Cellular Biology

Stem Cell Therapy

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The fast approaching of the mid term elections bring all the special interest champions out into the limelight. Advocates for special interests ranging from the environment to animal rights all view the political process as a means to advance their causes. Chief among these media darlings dedicated to a social agenda is Michael J. Fox.

Mr. Fox has enabled scientists to carry out some incredible research in regards to Parkinson's disease (PD). The Michael J. Fox Foundation has awarded more the seventy million dollars in scientific grants involving more than two hundred research projects in eighteen countries.

Among the wide array of projects supported by the Fox Foundation is a gene therapy that injects a virus with a gene produced by the team of Dr. Raymond Bartus into the brain. The theory behind this study is that seeding the malfunctioning area of the brain will cause it to start producing Dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone like neurotransmitter.

The Cleveland Clinics: Glossary of Parkinson's disease Terms defines Dopamine as;

A chemical produced by the brain; it assists in the effective transmission of messages from one nerve cell to the next. People with Parkinson's have decreased amounts of the chemical in the basal ganglia and substantia nigra, two structures located deep in the brain. Dopamine coordinates the actions of movement, balance, and walking.

Another study at the University of Florida supported by the Fox Foundation is led by Dr. Christine Sapienza. This group of scientist are working on curing a symptom of PD, that of difficulty swallowing. This may seem trivial at first blush until you learn that the leading cause of death in a PWP (Person with Parkinson's) is aspiration pneumonia. Water leaking into the airway causing infection, pneumonia and death.

In Beijing China compounds found in green tea are being study in the event that they may slow the progression of PD. Again supported financially by the Fox Foundation.

Parkinson's disease is a very highly misunderstood disease. There are an estimated one and a half million people in the United States suffering from PD. It is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects the Dopamine producing area of the brain. This loss of Dopamine can cause at rest tremors, a slowness of movement, rigidity of trunk and limbs and impaired balance. These are only the main symptoms of PD with dozens of secondary symptoms. PD is a quietly devastating disease.

Mr. Fox has joined the political process to promote Stem Cell research, specifically Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR). Mr. Fox and our media have bought into the claims of certain members of the scientific community that embryonic stem cells are the great panacea, the magic bullet, and a cure all solution. Fact is not a single therapy has been developed using Embryonic Stem Cells.

Diana Kapp in The $3 Billion Cell Job states [1] "Not a single embryonic stem cell has ever been tested in a human being, for any disease."

Read what she says carefully, not only are their no therapies using ESCR, but no research project has progressed to the stage of testing on humans. This after twenty five years of research and testing on embryonic stem cells obtained from mice.

Stuart Newman, Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy, New York Medical College wrote [2] "there had been essentially no progress in curing or even palliating disabling conditions for which mouse models' existed, such as diabetes, spinal cord injury, Parkinson's and so forth."

No progress towards a cure for diabetes, spinal cord injury or PD, not even to relieving the symptoms of these tragic disabling conditions. Neither a single cure nor relief of the any of the symptoms associated with these diseases.

A leading advocate of ESCR when asked how long it will take for embryonic stem cell based therapies to be ready, gives the following answer [3] "My answer is five years,' he said. It's the same thing as saying I have no idea.'"

That is about as honest an answer as you are likely to find in the debate over ESCR. As honest as it is telling, no one really can say definitively that ESCR will produce a cure in the next several decades, or even if one can be produced.

Quoting Mr. Fox in an interview with Katie Couric on April 16 of 2006 "not all politicians are on the same page as scientists. Parkinson's experts believe in stem cell research as a promising prospect for a cure. But the source of those cells human embryos - touches a sensitive nerve in the nation's capitol.

Either Mr. Fox is not being entirely truthful or he does not fully comprehend the claims he makes in the above statement. He implies that all scientists are in agreement with his belief that ESCR is the next great cure all. That politicians, specifically those in Washington are to be blamed for its lack of progress.

A case against this point of view can be made from a letter written during the 2004 Presidential election by fifty-seven noted research scientists and physicians. The signatories coming from such renowned research facilities as the Mayo Clinic, Georgetown Medical School, Harvard Medical School, and the National Cancer Institute. In this letter written to the Kerry - Edwards campaign regarding their statements on ESCR; these same scientists accuse the campaign of being irresponsible, dangerous and misleading.

