012
Long time readers of Mary Meets Dolly know that I have suffered from depression my whole adult life. Symptoms of depression and anxiety run in my family. So any story about new treatments for depression always catch my eye. But this one caught my eye for another reason. One of the indications of depression is a reduced hippocampus, a part of the brain that controls, among other things, memory and spatial navigation. Scientists have found a drug that increases the size of the hippocampus and they hope that this will not only treat depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's but cure them. From Gizmodo:
If you are depressed, or schizophrenic or have Alzheimer's, scientists say you probably have a shrunken hippocampus. The good news: a drug that just entered human trials promises to re-grow that part of the brain.
They discovered this drug by testing several on Neuralstem's neural stem cell line and seeing which promoted cell growth. Then they tested the most promising one in animals and now NSI-189 is being tested in humans for effectiveness at treating depression.
The researchers used a line of neural stem cells developed by Neuralstem Inc., a closely held biotechnology company based in Rockville, Maryland. The company developed the line from fetal tissue donated by a woman who underwent an elective abortion at 8 weeks.So the question is, would it be ethical to take this drug for depression if it becomes an FDA approved treatment? The manufacture of the drug itself does not require aborted fetal tissue. It was only discovered and developed using cells that look to be obtained from an elective abortion.
I think this situation may be analogous to that of vaccines. Many vaccines are created with cell lines that originated from an aborted fetus. Cell lines MRC-5 and WI-38 are common cell lines used to produce vaccines for rubella, polio, hepatitis A and chicken pox. MRC-5 was developed from lung cells from a 14-week-old male fetus that was electively aborted in 1966. The WI-38 line was derived from a female fetus that was aborted in 1964.
Many people often argue that using fetal cells from an aborted fetus is morally acceptable because the fetus was going to die anyway. The Catholic Church rejects this argument. If an organism must be intentionally destroyed to harvest cells, then the cells are morally tainted. If these fetal stem cells had come from a natural miscarriage, then it would be morally permissible for parents to donate these cells to research. The morality of fetal cell use is analogous to that of organ donation. If the patient died of natural causes or a traumatic event, then is is morally permissible to use their organs for the benefit of others. It is not morally permissible to intentionally and prematurely end a person's life and then take their organs for donation. Using fetal stem cells from aborted fetuses is analogous to using organs from death row inmates or victims of euthanasia.
I have written before that it is acceptable for pro-life parents to use these vaccines for their children as long as parents do their homework, request alternatives and voice their objections to health care providers if no alternatives are available. Companies will not change their practices if there are no complaints against their practices.
Which brings me to what truly bothers me about this drug and what Neuralstem, and others like Senomyx, a biotech company that uses aborted fetal cell lines to taste flavor enhancers, are doing. There is no mention anywhere on Neuralstem's website, as far as I could see, that lets the consumer know where they got the cells for their stem cell line. It could be they no longer use that cell line but I found no information to the contrary. Their recently published articles refer to their neural stem cell lines as "fetal" and "embryonic." How are consumers supposed to object if they do not even know there is something to object to?
I fear this is the future. Well meaning pro-lifers using drugs and other medical breakthroughs with no knowledge of the unethical practices that brought them to market. This is another disastrous legacy of Roe vs. Wade. A fetus is now considered no more than just tissue and therefore companies do not feel obligated to let patients know that their product was made possible by ripping a fetus from its mother's womb. These companies could have used cells from a natural miscarriage but instead they chose to morally taint their work by using the cells from the taking of an innocent life. And thanks to the false notion of "reproductive rights" now they do not feel obliged to disclose this very important fact. A fact that would matter greatly to a great many people. If only we knew about it.
Wednesday, February 10. 2010
I have written before about ReNeuron, a UK company that is built around the neural stem cells taken from an aborted fetus. ReNeuron has gotten approval to begin a trial treating stroke patients with these stem cells. Once again the financial sector has the story and the true source of the stem cells, which is usually absent in mainstream media reports. From the Financial Times:
The FDA put ReNeuron's application for clinical trials in the United States on hold in 2007.
Monday, January 25. 2010
Do not be fooled. Fetal stem cells are donated by a woman after an elective abortion. In other words, to get fetal stem cells, a fetus must die. This article about the direct injection of fetal stem cells into the spinal cord of a patient with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a perfect example of how the media often gloss over this fact:
The company that has received FDA approval for this trial is Neuralstem Inc. Their website does not announce where they got their fetal stem cells. They could have gotten them from a miscarriage which would have been an ethical source. The above article also does not mention where the fetal stem cells came from. But a short search brought me to the answer. This press release (taken from Bloomberg.com) clearly states where Neuralstem Inc. got its fetal neural stem cells:
Of course the original article about the ALS trial never mentions that the fetal stem cells came from a fetus ripped out of its mother's womb:
It is implied that because these cells do not come from embryos, they are non-controversial. I suppose if you fail to mention that these cells came from an aborted fetus, they fail to stir up controversy. Convenient.
