Viewpoint: “Debunking the Stem Cell Controversy Myth”

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    By: Christopher Lee

    The hot-button issue for the past few years is the supposed controversy regarding stem-cell research. The media is determined to convince unsuspecting masses that embryonic stem cells hold the mystical key to a cure for every known disease from AIDS to the common cold. Bills are passed in the Senate, and when the president vetoes the bill due to his having some semblance of a conscience, editorials are written (like the one appearing in the Daily Universe on Nov. 17) criticizing the President and accusing him of being anti-science.

    Before I get into my main argument, here are a few facts:

    < Stem cells are a type of "blank" cell that have the potential to change into other types of "specialized" cells, i.e. muscle cells, skin cells, etc.< There are several different types of adult stem cells (ASC). These can be taken from blood, hair, bone marrow, spinal fluid and other sources with virtually no harm to the patient. ASC research has resulted in treatments for over 80 diseases with several more in the works, including treatments for Type 1 diabetes and liver disease.< One of the benefits of ASCs is that the patient can be treated with stem cells from his or her own body. This removes the risk of the implanted cells being rejected by the organism. ASC research has always been federally funded. But, the majority of funding comes from private investors. The downside to ASCs is they cannot change to as many different types of tissue as their embryonic cousins, but recent research has shown this may not be the case.< Embryonic stem sells (ESC) are taken primarily from the inner wall of blastocysts (four to five day old embryos) left over from in-vitro fertilization procedures. Collecting these cells results in the destruction of the embryo, which is why religious conservatives oppose this research.< Federal funding does not support research involving these cells due to the Dickey Amendment - passed by a Republican Congress during the Clinton Administration, which prohibits federal funding to any research that creates or destroys human embryos. When ESCs were discovered, George W. Bush enacted a law providing federal funding for previously existing stem cell lines (where the embryonic destruction had already occurred) so the benefits of ESCs (if any) could be determined. In July 2006, Bush vetoed a law that would have overturned the Dickey Amendment.< There is a type of ESC that is shed by the fetus while it is in the womb. These cells are found in the amniotic fluid and in the umbilical cord blood. The use of these cells poses no harm to the fetus or the mother. Research with these cells is federally funded, and it was with this variety of cell that researchers in Chicago used to grow human heart valves.Propaganda constantly barrages us, saying the cure to a vast range of illnesses is just around the corner. All these cures will come if the government will just support the chopping up of embryos. We are told about all the people who are going to die because the religious conservatives cannot get down from their pulpit long enough to see that saving human life is more important than ... saving human life. Isn't that a contradiction?The truth is, there are no cures "just around the corner." ESC research has not yielded one cure, one treatment, or even one human test. The most that has been done are a few animal tests, the results of which have been marginal at best. Several rats that have been experimented on have developed teratomas (giant tumors). Even if there are any treatments that could come from stem cells, it will take another 10, 20, or 30 years for these cures to become available to the public.Adult stem cells are kicking their competitor's trash. ESC researchers can't find any private funding because private investors have brains. The research isn't going anywhere, and most of the benefits ESCs might have are already being demonstrated by ASCs. The only way liberals are going to pay for their embryo experimentation is to do what they usually do; make the taxpayer foot the bill. The only problem there, is most Americans have a conscience and aren't eager to support throwing embryos into a blender without a good reason. So what is the liberals' backup plan? Accuse everyone who is opposed to embryo experimentation as being anti-science.Creating and or destroying embryos strictly for the purpose of research is wrong. As a person who believes in God and in the sanctity of human life, and as a scientist who is aware that there is much more we don't know about the universe than what we do know about it, I am convinced that there is a way we can find cures to all these horrible diseases without sacrificing that which is most important. Adult stem cells show extraordinary promise and potential as legitimate sources for treatments to a variety of diseases, while embryonic stem cell research are nothing more than an excuse to moralize the pro-choice agenda.It is absolutely imperative that as people and citizens, we keep ourselves informed so that we are not duped into following that road paved with good intentions. The author of the November 17th editorial meant well, but was not aware of the facts regarding the case. Therefore, his conclusion was flawed. Only by educating ourselves and learning the facts can we keep from being deceived.Christopher Robert Lee is a junior at BYU. He hails from Tyler, Texas, is pursing a degree in Chemistry.

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