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Old 10-23-2005, 06:36 PM   #1
SkinWalker
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Stem Cell Research

One of the most politically affected aspects of scientific research involves stem cells.

I recently looked at the robots.txt file for Time.com, the Time Magazine website, and I came noticed an article on health that was excluded from search engines. If you don't know, the robots.txt file lists directories and/or files that are to be excluded from the bots of search engines & crawlers that index the Internet for searches. Google actually caches the page so if it disappears you can view the saved copy.

The article that was excluded is If You Believe Embryos Are Humans... and is a "web exclusive" dated Sunday, Jun. 17, 2001.

I don't know the significance of excluding the ability of search engines from indexing the article, but the article is interesting and reminded me that this, Stem Cell Research, might make a good topic of discussion for the Senate Chambers.

What's that? Why was I looking at Time Magazine's robots.txt file? Don't ask.

---------------------------

Stem Cell Research

The article above calls into question the oppositions to stem cell research on the basis of ethical and moral objection. It poses some very interesting arguments, most notably that to agree that an undeveloped embryo has the same rights as a fully developed post-natal person, or even a late stage fetus, is hypocritical. Attitudes toward things like the rates of miscarriage (about 15% of all pregnancies, usually at the embryonic stage according to the article) don't receive similar outrage nor do they have a crusade to affect change by the same opponents to stem cell research.

Of course, the objection to this type of research is almost completely grounded in religious ideology. But, even though this is the case, I ask that those that disagree with the religious argument to refrain from "religion bashing" comments to make their points. Even I'll tone myself down a bit in th e interest of discussion and I'll moderate those posts that go too far on either side of the debate (should one emerge).

Opponents of Stem Cell Research

"In order for scientists to isolate and culture embryonic stem cells, a living, human embryo must be killed. It is never morally or ethically justified to kill one human being in order to help benefit another (Focus on the Family 2004)."

Opponents see this as the basis for their moral arguments against. The embryonic cell, the blastocyst, from which the stem cells are obtained, is considered to opponents to be people. Where life begins isn't clearly defined across the board with the opponents, but it is clear that they define life as having begun before the blastocyst.

"By requiring the destruction of embryos, the tiniest human beings, embryonic stem cell research violates the medical ethic of 'Do No Harm(Focus on the Family 2004).'"

This again calls into question the point at which life is considered to be sentient-human.

Proponents of Stem Cell Research

Stem cells can be used to generate healthy and functioning specialized cells, which can then replace diseased or dysfunctional cells (ISSCR 2005)."

This has huge implications for solving health problems ranging from Parkinson's Disease to cancer to Alzheimer's Disease.

Which is right?

It's pretty clear that the anti-stem cell crowd is also the anti-abortion crowd. It's my feeling that being opposed to stem cell research is something that opponents like the Focus on the Family use for the purpose of pushing the front against abortion as deep into enemy territory as possible.

"Most opposition to abortion relies on the premise that the fetus is a human being, a person, from the moment of conception" (Thomson 1971) but it's clear that the development of the fetus is a continuous process that begins at the egg & sperm making their acquaintances through the point at which the child is born. Like looking at a color chart, there is no point at which one can say yellow becomes red -there are many shades in between. But one can look at a shade of orange and say it is more red than yellow or vice versa. To draw a line in the middle of the chart and say "everything on this side is yellow and this side is red" would be illogical and so would it be if you defined a point in human development at which you said, "this is human and this is just cells."

But I think we can all agree that a woman who miscarriages at 2 weeks doesn't feel the same emotional pain of a woman who miscarriages at 8 months (not that the early stage miscarriage cannot be an emotional strain). So there is, indeed, a point at which an embryo is not sentient. I want to remind us that this thread isn't about abortion or the ethics of abortion, but it *is* the ethics of abortion that influence stem cell research opponents. It is the very fact that an embryo might develop into a human being that groups like Focus on the Family oppose such research. But this is a slippery slope argument and one could just as easily assert that since acorns could become oak trees, we should be careful not to run over one when driving down a country road.

Stem cell research is conducted on non-sentient cellular material. There is no possibility that these cells could have any form of consciousness as there is no neural network or brain established. The benefits of researching the nature of stem cells and perhaps establishing therapy protocols with them are potentially the most significant medical advancement since the establishment of the practice of vaccination.

How can the arguments of the opposition to stem cell research be considered logically valid?


References:

Focus on the Family (2004). Bioethics/Sanctity of Human Life: Quick Facts

ISSCR (2005). International Society for Stem Cell Research: FAQ

Thomson, Judith J. (1971) A Defense of Abortion Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol 1, no. 1, 47-66.