The source of the stem cells is not the only reason to be concerned about this trial. A year ago, it was announced that a boy injected with fetal stem cells developed a brain tumor. From the AP:
Many people often argue that using fetal stem cells from an aborted fetus is morally acceptable because the fetus was going to die anyway. The Catholic Church rejects this argument. If an organism must be intentionally destroyed to harvest cells, then the cells are morally tainted. If these fetal stem cells had come from a natural miscarriage, then it would be morally permissible, even laudable, for parents to donate these cells to research. The morality of fetal stem cell use is analogous to that of organ donation. If the patient died of natural causes or a traumatic event, then is is morally permissible to use their organs for the benefit of others. It is not morally permissible to intentionally and prematurely end a person's life and then take their organs for donation. Using fetal stem cells from aborted fetuses is analogous to using organs from death row inmates or victims of euthanasia.
This ALS trial is one to watch. I pray that researchers come up with a better and safer way to treat ALS than the use of fetal stem cells.
Tuesday, March 17. 2009
I am beginning to love William Saletan. I know...I know, he is pro-choice. But I cannot help but like people who are intellectually honest and can see the writing on the wall.
I have said that we abandon the embryo at our own peril. Which means if we allow the embryo, a member of the human species, to be gutted for harvestable biological material, then all of a sudden other members of our species begin to look like that as well. The "they are going to die anyway" argument is particularly insidious because it sounds so reasonable. But the slippery slope is treacherous. Death row inmates are going to die anyway, why not put their organs to good use like the Chinese? What about those in a persistent vegetative state? Why not use the organs from aborted fetuses? They are going to die anyway right? That is the suggestion of a stem cell scientist in Britain.
William Saletan sees. His post Drill Babies, Drill: If harvesting embryos is OK, how about fetuses? is spot on. He notes:
Do I think it is any coincidence that some lawmakers are suggesting commuting sentences for prisoners who consent to be live organ donors? Or that the AMA wants to look at paying people for their organs? Or that it is being proposed that your organ donor sticker on your driver's license supersede any other advanced medical directive or instructions you may have in place?
We are all going to "die anyway." Are your organs being wasted in your body? Or do you still think this is just about "left-over" embryos?
Friday, February 20. 2009
I know I am a little late commenting on this story but I wanted to point out a couple of important issues. From the AP story:
These stem cell were fetal stem cells. Yes that is right, stem cells taken from fetuses that were likely victims of elective abortion. Some researchers have said that stem cells from late-term abortions are the best. If fetal stem cells can cause uncontrolled growth, then there are major concerns about Geron's upcoming human trial with embryonic stem cells. Wesley J. Smith voiced my concerns perfectly:
This boy's family was desperate to find him a cure and had him injected with stem cells from fetuses and years later there are serious consequences. Somewhere out there today are 10 people who will be desperate to walk again. If they join this trial there maybe lifelong consequences for them as well. I truly pray for them and their families.
Friday, August 24. 2007
Some people may think I am crazy to think this "destroying human life to harvest stem cells" trend will go that far. Unfortunately, it probably already has gone this far and possibly farther. It is time to see the writing on the wall.
Wesley J. Smith has read between the lines and has a great entry on monkey fetal farming:
Thursday, February 22. 2007
"Hope for Daniel" is a piece by the Mercury News about a boy names Daniel who is being treated for Batten disease with "adult stem cells." Unfortunately, Batten disease is fatal.
I think I have yet to see a piece so fraught with contradictions. On one hand, it portrays advances in adult stem cells in a very favorable light and points out the bad rap adult stem cell research gets. On the other hand, it includes stem cells from aborted babies under the "adult stem cell" umbrella.
Let us start with the positive aspects. Here are some great quotes about adult stem cell research:
Here is where I have trouble. Fetal stem cells come from fetuses, usually after 10 week gestation. They can come from miscarriage or election abortion. So, in the archaic definition of "adult stem cells" as stem cells from sources other than an embryo, technically fetal stem cells are adult stem cells. As the Mercury News article points out, Daniel has been treated with stem cells from abortions:
Clearly, the problem is that many of us that object to destroying embryos to get at their stem cells would also object to using abort babies as harvestable biological material. By clumping fetal stem cells with adult stem cells, most of us will no doubt be deceived.
The Catholic Church would only condone the use of fetal stem cells if they came from a miscarriage and donated with consent by the parents, much like in the organ donation of a deceased child.
Daniel is improving with the fetal stem cell treatment:
I fear there is a market for aborted babies, and not just for eggs either. I have said many times that fetal stem cells are valuable, not only because they are more stable than embryonic stem cells, which means they don't cause tumor formation, but because they are already differentiated into the cell type of choice.
I am particularly disturbed by the following sentiment from Daniel's parents:
I pray for Daniel and sympathize with his parents, but I certainly do not agree that anything goes if it has the "slightest possibility of helping a child."
