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Old 2010-09-10, 02:07   Link #1
Seitsuki
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Embryonic stemcell research

Well in our biology class recently we were learning about gene technology and it seems that stem cell research is both the fastest developing field of research as well as being one of the most controversial. While the potential benefits are widespread, there have been many issues raised such as the 'right to life' and whether or not an embryo is at that point an actual 'person'.

With the recent lifting of restrictions on funding for research in the USA, it is possible that research will take off now that it can be performed openly and in a wider array of facilities. Of course adult stem cell research is also progressing, but there are greater possibilities with embryonic stem cells due to their natural pluripotency.

Overall I think the issue was summed up pretty nicely by this cartoon our teacher provided (and which was also conveniently on the net):



Personally my view is if it hasn't got a brain it doesn't have any feelings yet- a bit of a double standard I suppose, as I am also Christian and pretty anti-abortion, but my view is that as long as there are potential benefits with only hypothetical ethical issues there should be no problems. But there you go.

So what do you guys think?
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Old 2010-09-10, 02:18   Link #2
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Originally Posted by Seitsuki View Post
So what do you guys think?
I think this will start like the Abortion thread before it, with liberals and faithheads arguing over what constitutes a "baby", and end with me throwing the Book of Fallacies at the faithheads, causing them to raeg hard because of it.

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Old 2010-09-10, 02:30   Link #3
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It will probably go into an abortion debate thread. Let's see how long we can keep it about stem cell research, heh.
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Old 2010-09-10, 02:51   Link #4
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Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
I think this will start like the Abortion thread before it, with liberals and faithheads arguing over what constitutes a "baby", and end with me throwing the Book of Fallacies at the faithheads, causing them to raeg hard because of it.

So you're a liberal then?

A lot of research are focusing and jumping the gun on embryonic stem cell research mostly because of:

1. Higher pluripotential capacity of embryonic line stem cells for differentiation. In other words, these cells have a greater ability to differentiate and specialize to serve the needs of the problem in question. At least compared to the ones found in adults.

2. Relatively easier... way of getting the cells from an embryo rather than getting your stem cells from an adult. It's a lot easier to take some cells from a month-old embryo than say aspirating some from adult bone marrow and picking out the viable ones.

3. And yes, you can get embryos just about anywhere. It's easier to just pump out embryos from "baby factories" than to study the potential uses of stem cells from adult tissue.

I have never and will never support the explicit use of embryos for the sole purpose of stem cell pharming. If you had to use embryos for research and/or treatment, you could at least take ones that have naturally aborted rather than telling entire groups of people to go procreate just to have embryos and fetuses for scientific research.

There is still so much potential in using and researching pluripotential stem cells from adult tissue to throw in the towel to immediately favor embryonic stem cell research. At the very least it doesn't involve the death of a distinct cellular organism (so as to avoid the subjectivity of using the term "life"), and you could easily avoid the ethical questions and pitfalls the previous research is always going to generate elsewhere.

@Seitsuki

TvTropes is probably not a good reference link for the subjectivity of the begnnings of human life.
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Old 2010-09-10, 03:12   Link #5
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Originally Posted by MeoTwister5 View Post
There is still so much potential in using and researching pluripotential stem cells from adult tissue to throw in the towel to immediately favor embryonic stem cell research. At the very least it doesn't involve the death of a distinct cellular organism (so as to avoid the subjectivity of using the term "life"), and you could easily avoid the ethical questions and pitfalls the previous research is always going to generate elsewhere.
This. Adult tissue stem cells can be used instead of embyonic stem cells, and i've even heard that there is research showing that adult stem cells are more effective than embryonic stem cells though i'm not sure if its true, have to go and research it. But anyway, adult stem cells are everywhere...use them people!
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Old 2010-09-10, 03:27   Link #6
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This. Adult tissue stem cells can be used instead of embyonic stem cells, and i've even heard that there is research showing that adult stem cells are more effective than embryonic stem cells though i'm not sure if its true, have to go and research it. Anyway, I believe a person is a person from conception. if not, we have to take a big stick and draw a line in the sand and decide at a certain point that a fetus is no longer a clump of cells but in fact is a person, which i find to be completely ridiculous.
We have, in fact, been using adult stem cells as treatment for diseases for years, even before we truly understood the mechanisms by which pluripotential cells differentiate and specialize:

Bone-marrow transplantation.