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Old 10-24-2005, 12:37 PM   #2
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I think some of them can be considered logically valid, as it is true that most stem cells do come from what "could have potentially" become a life.

However I also think that, logically, on balance, the fact that those stem cells were never realistically going to BECOME a life, but might now help save or improve a life means that if you way the pros and cons logically then you should come out as in favour.

Scientists are however starting to find ways to create stem cells without the need for embryonic sources, so the issue may soon become mute. And then thousands of lives may be saved, or made bearable, by research that would never have happened if it had been banned.



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Old 10-24-2005, 09:59 PM   #3
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Apparently the so-called "pro-life" movement lost the abortion battle and are taking out their anger on stem cell research, which has the potential of saving so many lives. Truely a shame that such promising science has been obstructed by - you guessed it - religion.
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Old 10-24-2005, 10:51 PM   #4
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Well to be fair it's not just the religious, it's all the un-educated/informed.


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Old 10-25-2005, 01:53 AM   #5
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agreed with toms's last post..

One thing I've noticed in the vast majority of mainstream media articles or polls about stem cell research is that they don't distinguish the different types of them.

As a religious person (practicing Catholic), I'm against the destruction of human embryos for these purposes. In my ethos it doesn't make moral sense to destroy one human life to improve the life of another (we're not talking an act of self defense, but a quality of life issue, a therepeutic procedure).

Since stem cells can be harvested in other ways or through other methods that do not involve the destruction of human embryos, I fully support the research and pursual of those methods (such as from umbilical cords, a person's nasal passages, etc). The use of adult stem cells isn't fantasy, but a developing body of procedures and therapies that may prove to be more useful to those seeking the therepeutic effects than embryonic stem cells. Advocates of embyronic stem cell use act as if their's is the only means of achieving these goals, that this stuff would "go to waste" if they don't use it in this manner. I have a feeling that lawmakers buy into the general public's false dual sided view of the issue, and by "opposing" all stem cell research (not just embryonic, that some have an ethical aversion to) they hurt adult stem cell research as well (even the term "adult" may not be correct, since umbilical cord blood can be used as well to benefit a child, adult, or close family member).

I could see the day when as a matter of course people's UC's are preserved in the event of a debilitating spinal injury, for the harvesting of stem cells. With cloning techniques this material could have other uses. It seems much of the development is being forced to other countries and to people who don't mind being "experimented" on (they're desperate for any possible improvment to their condition).

Most of the general public has the idea that you either have to destroy human embryos or you can do nothing. So those who are against abortion for religious reasons are "against" stem cell research, and those pro-choice individuals are in favor of stem cell research. Unfortunately it's not such a simple dichotomous issue, but are lead to believe that by the quality of reporting.

I do think you're right though, the abortion debate blinds many people to seeing the complexities of the issue. As some in this thread obviously bring to light... since those "against stem cell research" are anti-abortion and religious, by validating their views, you're betraying your pro-choice stance, or so you think. And by asserting that this issue is "really" about abortion, it gets into all the other "right to life" issues like the death penalty, war, euthanasia/assisted suicide, contraception access, etc. It's a fine way to distract from an issue the general public knows little about into an area where they already have strong opinions. I don't know if advocates of either side do this kind of issue bait and switch deliberately, or what, but it's rather annoying.

I agree they're ignorant, but it's not a simple two sided issue. The problem is, for whatever reason it's painted that way, and, like the abortion debate, solidified into camps. You're either "on our side" or you're "the enemy." This makes debate disappear in favor of war vocabulary. You're "fighting" to keep abortion legal, or "fighting" for the rights of the unborn. It's muddying the issue. I don't know what else more I can say about that, but there's my view.


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Old 10-25-2005, 02:01 AM   #6
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Bah, slow dang forums pissing me off. How can a person have a discussion when they're like this? :P


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Old 10-25-2005, 05:03 AM   #7
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Bah, slow dang forums pissing me off. How can a person have a discussion when they're like this? :P
Good freaking question. Even more so to me, sitting here at my school's ancient 32MB RAM computers.

I'm one of the people who say stem cell research is acceptable. What's more dubious is the cloning of embryos for the purpose (I've heard they're doing it, at least).

I digress, as I'm not too fond of engaging in discussions on things I'm not too familiar with. But you have my two cents now, at least.

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Old 10-25-2005, 10:24 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by TK-8252
Apparently the so-called "pro-life" movement lost the abortion battle and are taking out their anger on stem cell research, which has the potential of saving so many lives. Truely a shame that such promising science has been obstructed by - you guessed it - religion.
Don't be too sure that the anti-choice crowd is beaten. W is pushing a YEC for the SC, and he already has one of his political nominees in place. If he manages to slip a third one under the radar, you can kiss Roe v. Wade byebye... Right along with Edwards v. Aguillard and the 1st Amendment. But that's for a whole nother time.

