Human Exceptionalism

A Scientist Describes Why Adult Stem Cells May Be Best

Good for the Milwaukee Journal for publishing this column by Jean Peduzzi-Nelson, a medical professor at Wayne State University. Her point is that most of the advances coming in stem cell research are of the non embryonic variety.

Peduzzi-Nelson also effectively punctures the reigning presumption that embryonic stem cells offer the “best hope” for cures. In the section quoted below, for example, she points out why pluripotency, the ability to be morphed into every type of cell, is not a necessary component of creating a vibrant regenerative medical sector. “The ‘potential of embryonic stem cells to possibly form every cell type’ in the body is amazing but is of little clinical relevance,” she writes. “As long as a stem/progenitor cell [adult stem cell] is capable of forming the cell types needed for a particular injury or disease, the capability to form every cell type is a moot point.” In other words, assume a patient needs heart cells: If fat, bone marrow, and/or blood stem cells can generate them–as they appear capable of doing–embryonic stem cells would be unnecessary for use in this form of regenerative heart medicine.

This doesn’t deal with the issue of basic research. But the Bush-approved cell lines permit basic research at this time and there may well be alternatives in the future for this purpose, too.

President Bush is to be lauded for his stem cell funding policy. It did not impose his moral views on the entire country, in keeping with federalism, and it kept the ethical importance of using nascent human life as a crop at the forefront. As a result, we may just find a way to have our cake and eat it to by developing a vibrant stem cell sector that stays within crucial moral boundaries.

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