To cut out the medical terminology, it's essentially the same: after you nuke out the diseased bone marrow with radiation, you replace it with bone marrow from a donor, which is basically transplanting someone else' hematopoietic stem cells (RBC, WBC and platelet precursors) into your bone marrow to replace the diseases blood cells you have.

This concept of replacing diseased/dead tissue with cells that will eventually transform to replace it is the core concept of stem cell implantation, which boggles me that we've successfully been doing it to treat advanced leukemia for years but now people are shying away from it in favor of the easy way out.
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Old 2010-09-10, 04:04   Link #7
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We have, in fact, been using adult stem cells as treatment for diseases for years, even before we truly understood the mechanisms by which pluripotential cells differentiate and specialize:

Bone-marrow transplantation.

To cut out the medical terminology, it's essentially the same: after you nuke out the diseased bone marrow with radiation, you replace it with bone marrow from a donor, which is basically transplanting someone else' hematopoietic stem cells (RBC, WBC and platelet precursors) into your bone marrow to replace the diseases blood cells you have.

This concept of replacing diseased/dead tissue with cells that will eventually transform to replace it is the core concept of stem cell implantation, which boggles me that we've successfully been doing it to treat advanced leukemia for years but now people are shying away from it in favor of the easy way out.
Yeah, i meant to use it instead of embryonic stem cells. The human body is quite amazing, not only does it have the best self-repair system in the world but it can heal others as well
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Old 2010-09-10, 04:06   Link #8
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Meo, I do believe that most embryos in use for reasearch atm are surplus embryos from fertility treatments such as IVF. Not sure if they're "donated" with permission or not, but fairly certain they don't have factories filled with vats of eggs swimming in sperm pumping out embyros

Whilst it is true that pluripotency can be engineered in adult stem cells, the main method being used (using viruses to introduce the DNA sequences into the cell genes) carries dangers with it (other stuff may be introduced/altered that you don't want yet may not pick up on.) I do believe that safer methods are being developed but it's still a work in progress, leaving adult cells being mainly used for multipotent purposes and embryos still the main source of pluripotent research.
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Old 2010-09-10, 04:18   Link #9
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I guess fertility treatment surpluses of non-viable embryos are fine. It's just that I really dislike the baby factory method of supplying embryos for the sole purpose of embryo research. I find it extremely dehumanizing.

Embryos will always have the advantage of not needing induction into the pluripotential state which will always be its advantage over adult lines.

A recent popular source of embryonic stem cells have shifted towards the fetal placenta. The placenta still maintains a lot of pluripotentiality in the tissue more in line with embryonic lines than adult lines, even when the fetus has reached term. Plus, it's not like anyone has any objections with a placenta. Heck it's being touted as a beautifying treatment by having placental cells replace aging and dying skin to make you look younger. If it works on the face then maybe you could make it work elsewhere.
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Old 2010-09-10, 04:26   Link #10
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Mm, but then there are problems with that as well.

The idea of using adult stem cells is that they are cells from your own body and therefore have a far lower rejection rate. Using stem cells from the placenta therefore cuts out pre-pubescent girls, women past menopause and uhm every single man. Or of course you could use donated placentas, but then the whole rejection issue crops up again.

Which raises another question: what will the source of those placentas be? It wouldn't be too hard for hospitals to ask women if they don't mind donating their placenta, but then there are problems with transport and compatibility or diseases which would require screening and that just adds complications. Although of course if it's just for research there wouldn't be as many problems I suppose.
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Old 2010-09-10, 04:50   Link #11
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Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
I think this will start like the Abortion thread before it, with liberals and faithheads arguing over what constitutes a "baby", and end with me throwing the Book of Fallacies at the faithheads, causing them to raeg hard because of it.

Then end with a .
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Old 2010-09-10, 05:10   Link #12
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Mm, but then there are problems with that as well.

The idea of using adult stem cells is that they are cells from your own body and therefore have a far lower rejection rate. Using stem cells from the placenta therefore cuts out pre-pubescent girls, women past menopause and uhm every single man. Or of course you could use donated placentas, but then the whole rejection issue crops up again.

