Back when Christopher Reeves was still alive and getting the word out on stem cell research, the big push was for embryonic stem cells to be used in that research. All those in-vitro fertilized eggs that didn’t get used were just waiting to be harvested and experimented on. There was just one thing. Pro-lifers, like me, considered them human embryos, simply an earlier form of a regular human life, and therefore considered destroying them for experimentation it on par with abortion, with the added baggage that we’d be, well, experimenting on them. Adult stem cells, even back then, had been proving their worth in many, many situations, didn’t have a tendency to become cancerous when used, and if properly fed and cared for, would never be anything other than adult stem cells. That is, they would never become a human being. The ethical baggage simply wasn’t there, especially for those who thought science ought to be, indeed, ethical.

When President George W. Bush decided to limit the number of existing embryonic stem cell lines that could be used to experimentation, he did two things. First, he put a stake in the ground of scientific ethics; this far and no farther. Second, he lit a fire under the line of research that was trying to find a way to make adult stem cells, which cannot differentiate themselves in quite as many other kinds of cells as embryonic, just as flexible and changeable as their embryonic counterparts.

Research has been advancing quickly, and results have been getting better and better, until last month, this bit of good news came out.

Researchers have for the first time converted cultured skin cells into stem cells with near-perfect efficiency.

By removing a single protein, called Mbd3, a team at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, was able to increase the conversion rate to almost 100% — ten times that normally achieved. The discovery could clear the way for scientists to produce large volumes of stem cells on demand, hastening the development of new treatments.

Almost 100%. From skin cells. Had we taken the easy way out, and not the harder, ethical one, A) the Left would not have branded the Right as “anti-science” over this. (Well, at least, not as much as they normally would.) And B) this research would not have continued at such a pace, allowing us now to produce stem cells at a rate we probably could not have done before.

Anti-science, indeed. More like pro-ethical-science, especially when you can have your ethics, and stem cells, too.

    Filed under: ScienceStem Cells

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