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Since stem cells can be harvested in other ways or through other methods that do not involve the destruction of human embryos, I fully support the research and pursual of those methods [...]. The use of adult stem cells isn't fantasy, but a developing body of procedures and therapies that may prove to be more useful to those seeking the therepeutic effects than embryonic stem cells.
You may well be in for a sad surprise, Kurgan: To be truely useful, non-embryonic stem cells would have to have their biological clocks turned back to the point where they could, if inserted into an uterus, develop as normal embryos (although with considerably higher rates of birth defects and miscarriages). Oh, sure, they may have limited use without this technique - in fact they already have - but it is vastly improbable that they will ever be capable of (say) rebuilding shattered organs or limbs.

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I could see the day when as a matter of course people's UC's are preserved in the event of a debilitating spinal injury, for the harvesting of stem cells.
I can't. The cost in liquid nitrogen is appaling. N2(l) isn't exactly expensive, but I seriously doubt that such expenditures would ever become routine.

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I do think you're right though, the abortion debate blinds many people to seeing the complexities of the issue. [...] And by asserting that this issue is "really" about abortion, it gets into all the other "right to life" issues [...]. It's a fine way to distract from an issue the general public knows little about into an area where they already have strong opinions.
Very true. This effect (and the general mixing-up with reproductive cloning) is largely what is holding back stem cell research, even in countries like Denmark where the anti-choicers have been pretty much routed. The anti-choicers literally have to attack stem cell research of any kind, because in the public mind embryonic stem cell research is too intimately connected with non-embryonic stem cell research, and by endorsing what the public views as the next best thing to embryonic stem cell research, they'd loose the moral high horse they've busied themselves climbing up on for the past couple of decades.

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Last edited by ShadowTemplar; 10-25-2005 at 10:46 AM.
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Old 10-25-2005, 12:20 PM   #9
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I agree that it is the height of hypocrisy to allow abortion but criticise stem cell research, though can understand the reverse, i.e. anti-abortion but pro stem cell research. Arguing against on the grounds that the cells might become a human being is nonsense in my view, even more so when the samples are leftovers from an IV clinic, and there would be no chance whatsoever in this case. Frankly, it is somewhat hard to argue against people who's response to a logical argument is to ignore it, and spout emotional/religious nonsense.
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Old 10-25-2005, 07:39 PM   #10
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Thumbs up

ShadowTemplar: Good point about the human cloning issue (which is another hot button issue the majority fo the public seems to be against). Clinton and other world leaders in his time leaped to ban it, IIRC. Cloning people see as "mad science" and "playing god" which has lead to it being condemned almost immediately (with few exceptions) around the world. Publicity stunts like the Raeliens (sp?) pulled haven't helped any either.

Most of my knowledge of the non-embryonic stem cell practices comes from a PBS documentary I watched this past year, so things may have changed since that time. According to the special it would be a few years before the "human guinne pigs" knew if the stem cells harvested from their own bodies would have any positive effect. The researchers were hopeful that their could regain up to 70% of their motor functions back after a debilitating spinal injury. The show also featured the example of a child with some disorder that was "cured" by the use of UC stem cells harvested from the couple's second child (who was not harmed in any way by the procedure).

I wish I could remember the name of the program, it was quite fascinating. There was another science news article posted since that time I believe on Yahoo about mice and stem cell research, indicating that the current strategy was a combination of drugs, physical therapy and adult stem cells to improve certain injuries (I believe they simply snipped the spinal cords of some mice to create the negative condition).

In any case, my point was to show that you need not destroy a bunch of human embryos to continue the research. If the public is dead set against ESCR (can I use that abbreviation? I'm getting tired of typing it all out) and for those researchers with an ethical aversion to it, this would seem to be a viable alternative. But the tie with human cloning is a very good point.

Perhaps nanotech could be tool to help with this...

Anyway, I'm not saying I know we have a magical cure for every ailment. But I will say that when stem cell research was touted in the mainstream media, besides covering the "controversy" it basically had proponents citing it as this magical panacea for every malady known to man. Such naive prognosticating certainly had an effect on people I think. Rarely (if ever) is any new technology "perfect." Typically it alleviates some problems and introduces new ones.

Anyway, I've got a lot of other work to do, this is a fascinating topic, and need not be another "bash the bad people who disagree with me" type of affair. I fixed some typos in my first post there, so hopefully it makes sense now.


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Old 10-25-2005, 08:46 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Kurgan
ShadowTemplar: Good point about the human cloning issue (which is another hot button issue the majority fo the public seems to be against).
What's truely silly is those people who are all for IVF but horribly aghast at the thought of reproductive cloning...

