Therapeutic Uses of Embryonic Stem Cells:
- Cure for diseases involving irreversible cell damage including Parkinson's, some heart conditions, diabetes, and leukemia.
- Spinal cord injuries
- Patients who have had chemotherapy (which destroys bone marrow stem cells)
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Various genetic diseases
An embryonic stem cell is pluripotenet, meaning that it has the ability to give grow into any other cell type - they are there throughout the life of an organism but remain undifferentiated until they're given the signal to turn into something specific - skin, heart, bone, etc.
Embryonic stem cells are derived from fetal tissue (before it implants itself in the uterus)
Embryonic germ cells are derived from 5 to 10 week old fetuses
Why don't we use adult stem cells?
- Difficult to isolate, identify and purify
- Way too few of them
- Do not replicate indefinitely in a culture vs. embryonic stem cells
- Mostly not pluripotent (although research suggest we may figure out how to coax them into being so down the road)
President Bush approved research only in existing embryonic stem cell lines. According to the NIH, 78 such lines exist:
- BresaGyn Inc., Athens, Georgia - 4
- CyThera Inc., San Diego, CA - 9
- EsCell International, Melbourne, Australia - 6
- Geron Corporation, Menlo Park, CA - 7
- Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden - 19
- Karolinksa Institute, Stockholm, Sweden - 6
- Maria Biotech Co. Ltd. - Maria Infertility Hospital Medical Institute, Seoul, South Korea - 3
- MizMedi Hospital - Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea - 1
- National Centre for Biological Sciences/Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, India - 7
- Pochon CHA University, Seoul, Korea - 2
- Reliance Life Sciences, Mumbai, India - 7
- Technion University, Haifa, Israel - 4
- University of California, San Francisco - 2
- Wisconsin Alumi Research Foundation, Madison Wisconsin - 5
Some of those lines could get stale or crash. 4 of the 6 lines created by one U.S. biotech firm are turning unstable.
There's a backlog of requests dating years.
Now go back and look at the laundry list of uses for embryonic stem cells, and you'll see what Bush, in trying to placate both sides, has done - he's created a desperate situation with no possible resolution for the people who have been given hope of disease cures using embryonic stem cells. In otherwords, with all the good intentions in the world, he's created a situtation analagous to Prohibition, only more so - people's LIVES hang in the balance.
The next few years will be interesting ones, indeed. He's condemned many people to death. Many others will languish while on waiting lists. Many researchers will be up the creek without a paddle, unable to get access to stem cells for their research.
And I have no doubt that a brisk illegal business in embryonic stem cells has already sprung up.
And we were worried about the ethics of using aborted fetuses for embryonic stem cell research. Worry more about the desperate plight Bush's actions have caused for both researchers and patients who might be cured by embryonic stem cell research.