The moral of this story: read carefully. Just because the article says adult stem cells doesn't necessarily mean that they come from an ethical source.
Tuesday, December 12. 2006
I pray with every ounce of my being that this is not true. From the BBC:
Hat Tip: Wesley J. Smith
Monday, November 20. 2006
Why am I disappointed? First because, ReNeuron uses aborted fetuses as a source of neural stem cells. From ReNeuron's website:
From an interview with ReNeuron Managing Director Martin Edwards (Thanks Steven!):
Second, because I use Millipore products everyday in my lab. While I am sure I couldn't replace everything from Millipore in my lab, I think it might be time to look for some alternate vendors.
Sunday, October 15. 2006
All of the fervor over embryonic stem cells often overlooks the procurement of the more desirable pluripotent stem cell, the ones from fetuses. Now, it is possible to get fetal stem cells from miscarriage which would be ethical. But most likely, fetal stem cells come from aborted fetuses.
And while embryonic stem cells that are procured by destryoing embryos are not available for federal funding in the United States, there is no such restriction for research on stem cells from fetuses.
And there is money to be made off the little bodies of aborted babies. From MSN Money:
Hat tip: Bioethics.com
Friday, October 6. 2006
From an excellent discussion of the ethics of embryonic stem cell research at Vision.org:
Update: Dr. Mehmet's research on fetal mesenchymal stem cells as potential therapy for newborn brain injury.
Friday, September 8. 2006
I love Faithmouse. I can honestly say that I look forward to reading Dan Lacey's blog everyday. I have never posted a Faithmouse cartoon before because they usually do not pertain to biotechnology. But, as today is a day for firsts, here is Lacey's cartoon depicting the recent practice of using stem cells from aborted babies for beauty treatments. (The aborted baby part starts half-way through the article.)
Monday, April 3. 2006
I have been reading more and more about fetal stem cells lately. Here is an example from Genetic Engineering News:
Often fetal stem cells are presented as an acceptable alternative to embryonic stem cells (ES), and also available for federal funding:
Also from a Fox News story about a clinical trial in Oregon using fetal stem cells to treat Batten disease in children:
Not surprisingly, most stories on fetal stem cells fail to mention where the fetal tissue comes from. So what exactly are fetal stem cells and where do they come from? Well, read here and here and then come back and I will comment.
(I am so impressed with the Dept. of Molecular Biology at Princeton who did the above web pages as well as a great tutorial on SCNT because they haven't succumbed to the political pressure to use deceptive euphemisms instead of the scientifically correct terminology. Let's see if they stay that way!)
Now that we know how researchers obtain fetal stem cells (in case you missed it or are "click-challenged", fetal stem cells usually come from aborted babies), why are researchers looking at them as a source of pluripotent stem cells? From William Saletan's Organ Factory:
Saletan's point is that fetal stem cells are more desirable than embryonic stem cells because they are more differentiated so they do not cause tumors. One of the major hurdles with ESCs is that researchers need to get them to differentiate into the tissue of interest in a petri dish. Saletan's asks why not let the fetus do it for them? If we allow the destruction of embryos for tissue, why stop there? Why not use fetuses too? He asks:
So is research on fetal stem cells unethical? Well, like with embryonic stem cells, it depends on how the stem cells are obtained. Using aborted babies for a source of stem cells is not only repugnant but also highly unethical.
Some would say, "Well if they are going to be aborted anyway, why not put the tissue to good use?" I say, "Why stop at stem cells? Why not use aborted babies as a source of organs or eggs for IVF and cloning, or as health food?"
The slippery slope here is staggering. Aborting babies by the millions in the name of choice is sickening, but creating a market for aborted baby tissue is terrifying not just for the babies but for the women who will be used as incubators, then put through the horrors of abortion for the "greater good of society."
That being said, is there an ethical way to obtain fetal stem cells? Absolutely. Just as we find organ donation as an acceptable way to obtain life saving organs, obtaining fetal stem cells from miscarriages would be ethical. But, donated miscarried babies are not as abundant as aborted babies; so I doubt miscarriages will be the "source of choice."
I predict fetal stem cells will be a more and more prominent feature in stories on stem cell successes, but I am sure the media and companies that profit from aborted babies will still fail to mention exactly where the fetal tissue comes from.
Tuesday, January 24. 2006
A UK company called ReNeuron is using fetal stem cells which they hope will treat diseases like Parkinsons, Huntingtons and diabetes. They explain why they have chosen to use fetal stem cells:
See the lovely diagram from their website? I think some thing may be missing. Could it be the aborted fetus from which they extracted their tissue. Of course ReNeuron does not mention where they get their fetal tissue and I don't want to accuse them of anything without proof, so I have writtten them to ask where they get their fetal tissue. Let's see what they say...
(Page 1 of 1, totaling 20 entries)
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