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The researchers were hopeful that their could regain up to 70% of their motor functions back after a debilitating spinal injury.
Yes, nerve damage is another issue where hopes were high. AFAIK, however, it didn't work. OTOH, the researchers got some interesting new insights into how the central nervous system works. It appears, although IIRC this result was preliminary, that the spine, like the skin, has its own stem cells, which allows it to repair minor damage.

Unlike the skin, however, the chemical feedback loops which control the neural stem cells are ill understood. There is at least one inhibiter at work, which would explain the failure of the stem cell project you refer to. OTOH, if we could isolate and control the inhibiter in question it might be possible to repair spinal injury without extracting stem cells in the first place.

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The show also featured the example of a child with some disorder that was "cured" by the use of UC stem cells harvested from the couple's second child (who was not harmed in any way by the procedure).
I've also heard about that. IIRC the disease has to do with heritable failure to develop certain organs properly. By taking stem cells from the UC of a close relative, you can sneak healthy stem cells 'under the radar' of the patient's immune system, and get a healthy organ development under way.

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In any case, my point was to show that you need not destroy a bunch of human embryos to continue the research. If the public is dead set against ESCR (can I use that abbreviation? I'm getting tired of typing it all out) and for those researchers with an ethical aversion to it, this would seem to be a viable alternative. But the tie with human cloning is a very good point.
You seem to have me at a disadvantage. I was about to point to some of the projects which would be hampered or rendered impossible by a clampdown on ESCR, but what I found when I looked was that adult stem cells can actually be 'reset' to stem cells chemically. Seems my data was old... Well, to live is to learn, or so they say.

Still, it raises another interesting question: If you 'reset' a cell in such a fashion that it could, if inserted into a uterus develop into a reasonably normal human child, would it then not be an embryo? Have you then circumvented the ethical problems, or just circumvented the bad publicity?

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Typically it alleviates some problems and introduces new ones.
Very true, and something that it always pays to bear in mind. On a related note, technology very rarely solves problems; what it does is provide a wider set of tools. Solving problems usually requires political decisions, not simply technological progress.

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Old 10-26-2005, 02:07 AM   #12
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Well not to disregard the rest of your post, but as to your first point, there's a lot of people who say "well it's okay to go this far, but not to this next step."

You have that with all sorts of issues. It's not hypocrisy necessarily, it's just imposing limits in a person's mind. Are they valid? Perhaps, perhaps not, but it's easy to see why they exist. The slippery slope fallacy is a fallacy because not everyone or everything goes completely from one point all the way to the most extreme possible conclusion. At some people most people will say "well I wouldn't go THAT far" or "that's too much."

Edit: Aw what the hey...

New info is constantly coming up on this topic so don't feel bad. I was ready to dig out the research again since it sounded like you had blown my post out of the water above (not that that couldn't happen in the future!). The issue of "wouldn't it then be a human embryo" is precisely the issue with cloning.

To use Star Wars as an example (I know, hehe, but still), there's the ethical issue of creating something in order to destroy it, to help somebody else. In Star Wars they create clones to raise an army so that nobody has to supply their own sons and daughters to be killed for some cause, thus making fighting the war easier. And the rationale for the Senate and the Jedi using the army is "well, we've got it anyway, might as well put it to good use" which seems like a nice analogy for the ESCR thing. "Why let it go to waste"?

The opponents will say "well that's opening the door for accepting the very thing you're against." And once you run out, and have become dependant on that source, what's to stop you "creating more"? It's not a definate outcome (per the slippery slope fallacy) but it's certainly a valid possibility, so one can see that point of view.

I wish we had the sci fi level technology to simple clone an organ, by itself, rather than cloning a human, then killing it for spare parts. That's the ethical problem. And it doesn't help that the term "personhood" which nobody knows what it means, gets bandied around. The ethics are in a state of flux. Nobody knows what it means anymore (or so they act), which is the other difficulty. That doesn't mean debate is impossible, but that's something that should be worked on getting nailed down.

Dang you guys with your interesting topics... !


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Old 10-26-2005, 08:45 AM   #13
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I think its important to note that without the last few years of research on foetal stem cells we wouldn't now be getting towards the stage where we can create usable stem cells from less controversial sources.

As with a lot of technology it can often be considerably improved and refined once the inital research has been done.

I'm hopeful that in a few years the issue will be less controversial as these alternate sources come online. Though you may find that the words "stem cells" have become so inextricable linked with "killing babies" in a lot of people's mind that they will continue to object once any reasonable objections become mute.

You are right that as a pro-choice kinda guy I do feel compelled to stand up for stem cell research simply because the anti-abortion lot are hitting on it.
Personally I think its a different issue, with more complexities involved, but these issues always tend to become black and white shouting matches where you have to pick a side.



