Written by Sherry
Thursday, 28 August 2008 08:21
Great news via the Washington Post
"Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research.
Through a series of painstaking experiments involving mice, the Harvard biologists pinpointed three crucial molecular switches that, when flipped, completely convert a common cell in the pancreas into the more precious insulin-producing ones that diabetics need to survive.
The experiments, detailed online yesterday in the journal Nature, raise the prospect that patients suffering from not only diabetes but also heart disease, strokes and many other ailments could eventually have some of their cells reprogrammed to cure their afflictions without the need for drugs, transplants or other therapies."
"I see no moral problem in this basic technique," said Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a leading opponent of embryonic stems cell research. "This is a 'win-win' situation for medicine and ethics."
Thank God. This is the sort of huge step forward that expert lay apostles can produce, providing ways forward to heal in amazing way without destroying innocent lives to do so. And providing ways out of one of our political quagmires as well.
Here's what Yuval Levin, Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has to say:
"It is really an immensely significant step in regenerative medicine, not only because it doesn’t involve ethical concerns or embryos (or indeed stem cells at all) but because if it translates to humans it is work that can be done directly in the body of a living patient. It has created enormous excitement among cell scientists. And, as Mona points out, it also shows what some of us have long argued: that science guided by some basic ethical boundaries can find ways forward without violating human dignity or human life. This work certainly relies on past embryonic stem cell work, but it makes that work into a path for an ethical (and in this case even scientifically preferable) alternative—which was exactly the logic of President Bush’s stem cell funding policy, much as his critics hate to admit it.
In the long run, when the heat of the argument has subsided a bit, that should be the real lasting lesson of the stem cell debate: that science policy ought not be made in crisis mode where no limits can be contemplated, but rather with a sense that we are engaged in a human endeavor with important moral ends, which must take heed of some important moral bounds."
We need to be spreading the word to those who still think that embryonic stem cells are the future.