Third, the statements you have made regarding the purported medical applications of embryonic stem cells reach far beyond any credible evidence, ignoring the limited state of our knowledge about embryonic stem cells and the advances in other areas of research that may render use of these cells unnecessary for many applications. To make such exaggerated claims, at this stage of our knowledge, is not only scientifically irresponsible it is deceptive and cruel to millions of patients and their families who hope desperately for cures and have come to rely on the scientific community for accurate information. (Ad-hoc group of Scientists Letter to the Kerry Edwards Campaign October 27th 2004)

After chastising the political campaign of Kerry-Edwards the letter continues on to describe how research and treatment of non-controversial adult stem cells have already treated and cured thousands of dozens of diseases.

Non-embryonic stem cells have been discovered in many unexpected tissues in blood, nerve, fat, skin, muscle, umbilical cord blood, placenta, even dental pulp and dozens of studies indicate that they are far more versatile than once thought. Use of these cells poses no serious ethical problem, and may avoid all problems of tissue rejection if stem cells can be obtained from a patient for use in that same patient. Clinical use of non-embryonic stem cells has grown greatly in recent years. In contrast to embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells are in established or experimental use to treat human patients with several dozen conditions, according to the National Institutes of Health and the National Marrow Donor Program (Cong. Record, September 9, 2004, pages H6956-7). They have been or are being assessed in human trials for treatment of spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease, stroke, cardiac damage, multiple sclerosis, and so on.

Adult Stem Cells are plentiful, easy to obtain and come with out the moral, ethical and medical baggage of Embryonic Stem Cells. They have and are being used to treat "several dozen conditions", currently.

Again we see that the medically more advanced adult stem cells are a superior option to those taken at an embryonic state. This is a scientific fact. The later in the gestation period a cell has achieved the more stable it becomes. Cells taken at the earliest or blastocyst stage (5 to 6 days) are highly volatile, difficult to work with and likely to cause tumors. Later in the development cycle the cell stabilizes and becomes the type of cell it was designed to be.

Mr. Fox is also wrong in his perception of what pro life is and what is not. Again a quote from the Katie Couric interview, Mr. Fox in response to a question about the "millions of Americans who find the concept of destroying embryos immoral" :

I would say that, from my opinion, it's an amazing pro-life thing to do to take those cells and to endeavor to improve the lives of millions and billions of people that are alive now and will be alive in the future by coming up with cures-and treatments for diseases.

His concept of pro life and mine vary greatly. The basic premise to his answer is that of the pro abortion movement. The idea that lives at different stages of development are of unequal value and that some stages are of little to no value. Another way of saying the same thing would be that the unborn lack some thing that the new born has acquired. This is the slippery slope we find ourselves on today, and have been treading ever downward since Roe v. Wade.

All life, the stage of development not withstanding is valuable in the eyes of our Creator. The Bible teaches that men and women were created in the image of God

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

Combined with the instruction of the 5th commandment delivered to Moses in Exodus 20:13 "You shall not murder. (NIV)

This makes it imperative that we are to protect life, from its very beginning to its natural end. Life is sacred gift. This truth is unrelated to situation or circumstance. Destroying a human embryo is destroying a living human being. Any middle school biology student know that life beings when the cell divides. ESCR destroys a human being. Michael J. Fox knows this. The scientist proponents of ESCR know this. They have their own reasons for pushing their agenda.

As a fellow PD patient myself, my outlook on life and its sanctity are very different from that of Mr. Fox. I have learned to look for the blessing in all things, even PD. It is the difference between a post modern worldview and a Christian worldview. When one learns that God is soverign and allows nothing that can not be used to His glory to happen, it gives life a new meaning.

Stem Cell Research can be beneficial to human kind when done properly. It can be extremely destructive when done outside the bounds of propriety. We must put aside our personal agendas and educate one another to the facts. Stem Cell Research on Adult stem cells provides great promise of even more therapies and treatments in the near future.

In conclusion I want to address Mr. Fox directly by saying, Michael you have done great things with your foundation, all in your own strength. However you will never find true happiness or peace until you come to accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life. It staggers my imagination what you could accomplish were you only acting in His will and not your own. As the Apostle Paul writing from a Roman prison cell explains it;

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)

I will pray that you God gives you Michael the wisdom to discern the truth regarding the destruction of embryos and the sanctity of human life. That he will soften your heart and that you will choose to let Him in. That you will continue to do His work, His way.

All in the name of Jesus, Amen

More about this author: Clyde Annach

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