Monday, October 04, 2004

Stem Cells

Stem cells are so important to our future, and also represent a key issue in the presidential campaign. The cells, derived from fertilized human eggs, are capable of treating disease and possibly slowing or reversing aging. The stem cells can be made to multiply and differentiate into a variety of cell types, each with a specific function. They can cure leukemias, lymphoma and diabetes, replace damaged heart tissue, replace destroyed liver tissue and become nerve cells in the brain (hence, the application for Alzheimer's or Parkinson's as supported by Nancy Reagan). In a recent report, researchers showed that the versatile cells can serve as "biological pacemakers," correcting faulty heart rhythms when injected into the failing hearts of pigs. In another report, scientists demonstrated for the first time that stem cells can become a cell crucial to vision. Many doctors believe that several vision-destroying diseases could be fought by transplanting these cells directly into the eyes
Wow --sort of miraculous that these diseases and conditions can be reversed. So, if one were to gather the cells from umbilical cord blood, many kinds of cells could be created (pluripotent) to grow rapidly. However, cells from embryos can form any kind of cells (totipotent), growing vigorously. Sadly this progress will be slowed down by a moral and political debate. The medical possibilities are endless. Debating this is like the discussion of abortion. The similarity is that is whatever you believe, you cannot be swayed, no matter how much someone tries to convince you. That makes this such a difficult topic, and therefore, a crucial campaign issue given the complete ideological opposites represented by the candidates.