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Old 10-26-2005, 02:54 PM   #14
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I guess as long as we here know and admit that the issue isn't so black and white, we don't have to pretend and play those roles, leading to less than fruitful discussion...

I hope, anyway.

As to the advances, it's true, that good can come from bad. I would point out, and please don't be too offended by this, but from my point of view, this is like saying "well certain war criminals did experiments on people during the mid-twentieth century and this greatly advanced medical knowledge." While true, it still doesn't excuse the nastiness of what went on. That doesn't mean we throw the data away and start over necessarily. But the ghost of the initial barbarism lives on. What we can do is move on from here towards something more ethical.

I'm not by any means an animal rights activist, but you could use an example from their philosophy to help illustrate my point. Sure, we have lots of interesting information obtained from vivisection in the past, that's helped us immensely, but that doesn't mean we should keep doing it today, if we have other more humane methods available.

Anyway, the whole one-sided media portrayal of the "two sides" is a personal peeve of mine, so I'm glad to get that aired out in the open here, and glad to see people are capable of being more open minded.


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Old 10-27-2005, 12:27 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Kurgan
Well not to disregard the rest of your post, but as to your first point, there's a lot of people who say "well it's okay to go this far, but not to this next step."
Kurgan makes an excellent point, as he so often does.

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To use Star Wars as an example (I know, hehe, but still), there's the ethical issue of creating something in order to destroy it, to help somebody else. In Star Wars they create clones to raise an army so that nobody has to supply their own sons and daughters to be killed for some cause, thus making fighting the war easier.
The analogy is poor. The principal problem with the clones in SW is that they were genetically reprogrammed to inhibit their independence, and hardcode certain orders and responses into their genetic material (which is probably impossible BTW). In effect they were creating genetic slaves. The main 'sell' issue was the fact that they were cloned, but in fact the genetic reprogramming they underwent was a far more radical departure from current bioethics.

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Old 10-27-2005, 01:45 PM   #16
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So you're saying the ethical issue with clones isn't that they're created in order to be fodder, but that they're slaves.

Or rather is the fact that they're slaves justification for using them as fodder?

I know it's sci fi and not perfect 1:1, but I think it has some use as an analogy.


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Old 10-27-2005, 10:57 PM   #17
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I think, in this context, the issue isn't as such that they're clones, but both their use as cannon-fodder and their programming as slaves. Although, programming them from birth as slaves is probably better than press-ganging ordinary people and shoving them into a warzone, really.
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Old 10-28-2005, 04:39 AM   #18
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Sort of like in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the animal that's genetically engineered to WANT to be eaten? (to pile on another sci fi example).


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Old 10-28-2005, 10:12 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Kurgan
So you're saying the ethical issue with clones isn't that they're created in order to be fodder, but that they're slaves.

Or rather is the fact that they're slaves justification for using them as fodder?
No, the point I was trying to make was that the cloning, in and of itself, would not accomplish what you described. They were genetically modified, or rather genetically conscripted, and therein lies the main ethical problem (as well as the reason why they backfired). The fact that they were cloned doesn't really enter into it: Embryos from IVF treatment could have been used for the same purpose.

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Old 10-28-2005, 12:50 PM   #20
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As I understand it at current the main source for embryonic stem cells is the excess embryos created for IVF treatment. That is, when they try and impregnate infertile couples they take surplus sperm/eggs whatever and once the couple have concieved these extra embryos are either frozen for futire use or destroyed.

I note that there isn't much of an outcry about these additional embryos that are being destroyed from IVF. If the additional embryos is to be destroyed anyway, would it not be preferable to use it for research that might improve or save a life?

As I understand it the stem cell material is taken from the Blastocyst that is formed about four days after fertilisation. This is such an early stage its in no way approaching a life form, or even an embryo. And if implanted at this stage it wouldn't create a viable life form.

Does this make a difference, who knows.

I'd guess that experimenting on Sperm or Eggs to make medical breakthroughs would be acceptible to most people (as they couldn't be defined as life or anything leading to it), but combine them and 4 days later it becomes unnacceptable?

Its a strange, but understandable distinction. Though if you consider the number of sperm and eggs that are wasted every month without leading to life it suddenly seems to be to be less shocking to combine them to make stem cells.

Though I do get the difference between them in their seperate states (not life), and them in their combined state (life). But I can't help but think thats more an emotional and religious subconcious distinction than a logical one.

Weird thought: What if someone invented a form of contraception that collected/extracted all the spare sperm and eggs from people who didn't want kids??
Would that be unethical in itself? Would it be unethical if all that waste material was used to make stem cells? Or once they were combined would they no-longer be waste and become lives?



