July 27, 2006

Stem Cell Misconceptions

Carroll Andrew Morse

This short passage from Froma Harrop's stem cell column from yesterday contains one of the misconceptions that Senator Tom Coburn talked about last weekend...

Adult stem-cell research is promising -- but already fully funded. And only embryonic stem cells can be turned into other types of body cells to replace damaged tissues. That's why researchers are so intent on using them.
Current research indicates that embryonic stem cells may not be the only cells that "can be turned into other types of body cells" (the technical term for this is "pluripotency"). Researchers in California claim to have created pluripotent cells by reprogramming human "germ cells", cells taken from the reproductive organs of adults...
May 9, 2006--Publicly addressing the company's breakthrough in stem cell research, PrimeGen Biotech LLC (www.primegenbiotech.com) today announced that its principal investigator will present data showing the isolation and therapeutic reprogramming of adult germ-line stem cells into pluripotent cells -- cells that have the potential to turn into any cell line of the body.
The PrimeGen research is still undergoing peer review. Also, back in April, Reuters reported on a research group in Germany that has created pluripotent cells from the germ cells of mice, though not from humans yet.

At this time, therapies using "pluripotent germ cells" are only potential, just as therapies using "embryonic stem cells" are only potential. So what's needed to turn the potential into reality? Well, almost every summary of the topic that I've found so far (including Senator Coburn's remarks) says that the biggest roadblock to the theraputic use of embryonic stem cells is the issue of rejection. If pluripotent cells can be created from germ cells, the rejection issue is solved, as the material needed for celluar therapy can be created from the body of the person needing the therapy. If there is a more promising path around the rejection issue, no one is talking much about it.

Finally, I am unsure of what the meaning of "already fully funded" is in the context of adult stem cell research. Does this mean that everything scientifically that can be done is being done? Or does it only mean that we've hit a politically-determined limit on how much is spent on adult stem cell research?

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I would like Steve Laffey to clarify his position on the issue of embryonic stem cell research. I suspect another instance of hypocrisy. He's a very smart man and purportedly is a shrewd investor. That's why I find it inconceivable that he would invest in a company that focuses on embryonic stem cell research, but refuses to support federal funding for that kind of research. I don't understand why he would think it was a good enough to invest his hard-earned money in, but not the federal government's. It strikes me as selfish.

Posted by: Cabot Lodge at July 27, 2006 8:51 PM

Steve Laffey is concerned with one thing: Steve Laffey.

Laffey will back whatever position helps him. If it he thinks he can get Latino support by being pro-immigration he'll take that position. If a few months later, he needs to take an anti-immigration position to solicit national conservative campaign contributions, he'll take that position.

He'll be against stem cell research if he thinks it will help him get the pro-life vote, but won't think anything about making money from human embryonic stem cell research.

Steve, it's not a private sector versus public sector issue. IT'S A MORAL ISSUE.

Laffey is a hypocrite and voters know it. It's why he hasn't been able to break 30% in general election head-to-heads.

Posted by: Anthony at July 28, 2006 9:01 AM

Anthony, this IS a private vs. public sector issue.

The MORAL issue is what you are using to keep your head in the sand.

I have read your posts, often, and you are an intelligent person. You certainly must realize that, beyond morality, there is a patent race going on here. Did you think that the zillions of dollars were spent on research because corporations really LOVE us and want to see us healthy?

So, one can stand around and say, 'Hey, come back here and address this morality issue!' or one can try to help our govenrment get the patent by allocating research dollars, so the resulting medicine/treatments will belong to all who need them - not just the chosen few who have enough money - the same few who invested in the research in the first place.
But no. We have to screw around. Snowflake Children, moral majority, blah, blah, blah.

With all the conspiracy theories surrounding President Bush, no one seems to have a problem with how he is getting in our way towards securing the patent. Maybe no one notices how that helps Phizer and Lily. No, the public is too busy to notice. Too busy playing Election Year Blame Game, paying EXXON's next quarter profits, and trying to have a little fun with the kids.
I think CAM is correct - we need to find out what "already fully funded" means.

Posted by: taxpayer at July 28, 2006 10:16 AM

Laffey's position is sensible and principled. First, as a Republican who fights for the best solution for all people (not just special interest groups) he recognizes (as did Ronald Reagan) that federal spending leads to huge bureaucracy, fraud, waste and abuse. Biotech investment dollars are better spent in the private sector where competition will ensure greater efficiencies and faster results.

Once again the Chafee camp is grasping at straws because the Senator has no record that could convince any un-coerced GOP primary voter to vote for him.

Once again he's coddling the left wing special interests instead of putting taxpayers first.

