In a "dramatic
" expansion of government support for stem cell research, the Obama administration has approved new lines of human embryonic stem cells for federally funded research. Thirteen lines of cells have been authorized by the National Institutes of Health allowing millions of taxpayer dollars for research previously barred from federal funding by the Bush administration. The new science is both promising and ethically controversial:
- A Long Time Coming, says Dr. Ali Brivanlou,
an embryologist at Rockefeller University, in Time magazine: "I
consider it a shame that at the beginning of the 21st century, we
know more about how development works in the worm, the fruit fly and
the mouse than we know about our own development. And it's not because
of scientific limitations or technological limitations," he says. "It
would be nice if someday people are allowed to ask basic questions
simply about where we come from as human beings. I'm optimistic that we
are experiencing the first steps in the right direction."
- Unethical and Unnecessary, says Richard M. Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: "Ethically, we don't think any taxpayer should have to fund research
that relies on destroying early human life at any stage... But the
tragedy of this is multiplied by the fact that no one can think what
the problem is that can only be solved by these cells."
Doerflinger says progress can be made using adult stem cells and other alternatives, such as induced pluripotent stem cells, without the ethical controversy.
- Are the Alternatives Just as Promising? At the Science Insider, NIH Director Francis Collins
says there's only one way to find out if induced pluripotent stem (iPS)
cells are better than human ES cells: "We are still very early in
investigating this dramatic finding.
There's still a very legitimate series of questions about whether iPS
and ES cells are equivalent... We will never know the answer if we
don't have the capability to do rigorous side-by-side comparisons."
- On a Related Note, Stem Cell Stocks Are Soaring, writes Garrett W. McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street: "Opexa Therapeutics Inc led the rise in stem cell stocks, surging over 40%. The company
seeks to develop treatments to major illnesses, such as multiple
sclerosis and diabetes, through stem cell research. The company's
stock has risen 2837% off its lows for the year. StemCells Inc rose over 30% to a high of $1.45. The company
engages in research aimed at developing treatment for organ damage
using stem cells. The company's stock is up over 1544% off its low for
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