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Old 10-29-2005, 05:31 AM   #21
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Actually there are those who consider the destruction of "left over" embryos to be an ethical problem and it does get discussed. But like other media hot issues, "stem cell" and "cloning" get up there due to coverage, go figure. IVF is still opposed by some despite it being legal. I remember the controversy over some incident several years back over a couple who died in an accident, and what was to happen to all their "frozen embryos." How many people avail themselves of the technology every year anyway? I'm curious.

Certainly if someone sees it as "waste material" then it seems like no big deal.

To ShadowTempler, I'd contend that the cloning and genitic modification were designed not only for control and creation of the army but also to make it "easier" to send them to their deaths. After all, they have "no family" (unless you count Jango, who kills for money and seems to care for no one, except his "son"). Conscription would have been far cheaper for the Republic/Empire of a grand army. Finding one super patriotic person from each world would easily have accumulated the 1.2 million soldiers of the first "grand army" (debates about minimalism aside, that's the canon figure) in short order.

As to the reproduction thing, it seems to me a lot like other human rights and resources. Some people take way more than their share, others are impoverished, and many who want it can't get it. Distribution is the problem. We've got mandatory abortions, and infanticide due to the one-child restriction (and preference for male children) happening in places like China, while places like Italy and Japan are "dying."

The preference for "real" children (vs. adopted) leads even wealthy couples to use fertility technology, leading to more ethical incidents.


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Old 11-09-2005, 11:38 PM   #22
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I know this sounds self centered, but I would seriously vote for a candidate who supports stem cell research, because frankly, I would like some stem cells to be shot into my pancreas.

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Old 11-10-2005, 02:07 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoxStar
I would like some stem cells to be shot into my pancreas.
For some reason I read that as pancakes...

Anyway, nothing really self-centered about it, generally you're supposed to vote for the person that most represents you and your beliefs. Hell, better to vote for someone supporting more freedom rather than someone wanting to take away a lot of it.


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Old 11-10-2005, 09:38 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Insane Sith
For some reason I read that as pancakes...

Anyway, nothing really self-centered about it, generally you're supposed to vote for the person that most represents you and your beliefs. Hell, better to vote for someone supporting more freedom rather than someone wanting to take away a lot of it.
True, but I think i'll end up robbing a bank and running away to mexico to get the treatment I can't wait 25 years for FDA approval and all that jazz.

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Old 11-13-2005, 05:26 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan
The preference for "real" children (vs. adopted) leads even wealthy couples to use fertility technology, leading to more ethical incidents.
How do you mean, even wealthy couples? Last time I checked, only those who are quite well of could afford IVF treatments.
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Old 03-22-2006, 04:09 AM   #26
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*thread bump* This is well, not the most quality essay from me (yay all nighters)... but I feel it has a few good points and might be worth a read. We had a Socratic seminar on stem cell research about two weeks ago...

I lost my works cited... but the quotes in the essay are pretty much common sense anyway...

(that bit in the beginning about the line not being clearly defined I give credit to you Skin )

Well, without further ado...

On Stem Cells
What is the definition of life? As the stem cell war rages on, more and more people must ask themselves this question. The hype about stem cells comes from their ability to become any kind of body cell, from bone marrow to blood to skin cells. Such adaptability opens doors to incredible new possibilities to treat diseases. Stem cell research could also lead to organ and bone regeneration. Unfortunately, the public focuses on the destruction of embryos in stem cell research. Stem cell research does not limit itself to embryonic cells. Stem cell research includes adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood as well as embryonic cells, though most of the argument lies in whether using embryos for research is morally right. The use of stem cell research shows a promising future- a future that should not fall victim to moral conjectures.

The stem cell debate begins with the moral complexities of the value of human life. The Fifth Amendment guarantees every individual the right to life, liberty, and property. However, is an embryo a human life? Is an embryo an individual? Though it will become a human, does human life begin from the moment of conception? Critics of stem cell research reason that “life starts at conception whether that conception is done the natural way or done in a Petri dish” (Cohen 1). No clear answer exists as to where human life officially begins, though defenders of stem cell research argue that “a five day old cluster of cells” has not yet become and individual, and thus, a human being (Bush 2). Though many critics resent this view as rash generalization, it holds some reasonable merit. A difference exists in an embryo of two days and a fetus of eight months. Although no definitive line exists between human and cell, at some point in the early embryonic stages, a sentient being did not exist. Thus, the destruction of an embryo does not automatically equal the destruction of an innocent, defenseless life. Regardless of critic’s opinions, however, the destruction of a frozen pre-embryo does not equal the destruction of a life. The frozen pre-embryo “requires active intervention” to hold the similarities of true potential life.

