Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stem Cell Debate Defused?

From the NY Times:

Two teams of scientists reported yesterday that they had turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo — a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.

All they had to do, the scientists said, was add four genes. The genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone. Until now, the only way to get such human universal cells was to pluck them from a human embryo several days after fertilization, destroying the embryo in the process.

The need to destroy embryos has made stem cell research one of the most divisive issues in American politics, pitting President Bush against prominent Republicans like Nancy Reagan, and patient advocates who hoped that stem cells could cure diseases like Alzheimer’s. The new studies could defuse the issue as a presidential election nears.

I for one am glad to see the ethical ramifications of this laid to rest. I however never saw it in that light. My support for stem research is similar to my support for first trimester abortion. In developed nations 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage and 33% of all pregnancies in third world nations. To me that means either one of two things either individuality isn't imparted by the divine until after the first trimester or that the creator is capricious and cruel. Given the choice between the two I chose to believe the former. Hence for me this has always been a political issue with the right opposing stem cell research in order to curry favor with its base and the left doing the same. Fortunately for those who have loved ones whose well being seemed to be hanging on the outcome of this debate the passion play may very well be over.