Election won't help embryonic stem cell research funding

November 08, 2006  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

"Advanced Cell Technology Inc., Geron Corp. and other stem cell companies rallied as Democratic wins in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate raised hope for increased government funding for research," according to the Bloomberg news service. Why is difficult to see. It did quote Leonard Zon, a Harvard University researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston who works with ESCs saying, "This election demonstrates that the majority of Americans want this research to move forward." Fancy that, and you thought the election hinged on such factors as Iraq. You may as well argue that the GOP lost so many seats because Sen. Majority leader and Republican Bill Frist is a strong supporter of increased federal ESC funding. But no, the election wasn't a referendum on ESCs and as it happens the only legislation that Bush has vetoed was one that would let ESC companies feed more at the government trough than they already do. It's doubtful that a pickup of six Senate seats would give an ESC funding bill a veto-proof majority.

Meanwhile, adult stem cells continue to perform the real miracles. Last week a team of scientists at Newcastle University in Britain announced it had grown tiny sections of human liver. These will be used to test drugs so as to avoid the risks associated with testing drugs on humans. Originally, ASCs could only be used to treat cancer and many in the media and ESC research community would have you think that's still all they do. But in recent years they've been used to treat and outright cure numerous diseases and rebuild body organs such as skin, hearts, and livers. Now they've become a method for testing the safety of drugs.

In yet another miracle, blind mice (and more than three of them) achieved normal blood circulation in the retina, had significantly improved retinal tissue, and responded to light after researchers at the Scripps Research Institute treated them with adult bone-marrow-derived stem cells from both mice and humans. The research has implications for future treatment of degenerative eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. True, it's just a future application -- as is every ESC promise we're given. On the other hand, for the last few years persons suffering from limited vision or outright blindness from corneal defects have had their vision restored through corneal stem cell transplants. Pardon the pun, but it's not hard to see why any increase in federal funding for stem cells need to go to the adult variety.