Like Anthony, whose positions are based on from whom he can get the best WWF seats. Chafee blows with the wind, which, from where ever he may be standing, is heading toward the left.

Posted by: roadrunner at July 28, 2006 11:32 AM

roadrunner, although I value your keen insights such as "Chafee is coddling left wing special interests instead of putting taxpayers first", you might do Steve Laffey a favor by leaving the commenting to those who can formulate a thought--Fred, Will and Tom do a good job.

Your time might be better spent researching a career in writing bumper stickers or novelty T-shirts.

And unlike roadrunner, I'm not only any government or campaign payroll, I've never been to a WWF event and it's laughable to even suggest that I would promote a position based on WWF tickets...now Red Sox World Series tickets on the other hand....

Posted by: Anthony at July 28, 2006 5:56 PM

Roadrunner and taxpayer,
I think that the idea of painting Laffey as a foe of special interest groups is disingenuous and false. He really is a shill for special interest money as evidenced by the fact that the Club for Growth is bankrolling his campaign. They fit the text book definition of a special interest group - one issue, tax cuts. Any coincidence that Mr. Laffey parrots their talking points and out of nowhere decided to oppose tax increases.

Posted by: cabot lodge at July 28, 2006 8:15 PM

Although this special interest stuff is fascinating, it takes us away from the far more interesting issue of the Mayor's hypocrisy on embryonic stem cell research. I do not understand his position. Is he morally opposed to embryonic stem cell research? Does he equate it with murder? His "research" into the issue seems a triffle shoddy to me. If it's such a bad investment for the Federal government, why does the "Harvard MBA" feel compelled to sink his own money into it.

Posted by: cabot lodge at July 28, 2006 8:19 PM

Steve Laffey is not opposed to ANYTHING on moral grounds.

Strangely, he attended the same conference where Sen. Coburn gave a detailed description of the moral implications of research using human embryonic stem cells. Laffey rejects everything Coburn had to say. Now the same people who were praising Coburn are defending Laffey's "Show Me the Money" approach to the issue.


Posted by: Anthony at July 28, 2006 10:12 PM

wow. anthony and cabot - you must be genetic decendants of the guys who thought the world was flat...they prolly hated that Columbus guy and hoped he sailed right off the edge. Sorry, there's no cure, now more that ever.

Posted by: taxpayer at July 28, 2006 10:31 PM

Tax Payer,
As someone who is presumably opposing embryonic stem cell research, it is you that is more closely aligned with the naysayers who lampooned Columbus.
As usual, you prefer to offer tepid criticism and stale jokes in place of substantive debates. I challenge you to defend Laffey's hypocrisy.

Posted by: cabot lodge at July 29, 2006 5:14 PM

You're not in charge of anything important, are you Cabot? I don't see how you can presume my position on stem cell research as negative. Maybe I should use smaller words - Research good. Losing patent bad.

Posted by: taxpayer at July 30, 2006 9:39 AM

Did anyone else read Bakst's article on Laffey's stem cell hypocrisy. My favorite is that the Harvard MBA had no idea what kind of company he was pouring his money into. If, upon finding out, he was so upset that he pulled his money, why didn't he take the thousands he made and invest it in adult stem cell treatment. Convenient that he waited until he made a profit to pull his money.

Posted by: cabot lodge at July 30, 2006 1:42 PM

Typical Laffey. Stem cell research: immoral, unless Steverino is getting coin of the realm out of it.

Posted by: Rhody at July 30, 2006 7:18 PM

I find Laffey's response laughable.

Didn't Lafffey defend his campaign contributions to Jesse Jackson, Jr. and to other Democrats running for the Senate because they involved his "private sector" business interests?

A couple of months ago, he's defending political contribution as being driven by business, now he's saying his business is separate from his politics.

Yeah, there's no hypocrisy THERE!

Posted by: Anthony at July 31, 2006 9:12 AM

Anthony, why not get your friend Chafee to debate Laffey on the issues?

I would love to witness that ass-kicking.

M. Chafee Bakst (revolving Gay Marriage > Abortion > Stem Cell reporter) has put up the challenge.

Where's chicken Linc? Talk about a gutless coward. He tries to needle Laffey through his lackey, Ian Lang, but he won't put up!

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at July 31, 2006 5:54 PM

Um, Stretch, read the papers. Chafee is debating Laffey, just as he said he would. He said he would do it after the session was over and not surprisingly, that's exactly what he is doing.

Now all we need is Laffey to show, provided he doesn't have a "private sector" engagement with Jesse Jackson, Jr. that prevents him from coming.

Posted by: Anthony at August 1, 2006 8:36 AM