One More Step to Reasoned Understanding of Stem-Cell Research

Scientists at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory have done what scientists do best: they have narrowed the question. By creating cells capable of growing into any cell type in the human body, research is moving us beyond fear mongering over cloning technologies to study these cells as potential weapons against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and other medical maladies.

As Brian Alexander at MSNBC.com explains, the scientists:

“created two lines of the cells through the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the less emotionally and politically charged term for cloning. The accomplishment moves science closer to the long-elusive goal of using SCNT – in which an adult cell is fused with an egg and activated to make an embryo — to create stem cells that match patients. Scientists hope the cells could one day be used to treat or even cure diseases like diabetes, and usher in an era of so-called “regenerative medicine.” But there is an important catch to the announcement. Unlike normal stem cells, the cells obtained by the team also included DNA from the human eggs used in the process, resulting in a highly abnormal 69 chromosomes rather than the usual 46. That makes the cells useless for therapy, but, argued lead scientist Dieter Egli in a press conference with reporters, the cells can be used “to address important questions, like asking how these cells compare to [other stem-like cells]…We now have a reliable assay to build on to conduct future research.”

With real advances from stem cell research now routinely published in the scientific literature, let us put aside the fantasy bogeyman of cloned humans, and stop as well the intrusion of abortion politics in medical research. Just as scientists are narrowing the questions before us, we should all support their noble quest for solutions to the diseases and disabilities that mar our lives.