Religion plays a large part in the opposition to stem cell research. Many religions, such as Judaism, forbid “the taking of one life to save another” (Eisenberg 1). The basis of this heated debate lies in the individual interpretation of life. To many people, “fetuses and embryos are assuredly innocent” (Outka 3). However, an alternative solution exists for those who resent the destruction of an embryo for research. In a process called in vitro fertilization, an infertile couple uses an embryo made in labs to create their child. The remaining embryos from the lab, which have never seen the inside of a woman’s uterus, lie “in liquid nitrogen” because the couple no longer requires their use (Cohen 1). A utilitarian view of the stem cell debate reasons that the embryos would go to waste floating in liquid nitrogen. Currently, “approximately 100,000 ‘excess’ frozen pre-embryos” remain from early in vitro fertilization attempts. (Eisenberg 2). Thus, scientists may use these embryos for research, which could help millions of people around the world. This “utilitarian calculus” emphasizes making use out of something that would otherwise waste away (Hollinger 4). Through the use of these leftover embryos, no scientist destroys a “life” in the process of researching. Through this “nothing is lost principle” (Outka 1), researchers could indeed make great strides in stem cell research. The potential for success in embryonic stem cell research becomes equal to the potential curing of ailments that affect so many people. Even so, critics continue to reason that the destruction of an embryo holds no just result.

What then, is just cause for a means? Life. The benefits of stem cell research could help millions of people who suffer from diseases ranging from “Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, et. al.” (Outka 1). This in itself should justify the use of stem cells for research. Many critics fear the word “promising” as it applies to stem cell research. What research lacks promise? What research lacks risk? Some of these critics wish to expand the risk of failure to make stem cell research seem implausible. Without reason, however, the ruse falls flat. Adult stem cells have already helped a number of patients. Most scientists, however, feel that embryonic stem cells possess “the most promise because these cells have the potential to develop in all of the tissues of the body” (Bush 1). This difference in ability between different stem cells makes the need for embryonic stem cells even greater. Most critics of stem cell research oppose funding from the government towards stem cell research with the intent of stopping stem cell research. Unfortunately, this only slows the progress of stem cell research down and increases the chances that research must use more embryos to achieve the same progress. The end goal of research lies in the betterment of human lives, which “is regarded as the ‘greatest good‘” (Hollinger 1). Opposition to the use of frozen pre-embryos left over from in vitro fertilization seems ridiculous when compared with the amount of human suffering that the research could potentially alleviate. With such a surplus of these embryos, some of which “will not survive during long storage” (Bush 1), no real reason exists to waste them. However, the use of these pre-embryos must not careen out of control, either. The creation of new embryos specifically for stem cell research seems logical, but this would “cheapen the value of human life” (Eisenberg 3). Reasonable use of pre-embryos must continue until researchers can isolate and create stem cells without creating embryos. This approach to embryonic stem cell research should appease the mild opponents who only desire to keep the research in check.

The debate on embryonic stem cell research draws focus away from what scientists must accomplish. The best aid to stem cell research currently lies in the frozen pre-embryos. Most would agree that these pre-embryos possess no aspect of humanity until placed in a womb. Thus, their destruction for the greater good holds high potential for success. These pre-embryos resemble heroes in that they hold the potential to heal. The world has already seen evidence of the power of stem cells in adult stem cells and cord blood. The embryonic stem cells hold far greater potential than these lesser versions of the stem cell. Eventually, stem cells might allow patients to repair damaged organs and bones, or have new ones. Unfortunately, the time spent debating on the morality of embryonic stem cells pushes the other kinds of stem cells into the background. Legislation acts focus on embryonic stem cells and disregard cord blood cells, which also hold some potential to save lives. The focus must shift to stem cell research as a whole if researchers will progress the potential of stem cells. Contrary to the beliefs of many opponents, stem cell research possesses a side that no one can mistake for morally reprehensible. With the public’s fears that hold no logical ground, the scientists that research stem cells today might not make the progress needed. Scientists require public support, too. The future of medicine may very well depend on the scientist’s research on stem cells of today.

Stem cell research possesses the potential to heal the world. However, stem cell research does not cast away the morals of the world in order to make progress. What is progress if the process disposes of human ethics? People should learn to understand the entirety of stem cell research, for only then will they understand the moral viewpoint of its researchers. In true progress lies communication.


Thoughts?




