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March 10, 2009


As you said it must be that you can't use funds to a new line, but once it's created, you can use federal funds to conduct research using that line.

It's still a major improvement, no?

huge huge improvement. in fact, my hunch is that it's all labs need.

my only point is that it's worth changing the statute too AT SOME POINT, just to prevent President Palin from changing it

President Palin? I think at that point stem-cell research will be the least of our worries...

"So while it will substantially broaden research opportunities on established cell lines, it won't allow the creation of new ones."

Strictly speaking, just like the Bush policy, this DOES permit the creation of new embryonic stem cell lines. After all, just because something's not federally funded, doesn't make it illegal. Every day things go on that the federal government isn't funding.

One of the problems liberals have with their approach to abortion, (Heck, just about any issue!) is that you just don't admit the value of giving opponents some space; You want approval instead of tolerance, funding instead of legality. And the result is that people who don't agree with you, but who could have just ignored you, end up radicalized because you demand that they be complicit.

I see it happening again with stem cell research. It's not enough the research happens, you've got some obsession with making sure people who object to it help pay for it.

Is that really because you think it won't happen unless a specific level of government pays for it? Or is it the liberal way of validating your victory over the foe?

I think some effort at alternative funding mechanisms which don't force people who object to an activity to pay for it is in order. Unless, of course, proving to them that you won IS the point...

I see it happening again with [the war in Iraq]. It's not enough the [war] happens, you've got some obsession with making sure people who object to it help pay for it.

That's just a problem liberals have, right, Brett?

You know what? You'd be catching me in an inconsistency, if I wasn't in favor of almost all of government being fee for service, with people being able to opt out of the service.

They should have paid for the Iraq war with a checkoff box on the tax form.

Way to miss the point, Brett.

Maybe this will help. It comes from one of the Senate bills now threading its way along the legislative trails and byways.

Limits such research to stem cells that meet the following ethical requirements:
(1) the stem cells were derived from human embryos donated from in vitro fertilization clinics for the purpose of fertility treatment and were in excess of the needs of the individuals seeking such treatment;
(2) the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded; and
(3) such individuals donate the embryos with written informed consent and receive no financial or other inducements. Directs the Secretary to:
(1) issue final guidelines to carry out this Act within 60 days; and
(2) submit annual reports on activities and research conducted under this Act.

This is to prevent embryo farming.

In other words, medical science may create life for in vitro reproduction but NOT for research.

A moral contradiction is plain and all but the most obtuse researchers respect the objections of the moralists. (As would most laymen if they were ever forced to sit down and do a little homework.) This is another illustration of why politics and religion don't mix.

The Bush ban appeared to some to be fairly simple, don't use federal funding, use private funding...if it is viable research, then it will attract private funding. However, in order to do this research, universities were finding that because so much of their equipment was purchased by grants from so many of the previous federally funded research projects, they were having to construct completely separate faclities to perform embryonic stem cell research. The new rules appear to lift this aspect of the ban.

The Bush ban appeared to some to be fairly simple, don't use federal funding, use private funding...if it is viable research, then it will attract private funding.

The problem is that private funding is much easier to get for applied stuff that can generate profits in the predictable future. Most of the research on embryonic stem cells is still pie-in-the-sky basic research. It's very exciting, and it's likely to produce great results some time, but it's hard to see exactly when something really profitable will come out of it. That means for-profit companies don't want to touch it with a ten foot pole. The only "private funding" left comes from the few private foundations that fund medical research. There's a reason that several states decided to step into the hole the Feds left.

Universities and such are important, but when we speak of public v private research, the big gorilla is NIH.

According to Wikipedia, "As of 2003, the Institutes are responsible for 28%—about $28 billion—of the total biomedical research funding spent annually in the U.S., with most of the rest coming from industry."

Stuff like this sticks in the Randian craws of Libertarian true believers, but they get all quiet when we need a Manhattan Project.

I swear, the last twenty-five years have had a more toxic effect on our understanding of government than the now-crippled global financial community.

You know what? You'd be catching me in an inconsistency, if I wasn't in favor of almost all of government being fee for service, with people being able to opt out of the service.

Which parts do you not think should be fee for service?

One note about Hootsbuddy's proposal: it precludes somatic cell nuclear transfer, otherwise known as therapeutic cloning.

Terminological note: "cloning", in this context, is the process by which you take DNA from one person and use it to create a genetically identical embryo. But what happens next is crucial. In reproductive cloning, you implant the embryo into a woman in the hopes that she will carry it to term. And that is where the moral issues involved in reproductive cloning come from: the fact of creating a *child* who will be genetically identical to someone else, plus the fact that there are big risks of birth defects.

In SCNT, by contrast, you take your new embryo and remove its stem cells, thereby destroying it. The moral problems are completely distinct from those involved in reproductive cloning: here, the problem is that you are creating an embryo for the sole purpose of destroying it for research purposes.

Either or both might be wrong, or they might not; the point here is just that their wrongness, if any, would be very, very different.)

SCNT is actually quite useful, since you can decide what sort of genetic profile the stem cells will have, instead of screening zillions of embryos hoping that the one you want turns up. For instance: suppose you want to study how some rare disease manifests itself in stem cells (which you might want to do for all kinds of reasons.) Finding someone who has that disease is a lot easier than finding an embryo that does.

Likewise, if you want to see just what difference a particular genetic abnormality makes, you can find someone with that abnormality, take a cell sample, and create two stem cell lines, one with the abnormality and one using cells in which you have corrected it. No need to ask questions like: are there other differences between these two genomes that might explain whatever you find?

Hopefully, this will become less important as developments in creating pluripotent stem cell lines from non-embryonic sources proceed. But they are important now. I do not expect Obama's order to allow federally funded research on embryos derived from SCNT, though in his statement he only reiterated his opposition to *reproductive* cloning (which almost everyone in bioethics opposes.)

He claimed there were about 60 lines at the time, but 58 of those turned out to be bread mold I think.

I hope this was supposed to be humor, but there really is a problem. Most labs work with many different cell lines, not just embryonic stem cells, and it requires stringent precautions to prevent cross contamination. When people looked carefully it turned out that many cell lines that were supposed to be stem cells had been contaminated with and completely overwhelmed by other, faster replicating cells (usually HeLa, IIRC).

I saw this video today that shows how different news outlets are reporting the story. It's interesting to see the difference in perspectives...


Great to see we have a president who values and understands the importance of science. Imagine that.

Even Nancy Reagan embraces the concept. Too bad so much of the GOP make her seem like an outcast in this regard.

Well, values and understands the importance of something called "science", at any rate. We've yet to see science, as science, and Obama's political interests, clash in any serious way. I'm sure we will at some point, though; Liberals aren't nearly as "reality based" as they like to flatter themselves, there are plenty of subjects where they insist that reality take a back seat to ideology. Just different ones than conservatives, for the most part.

Real science isn't guaranteed to comfort anyone all the time.

I'm strongly in favor of embryonic stem cell research: We really need to understand the cell's state machine, so that we can take adult cells, and reprogram them into whatever cell type we need. The embryonic cells themselves, of course, have very little therapeutic potential, for immunological reasons. I'm afraid the public has been to some extent misled on that score, and it's played into the hands of opponents of the research.

Hi, I found your post really interesting, my friend and I run a small internet marketing business at home. We are roommates, so after our day job, we spend an hour on research and work.

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