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Adult Stem Cells Save Lives

By Brendan Roberts, The New Zealand Herald, June 25, 2007

The claim that religion and science are based on fundamentally contrasting ways of understanding our world was made in an article titled, "Believers stonewall life-saving science." It was written by Johann Hari.

Hari describes a view that he calls science's strict empirical observation of the world, and says that his support of embryonic stem cell research over research using adult stem cells defies that view. But only a temporary benefit would be achieved with embryonic stem cell research, if any benefit at all. The immune system can reject embryonic cell and they are well known for their tumor production. But treatments for degenerative brain diseases, cancer, and auto-immune diseases have been developed using adult stem cells, and the breakthroughs that involve adult stem cells are lasting and almost always spectacular.

Adult stem cells can supply desperately needed cells and help non-healthy cells to recover. They can assist muscles, tissues, and even organs to recover from disease, and they have the most potential in the field of regenerative medicine.

Adult stem cells can be derived from a vast array of sources which include; amniotic fluid, hair follicles, bone marrow, the placenta, and of course umbilical cord blood.

For the past 40 years we have been turning to bone marrow transplants as a treatment for various illnesses.

Researchers published their findings that the stem cells in fat can be cultured into muscle for organ repair in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An often claimed disadvantage of adult stem cells is that they lack the ability to become any type of cell if properly prepared. On the other hand, embryonic stem cells are considered to be totipotent. But this paradigm is shifting.

Some researchers are beginning to claim the same flexibility of adult stem cells, and the potential for cultivating adult stem cells is helping to narrow the gap, especially with bone marrow cells.

Allowing primates with severe Parkinson's disease to eat and walk unaided, Hari promotes the research being conducted at Yale University. However, the fact that adult stem cells were used to accomplish this significant achievement was conveniently omitted from his point.

Another trail which treated the brains of five Parkinson's patients using adult stem cells delivered remarkable results. Carried out at the Sussex Center for Genome Damage and Stability by Dr. Steven Gill, there was a 61 per cent increase in the activities on a "daily living" score after one year.

Even though adult stem-cell research has produced the really impressive results, Hollywood celebrities have been in the forefront of the battle for embryonic stem-cell research. It must be the "in" thing to do these days.

Embryonic stem cell research is embraced by Hari who says the cells produce faster results and are less costly.

In this debate, money should not even be considered. Results should be the end all in this argument, and adult stem cells are have clearly proved to be more superior thus far.

But the voices calling for federal funding to be directed towards embryonic stem cell research have become deafening in some cases. With all the validity surrounding adult stem cell research, the only logical answer as to why there is so much unsubstantiated support can be the potential to develop new patents related to embryonic stem cells.

Thousands of patients suffering from about 80 different diseases have been aided by adult stem cell treatments, this is a scientific fact. In stark contrast, embryonic stem cells have never produced one remarkable treatment, or any type of lasting benefit.

Funding for embryonic stem cell research should be limited, this is a bold but wise decision. The time, effort, and energy, which would be saved because of this decision should then be directed at further strengthening the already superb potential of adult stem cells.


 

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