Which raises another question: what will the source of those placentas be? It wouldn't be too hard for hospitals to ask women if they don't mind donating their placenta, but then there are problems with transport and compatibility or diseases which would require screening and that just adds complications. Although of course if it's just for research there wouldn't be as many problems I suppose.
In our country the placenta is usually sent for study etc. Most of the time they get donated to schools for medical education purposes, but there's a growing trend for them to be sold to the cosmetics market.
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Old 2010-09-10, 06:00   Link #13
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About whether or not it's okay to use embryos for stem cell research if it kills the embryo, honestly, I don't think this debate will ultimately get anywhere since it depends entirely upon a persons belief of whether or not the embryo has the value of a human life: An entirely subjective viewpoint and the criteria we use to judge this can themselves be controversal topics in their own right. I'm more concerned with getting people to understand the other viewpoint better so that there's no needless conflict.

Anyway, as a muslim, I believe that the embryo in the stage used for Stem Cell research doesn't have the value of a life equivalent to a human being so I don't think there is anything wrong in doing this research, especially if this research has a potential to cure diseases. And if they are surplus embryos from fertility treatments then they're not going to become human beings anyway so their potential for human life is removed.

Though like Meo, I am concerned about this method being abused. I don't like the idea of using embryos for the sole purpose of stem cell research either.
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Old 2010-09-10, 06:05   Link #14
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Originally Posted by Seitsuki View Post
Mm, but then there are problems with that as well.

The idea of using adult stem cells is that they are cells from your own body and therefore have a far lower rejection rate. Using stem cells from the placenta therefore cuts out pre-pubescent girls, women past menopause and uhm every single man. Or of course you could use donated placentas, but then the whole rejection issue crops up again.

Which raises another question: what will the source of those placentas be? It wouldn't be too hard for hospitals to ask women if they don't mind donating their placenta, but then there are problems with transport and compatibility or diseases which would require screening and that just adds complications. Although of course if it's just for research there wouldn't be as many problems I suppose.
Actually, one of the things that's being done is that parents, when their kid is born, save placenta or umbilical cord material (blood IIRC), and keep it in a dedicated cryo bank. Thinking of it as an insurance for their child.


Now regarding the bone-marrow, adult stem cell and embryonic stem cell research. I see a little confusion, or at least imprecision in the exchanges above.

First, bone marrow is a transplant, generally involving a live donor, which has to be compatible, and is generally assumed to be consenting.
Of course in this category we could expand the debate on the potential minefield of discussing the issue of designer babies: conceived, selected and born for the expressed purpose of providing a transplant (bone marrow, or umbilical cord blood) in order to save a sibling (done in Europe, dunno about America).

Adult stem cell research, on the other hand, is more geared toward the self transplant approach, and its obvious compatibility benefits: it's all about regrowing you own tissues. Of course, some would want to extend to this approach the benefits of embyonic stem cells (greater versatility), by developing therapeutic human cloning.

Now, on embryonic stem cells research: it is conduced mainly on a few lines of stem cells, i e cultures of stem cells kept in a pluripotent state, and derived from a few IVF-surplus embryos. The focus of the research is mainly about understanding cell specialization in order to reconstitute tissue. And the limitations so far have been precisely on the creation of new lines (which are expensive to develop).


For the same reason we do not do random organ transplant, use of embryonic stem cells face huge problems. So far their purpose is mainly on pure research: understanding how tissue specialize and develop. Thus, claiming that so many illnesses will be cured with embryonic stem cells research, for me is akin to those 50's talks on nuclear-everything technologies.

The big ethic problem nowadays, is that for embryonic stem cells therapies to truly answer the promises which have been made, that would essentially imply short circuiting the designer baby approach: purposely conceiving and selecting a precise embryo for a therapy.

Another approach, with bigger ethical issues, is of course the one of therapeutical human cloning: creating you own clone embryo to use it's stem cells.
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Old 2010-09-10, 06:49   Link #15
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One of the purported advantages of stem cells is that some supposedly do not present surface antigens that allografted hosts can recognize as foreign and thus mount an immune response against it, which gives us the usual organ rejection scenario. From this idea it would theoretically do away with the need to Human Leukocyte Antigen matching, which makes grafting/transplanting less risky and matching all the more easy.

