Weird Science

Last week brought two more reports of medical breakthroughs using adult stem cells. These and other milestones reported over the past year are lending considerable scientific credibility to the practical and ethical use of adult stem cells for medical purposes. The continued liberal push for government funding of embryonic stem cell research, however, suggests they either can't read, an accusation they normally level against us uneducated, ignorant and unsophisticated conservatives, or they are guilty of the same abuse of which they accuse us, that of injecting ideology into science. If anything, we conservatives have ethics and evidence on our side; the left has only hope - sound familiar? In one case, doctors built a new airway for a woman whose lungs and trachea were badly damaged by a bout with tuberculosis using the matrix of a donor trachea and adult stem cells taken from her bone marrow. Four days after the transplant, her trachea was almost indistinguishable from that of a healthy patient and, four months later, there are no signs of rejection or other complications using the transplanted tissue. This is the first such transplant where immunosuppression drugs were not required.

The second breakthrough involved scientists at Bristol University in Great Britain using cartilage-producing stem cells taken from 23 patients with knee injuries and growing a living cellular "bandage" to fix the tears in the patients' knee cartilage. In all cases, the two halves of the tear grew back together and, according to the scientists, "the cartilage matures well, even in patients with early osteoarthritis." Prior to this discovery, most meniscal cartilage tears were essentially irreparable and the cartilage had to be removed, leading to progressive degenerative arthritis in the knee joint.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN says "Adult stem cell transplants are not new. A heart valve was regrown in April of 2007. In 2004, scientists rebuilt bladder muscles using injected stem cells. And bone marrow is commonly transplanted to treat leukemia and other types of cancer." Bob Ellis of the Dakota Voice sums up the implications of these new reports, saying "This brings the total of successful adult stem cell transplant therapies to somewhere around 80. The number of successes for the life-destroying embryonic stem cell research: zero. There is simply no reason--ethical or practical--to destroy human life in the pursuit of medical science."

In the absence of evidential or ethical justification for embryonic stem cell research, why do liberals continue to insist on taxpayer funding for this unproven and morally controversial practice? Could it be that they are in fact putting their ideology ahead of science? If so, they are worthy of scorn for their bald-faced hypocrisy.Let me break it down further for our liberal friends. Practically no person with a soul would condone medical experimentation on unwilling human subjects, regardless of the potential benefits to mankind. Here in Maryland, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele was pilloried by the press in 2006 for comparing embryonic stem cell research to the Holocaust and, while I would advise all politicians to refrain from such analogies because they trivialize the unique horror of Nazi Germany's crimes against humanity, I understand the point he was trying to make. We who believe that life at all stages of development is deserving of society's protection see no difference between experimentation on just-conceived humans or more fully developed ones. Both are ethically reprehensible, have no promise of results other than the hopes of the researchers and those desperately seeking cures, and are unnecessary given the alternatives that have already shown great promise. Of course, liberals don't believe that human life begins at conception so to them, these not-yet developed humans are mere cells to be poked, prodded and discarded. If that isn't injecting ideology into science, I'd like someone to explain to me why it would be otherwise.

The advances in adult stem cell research give credence to something I've always believed about mankind and his pursuit of knowledge. We are inquisitive creatures by design and the boundaries we place on our exploration are necessary for our own well-being and that of others. To the extent that restrictions on embryonic stell cell research have channeled increased scientific inquiry and attention toward adult stem cell initiatives, it has benefited society immensely. Without bioethics and the limitations it places on scientific endeavors, we risk either going down rabbit holes in a futile search for answers or bringing harm to our fellow man, unintended or otherwise. Science without ethics is like children playing God; the combination of unbridled curiosity and unlimited power is sure to lead to disaster.