A Stem Cell Victory
Not so long ago, Democrats sneered that Republicans were heartless brutes for not endorsing, and seeking to prohibit, embryonic stem cell research. All the old cliches were brought out- "Republicans believe life begins at conception and ends at birth" and "Cures for (fill in the blank) are moral issues too. Admirably, President Bush stood firm in banning federal funds for embryonic stem cell research, in face of intense criticism from both sides of the aisle.
Now, it appears that conservatives were- gasp- right all along. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:
Ian Wilmutt, who gained fame by cloning Dolly the sheep, has stated that he is going to abandon all his work on cloning in order to focus exclusively on the new method of extracting stem cells. Many other scientists are a excepted to follow his lead.
Scientists have made ordinary human skin cells take on the chameleon-like
powers of embryonic stem cells, a startling breakthrough that might someday
deliver the medical payoffs of embryo cloning without the controversy.
Laboratory teams on two continents report success in a pair of landmark papers released Tuesday. It's a neck-and-neck finish to a race that made headlines five months ago, when scientists announced that the feat had been accomplished in mice.
The "direct reprogramming" technique avoids the swarm of ethical, political and practical obstacles that have stymied attempts to produce human stem cells by cloning embryos.Scientists familiar with the work said scientific questions.
The evidence right now seems to indicate that embryonic stem cell research is unnecessary and prohibitively difficult. The ability of skin cells to transform into any cell on the body could very well revolutionize stem cell therapy- even apart from the moral implications, embryonic stem cell research was inefficient. Extracting embryos is a difficult procedure, and few woman want to be subjected to surgery. In addition, the level of development of embryonic stem cell theory is so low as to have little reasonable chance of being useful in the near future.
So if and when the embryonic stem cell movement comes to an end, it will leave behind almost nothing of scientific interest. Its promises to cure Parkinsons, Alzheimer's, and many other ailments will go unfulfilled. It will leave behind only the memory of the hate and anger directed at those who dared disagree. It will not be able to boast one cure.
It is seldom that either side of the culture war is able to definitively claim victory. But on this issue, it seems that the right can. We were right.