Though I read that in some journal a few years back so don't quote me on it.

In the as JMvS says the safest way for organ and tissue grafting will always be from the self because of the absence of tissue rejection since they will recognize the tissue as from the self. The most you'll likely see is a local inflammatory reaction.

Quote:
For the same reason we do not do random organ transplant, use of embryonic stem cells face huge problems. So far their purpose is mainly on pure research: understanding how tissue specialize and develop. Thus, claiming that so many illnesses will be cured with embryonic stem cells research, for me is akin to those 50's talks on nuclear-everything technologies.
Stem cell research faces the same ass-biting reality the antibiotic revolution faced in the middle of the 20th century. Years ago in the advent of antimicrobial therapy this was the same thing a lot of researchers propagated even before the data came in: the new cure-all wonder drug. Barely 50 years later with the slowdown in antibiotic drug research, we're facing major problems in the fight against infectious diseases

Now we have multiple drug resistant tuberculosis on the rise, resistant against Isoniazid and Rifampin, the two most effective (and cheapest!) anti-TB drugs on the market. You have Methicillin resistant S. aureus on the rise, making them resistant to the penicillin/beta-lactam class of drugs, which eliminates almost half the effective drugs used to treat it. Even malaria is becoming resistant to the quinine series drugs.

There's a lot of hype surrounding stem cell research but again, hype is hype, and it's only once the scientific consensus comes in that we'll know the truth of what they can do. As it stands it's simply prudent not to let all the hype take control and then everyone feels let down once we realize that stem cells can't do everything we thought they can do.

There is no such thing as the wonder drug and the cure-all as long as the battle between humans and disease is a war.

And war? War never chan- *is shot with a Gauss Rifle*
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Old 2010-09-10, 09:48   Link #16
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You don't have to be "liberal" to be scientific about it... but its a non-starter for that faction of people who emotionally believe there's a soul assigned to a two-cell zygote on initiation. I tend to fall into the "is there a functioning nervous system yet" group and view termination after that point as a 'choice of last resort' for the woman that should be available. Its an option practiced by many species (though in their case, its usually after birth).

Stem cell research of all kinds offer possibilities - without studying the possibilities none can be realized. I'm betting self-cloning of organs wins out on the transplant front... and it may be that use of one's own stem cells enhanced is the best outcome for fixing various human ailments.

We're seeing how the US has basically screwed itself over while the rest of the world leaped ahead in research. Of course, we're seeing the same leapfrogging by others in telecommunications and green energies - thanks to various forms of resistance to changing the status quo.

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Barely 50 years later with the slowdown in antibiotic drug research, we're facing major problems in the fight against infectious diseases
Two big reasons for that - one is overuse of antibiotics in treatment and in agriculture, two is the very nature of the corporate brain: there's not very much profit in antibiotics versus the stuff you see advertised on tv (I'm still trying to wrap my head around the bizarre notion of advertising PRESCRIPTION drugs).
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Old 2010-09-10, 10:06   Link #17
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You don't have to be "liberal" to be scientific about it... but its a non-starter for that faction of people who emotionally believe there's a soul assigned to a two-cell zygote on initiation. I tend to fall into the "is there a functioning nervous system yet" group and view termination after that point as a 'choice of last resort' for the woman that should be available. Its an option practiced by many species (though in their case, its usually after birth).

Stem cell research of all kinds offer possibilities - without studying the possibilities none can be realized. I'm betting self-cloning of organs wins out on the transplant front... and it may be that use of one's own stem cells enhanced is the best outcome for fixing various human ailments.

We're seeing how the US has basically screwed itself over while the rest of the world leaped ahead in research. Of course, we're seeing the same leapfrogging by others in telecommunications and green energies - thanks to various forms of resistance to changing the status quo.



