Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stem cell letter to the Michigan Daily

The following letter was submitted to the Michigan Daily in response to a recent editorial on stem cell research.
In a recent editorial, the Michigan Daily claims opponents of killing human embryos for research are "running out of reasons." Sadly, this editorial never explained what Michigan's "draconian laws" are nor did it explain how these laws were hurting Michigan. It claims Michigan is falling behind in stem cell research and then provides no evidence for this claim.

The editorial asserts "there is no chance" that human embryos "destroyed" for their stem cells "would otherwise be allowed to mature into actual human beings." Besides incorrectly assuming human embryos aren't "actual" human beings, this statement ignores the growing number of human embryos who have been adopted by couples struggling with infertility. One such former embryo named Frank Geisen recently appeared with his parents who testified against changing Michigan's laws.

The editorial also inaccurately claims embryonic stem cells "are the most readily available, flexible and understood choice." Embryonic stem cells are not more readily available or understood than adult stem cells which are in every single one of our bodies and are currently being used to treat patients. Recent research into creating pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming skin cells (which are quite easy to obtain) shows those reprogrammed cells are just as flexible as embryonic stem cells.

The editorial is correct about one thing: the tide on this issue is turning. It's turning sharply away from those who think killing human embryos is the answer. Recently, voters in New Jersey turned down an effort to spend $450 million on embryonic stem cell research. On November 20, two sets of researchers revealed they created pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming adult cells. Pluripotency is the asset in embryonic stem cells which some researchers crave. Now researchers have a simple, ethical way of obtaining patient-specific pluripotent stem cells from patients without killing human embryos.