More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Stem Cell Threat

Sept. 27, 2001 (Ivanhoe Newswire) Although some have feared the lack of federal funds for stem cell research will leave the United States behind in the medical world, an article in the recent issue of Nature reveals most experts do not expect a threat to the nation's competitiveness in biomedicine.

Experts say the lack of funds in the United States must be put into perspective before considering the threat of scientists going abroad where federal funds are provided. Because generous salaries and good working conditions remain in the United States, many say the migration of biomedical scientists is unlikely. Secondly, experts emphasize the compromise President George W. Bush made on Aug. 9, 2001 that allows researchers to gain grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many also say embryonic stem cell research is at such an early stage that it may not pan out to be clinically superior to other forms of medicine. Instead, adult stem cells may prove more successful and less controversial in the long run. Lastly, experts feel if embryonic stem cells do prove useful and the United States begins to fall behind in biomedical research, President Bush will be put under immense pressure to back out of his original stance against federal funding.

Rob Edwards, the pioneer of in vitro reproductive technology, believes the threat of embryonic stem cells research lies not in the United States' regression in biomedicine, but on the larger threat of cloning and surrogate pregnancy.

In a related commentary, Edwards says, "Buying or using stem cells from someone else to keep one's own conscience clear is just as unethical as the original decision to make them, or more so."

Focusing his warning more towards surrogate pregnancy, gamete donation and embryo cryopreservation, Edwards concludes more questions need to be answered concerning embryonic stem cells. He asks how and where the cells originate and how they distribute so widely in tissues. Emphasizing the need for more research, Edwards concludes, "Early human differentiation must be better understood, to improve endogenous forms of tissue repair."

SOURCE: Nature, 2001;413:345-346, 349-351

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