September 9, 2008

Re: Busting the Palin Caricature

Carroll Andrew Morse

In addition to the areas that Marc mentioned, members of the Projo editorial board (and some other organs of the MSM) are playing fast-and-loose also with their description of Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin's position on stem cell research. Here's the the unsigned editorial from Saturday…

Governor Palin didn’t mention…that she opposes stem-cell research.
…and the Froma Harrop op-ed from Sunday…
It’s four more years of national humiliation as our leadership undermines the teaching of evolutionary science, and if something happens to John McCain, opposes stem-cell research.
But the statement that Governor Palin "opposes stem cell research" is not accurate and leaves the reader in the dark about the important developments into non-embryonic stem-cell research that have occurred over the past year.

The most promising research into stem cell medical treatments is coming from the use of "induced pluripotent stem-cells", using cells taken from adults and not human embryos. Time Magazine described the most recent breakthrough in July…

After nearly a decade of setbacks and false starts, stem-cell science finally seems to be hitting its stride. Just a year after Japanese scientists first reported that they had generated stem cells by reprogramming adult skin cells — without using embryos — American researchers have managed to use that groundbreaking technique to achieve another scientific milestone. They created the first nerve cells from reprogrammed stem cells — an important demonstration of the potential power of stem-cell-based treatments to cure disease.

Led by Kevin Eggan at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Christopher Henderson at Columbia University, the 13-person team reported online today in Science Express that they had generated motor neurons from the skin cells of two elderly patients with a rare form of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative condition. The new study marks an important first step on the road toward real stem-cell-based therapies, and also answers several plaguing questions about the pioneering stem-cell technique known as induced pluripotent stem cell, or iPS, generation.

IPS was first described by Japanese biologist Shinya Yamanaka, who, in 2007, showed that the introduction of four genes into an adult human skin cell could reprogram it back to an embryonic state (Yamanaka had reported the same achievement in mice the previous year). Like embryonic stem cells, these reprogrammed adult cells could be coaxed into becoming any other type of cell — from skin to nerve to muscle. But researchers questioned whether the new stem cells would behave as predictably or as safely as embryonic stem cells, or whether iPS would consistently yield usable cells. "Our work shows that the original method developed by Yamanaka works great," says Eggan.

Is anyone opposed to this line of research? If not, than the Projo op-ed page should stop running claims that someone is.

The idea the Governor Palin opposes all stem cell research traces back, as best as I can determine, to statements made in her 2006 campaign for Governor of Alaska, before the major 2007 breakthrough in creating stem-cells from adult tissues had occurred, but some MSM writers don’t seem interested in this critical distinction, nor in helping the public keep pace with the science.

Is that a rational position for those who fancy themselves as pro-science?

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Yes, the failure to differentiate between the differing the types of stem cell research indicates a lack of understanding of the topic.

I think we can all be prepared to hear half-truths and spin from the left until they develop a suitable basis on which to attack Palin.

Posted by: Anthony at September 9, 2008 2:36 PM
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