Human Exceptionalism

Spinal Cord Injury Patient Supports Adult Stem Cell Research

This intriguing article was written by Jean Swenson, a woman paralyzed by a spinal cord injury. She has noticed that the better and more immediate hope for her condition seems to be adult stem cells, as opposed to ES cell research or therapeutic cloning. This is good news. Disease advocacy groups are among the most potent elements of the pro therapeutic cloning/ESCR coalition. If Swenson’s heterodox views begin to sink deeply into the awareness of these dedicated folk,the debate will be profoundly changed.

Swenson also opines about why she believes that so many scientists are pursuing the less productive path of ESCR/cloning. Her theory can be summarized by that old cliche, follow the money. Patents are more likely obtainable from embryonic research than adult/umbilical cord blood approaches, and vast amounts of money more likely to be made.

I have heard this theory espoused before, often by people like Swenson with serious illnesses or disabilities. But I am not convinced. There is just too much adult stem cell research going on to sustain such a cynical attitude. Indeed, more researchers are probably working in adult avenues than embryonic, as demonstrated by the first Proposition 71 grants being earmarked to train researchers. Of the public grants issued by New Jersey, grants to fund ESCR were a fraction of the grants issued for other approaches.

I do believe money can be an issue, but I don’t believe that researchers would turn away en masse from more efficacious avenues of helping people just to chase a buck that may not ever materialize.

Still, we should ponder Swenson’s concerns. She has a strong personal stake in this research. The power of money can distort the natural trajectory of the science. And that is something we should guard against.

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