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Old 03-22-2006, 10:19 AM   #27
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From what I've heard/read, embryonic stem cell research has not shown the promise that was expected of it. The initial excuse for this was that it was not funded by the government to the extent that it could show promise (though if it was all that everyone said it would be, it should be able to survive in the marketplace without being subsidized), but that is no longer the case: California and Illinois subsidize embryonic stem cell research. Researchers have found great promise in work with adult stem cells; I've yet to hear anything about embryonic stem cell research showing anywhere near the same kind of promise. In fact, I heard an interview with a researcher a few weeks ago, in which he said that they have yet to develop a viable line from embryonic stem cells - the stem cell lines they have developed thus far have become cancerous, and had to be discarded.

Disregarding completely the moral & ethical questions about embryonic stem cell research (which are both abundant and valid, imo), embryonic stem cell research makes no practical sense whatsoever. Adult stem cell research is where the action is. Researchers across the world (primarily in the US and Australia) have found great promise in adult stem cells, and have been able to develop viable lines.

The problem with this debate is in the politics of it, mainly having to do with supporters of embryonic stem cell research refusing to acknowledge just what it is they're doing. When the bill to subsidize embryonic stem cell research came before voters in California, it was extremely noticeable to me that the word "embryonic" was absent from anything having to do with the bill. For all the voters knew, the bill was for adult stem cell research, or it could have been stem cells from pigs or camels. Now, I'll admit, California is such a liberal state that the bill probably would've been passed regardless, but the amount of dishonesty surrounding this debate astounds me...and it extends through every aspect of the political debate.

In my mind, this is not just a moral debate, it's a practical debate. Most liberals are willing to ignore the moral/ethical questions surrounding embryonic stem cell research in the name of medical research, but the practical objections are even greater, and cannot be denied (without defying logic itself). Scientists have tried, and, no matter what John Edwards says, it just hasn't panned out. Adult stem cells have shown great promise, and the way I see it, that's where researchers should be focusing.


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Old 03-22-2006, 11:54 AM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rccar
From what I've heard/read, embryonic stem cell research has not shown the promise that was expected of it.
Pluripotent stem-cell lines can be derived from early embryos before they implant in the uterus. These cells are called embryonic stem cells (Weissman 2002; 2006) "[E]xperiments in animals have shown that nuclear transplantation for the production of embryonic stem-cell lines can be accomplished with mature cell nuclei, including nuclei containing medically important genetic defects and mutations. There is already evidence that these embryonic stem-cell lines can help unlock secrets of developmental and pathogenic events that might not be revealed otherwise. The technology is ready for the production of human embryonic stem-cell lines from diverse members of our society, from somatic cells of patients with heritable diseases, and from diseased cells (for example, all cancers) whose nuclei are a repository of the history of inherited and somatic mutations that caused these diseases. The method has the potential for producing cells for the treatment of a variety of diseases..." (Weissman 2002).

"The derivation of embryonic stem (ES) cells by nuclear transfer holds great promise for research..." (Meissner et al 2006).

"The goal of our work was to demonstrate the feasibility of correcting a genetic defect in somatic cells of an affected individual using a combination of reprogrammed somatic cell therapy [...] homologous recombination in the ntES cells corrected the genetic defect in the donor Rag2 mutant mouse strain" (Rideout et al 2002).


References:

Meissner, A. & Jaenisch, R. (2006). Generation of nuclear transfer-derived pluripotent ES cells from cloned Cdx2-deficient blastocysts. Nature 439, 212–215

Rideout, W. M. III; et al (2002). Correction of a genetic defect by nuclear transplantation and combined cell and gene therapy. Cell 109, 17–27

Weissman, I. L. (2002). Stem Cells — Scientific, Medical, and Political Issues. New England Journal of Medicine, 346, 1576–1579

Weissman, I. L. (2006). Politic stem cells. Nature, 439, 145-147


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Old 03-23-2006, 09:29 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riceplant
How do you mean, even wealthy couples? Last time I checked, only those who are quite well of could afford IVF treatments.
Forgot to respond to this, sorry. I meant that the wealthier couples are going to be the ones who can adopt children the easiest. Look at Rosie O'Donnel, she got to adopt a kid (or two?) despite the fact that she was single, just because she had the dough, apparently. My point was that these folks ought to be adopting to help out those poor kids "nobody wants" and instead in many cases they're just going for the fertility treatments because they have this desire for "real" children.

This may be a gross generalization, of course, so anyone is free to correct me on this perception.

Btw, as long as we're doing a thread bump, what's been the deal with stem cell research lately? Ever since that South Korean scientists was disgraced for providing fraudulent results and other crap, it seems to have dropped from the headlines. Did they string him up by his thumbs yet? What happened...

The research prior to that about harvesting stem cells without destroying the embryos they were extracted from sounded promising, though I don't think that discovery was tied to his research, so it might still be a viable process. Anyway, I'll have to dig up that thread...

Ah yes, Here it is! Read up, guys...


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