Two big reasons for that - one is overuse of antibiotics in treatment and in agriculture, two is the very nature of the corporate brain: there's not very much profit in antibiotics versus the stuff you see advertised on tv (I'm still trying to wrap my head around the bizarre notion of advertising PRESCRIPTION drugs).
Infectious diseases is mainly a problem in developing countries anyway, the very same people who can't afford adequate medical treatment. It wouldn't be so bad if Big Pharmacy wasn't so resistant on letting go of their expired patents and let smaller local corporations produce these drugs at a lower (or even absent) profit margin. India looks like a good model for the generic drugs market, and to think that drugs here in the Philippines are more than 5 times more expensive than generic Indian meds. In fact they tried to measures to import Indian generics, but as expected Big Pharma fought it off.

I'll bet you my future medical practice that the benefits of stem cell research will majorly benefit the rich and extravagant, and Big Pharma will likely attempt to keep patents in their complete control for a good many years.
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Old 2010-09-10, 10:31   Link #18
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Originally Posted by MeoTwister5 View Post
Infectious diseases is mainly a problem in developing countries anyway, the very same people who can't afford adequate medical treatment. It wouldn't be so bad if Big Pharmacy wasn't so resistant on letting go of their expired patents and let smaller local corporations produce these drugs at a lower (or even absent) profit margin. India looks like a good model for the generic drugs market, and to think that drugs here in the Philippines are more than 5 times more expensive than generic Indian meds. In fact they tried to measures to import Indian generics, but as expected Big Pharma fought it off.

I'll bet you my future medical practice that the benefits of stem cell research will majorly benefit the rich and extravagant, and Big Pharma will likely attempt to keep patents in their complete control for a good many years.
Fascinating how everything is getting bricked up over the last couple of decades thanks to the cancerous growth of 'intellectual property' concepts. How *did* the human race ever get along without it? (sarcasm)

Yeah, I was thinking more of the super-bugs we're "creating" in tech-advanced countries where we use anti-biotics as seasoning, wallpaint, and fashion wear. They're not really "super-bugs"... just bugs that evolved around the killzone of present anti-biotics and the pharma corps see no profit in addressing them. There's all that Cialis competing stuff to develop... much more profitable.
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Old 2010-09-10, 10:52   Link #19
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Fascinating how everything is getting bricked up over the last couple of decades thanks to the cancerous growth of 'intellectual property' concepts. How *did* the human race ever get along without it? (sarcasm)

Yeah, I was thinking more of the super-bugs we're "creating" in tech-advanced countries where we use anti-biotics as seasoning, wallpaint, and fashion wear. They're not really "super-bugs"... just bugs that evolved around the killzone of present anti-biotics and the pharma corps see no profit in addressing them. There's all that Cialis competing stuff to develop... much more profitable.
Funny thing is that the bugs evolve much faster than the human race mental capabilities.

Stem cell research won't make much of a difference in life unless there are test subjects willing to put their lives on the line of science. In that case, I would think that cybernetic augmentations and nanotech-medicine will come faster than any form of genetic engineering.

Still, the best motivation for stem-cell research is still to genetically engineer cat-girls with zerg bio-architecture, making them stuck at the age of just-post maturity (16-20).
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Old 2010-09-10, 11:15   Link #20
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Fascinating how everything is getting bricked up over the last couple of decades thanks to the cancerous growth of 'intellectual property' concepts. How *did* the human race ever get along without it? (sarcasm)

Yeah, I was thinking more of the super-bugs we're "creating" in tech-advanced countries where we use anti-biotics as seasoning, wallpaint, and fashion wear. They're not really "super-bugs"... just bugs that evolved around the killzone of present anti-biotics and the pharma corps see no profit in addressing them. There's all that Cialis competing stuff to develop... much more profitable.
I'm not exactly harping on intellectual property rights actually, but there's a reason there are term limits for patents and as to why patent rights are different on a per country basis. It does make me wonder though why a lot of Big Pharma in developing nations still hang on to their expired patents even in markets where the drugs in question don't make it big.

Back on topic, it's actually going to be a bit tricky on making patents on stem cell products because the ultimate source of the stem cells are still going to be human cells, and lest I be mistaken there is no way in hell a patent over a human being (or product thereof) is going to pass without controversy. The most they can probably do is patent the process, but aren't likely to have a patent on the actual cell "product" in question.
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