Sunday, June 11, 2006

Right approach to stem cell research

The decision by Harvard University to open embryonic stem cell lines from cloned eggs is commendable, especially in the face of staunch opposition from President Bush. 
The President, in his attempts to legislate morality to the liking of his far-right supporters, has continually treaded in opposition to the feelings of Congress, including Senate majority leader Bill Frist and his predecessor in office, who laid the groundwork at the end of his second term for the use of embryos discarded after in vitro fertility treatments to create stem cell lines for research. 
Because of this, an issue of direct importance to millions of Americans has become a political weapon for the administration, to be used to silence its necessarily immoral critics. Imagery of life and death, of sacrificing thousands of unborn children to create playthings for the Dr. Frankenstein’s in their ivory towers, have been artfully crafted to charge the issue and galvanize the tragically misinformed masses. 
But there is no question of life and death, at least for the stem cells. The frozen embryos needed to start lines of stem cells for research have no more potential for growth than the fertilized egg which is unable to implant itself on the thinned uterine wall in the womb of a woman on birth control.
Harvard University’s ethically-sensitive approach, with great care taken to educate potential egg donors, who will not be compensated, is a sensible way to push the frontiers of medical research. The creation of embryonic stem cells through cloning allows for experimentation on embryos with the same genetic makeup as a person with a specific disease. These techniques will be used to examine intractable disorders as varied as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, illnesses that have caused suffering and stymied the medical community for far too long. As with any medical research, optimism must be tempered by the realization that progress in the lab is often slow and uncertain. Harvard University’s approach strikes this balance — all the while offering a glimmer of hope to the millions whose dreams of a cure had been dashed by the current administration.
Imron Bhatti
Editorial Writer

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