07 June 2007

Stem Cells Get Lost in Politics

Stem Cells are amazing things. They can be coaxed by medical researchers to assume the form of almost any tissue needed, leading to the hope that some of the most debilitating diseases could be ultimately cured. But the damned little things are so versatile that they seem to be able to conform to almost any political view as well:

The political fray has obscured quiet efforts in recent months to compare stem cells from many different sources. Experts doing the research say some cells may be best for treating certain diseases, while others are easier to grow in the lab. The upshot is likely to be an array of trade-offs that lack the clarity of the moral debate.

"You can't say one cell type is better than another," said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of Wake Forest's Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who is leading one stem cell comparison study. "Each cell has its own properties. We won't know what the properties are unless they're studied and we find out which cells do best for certain applications."
This reminds me of a paper I wrote on the controversy surrounding Hannah Arendt's book Eichmann in Jerusalem. Commenting herself on the madness of the controversy, the great twentieth century sociologist and philosopher said that there are certain groups with "down-to-Earth interests...whose excitement is entirely concerned with factual matters and who therefore try to distort the facts." Too true.

The Tribune article also included a nice little graphic showing the different lines of stem cell research being pursued today. Have a look.

1 comment:

Hank said...

Hi William,

Nice article. I saw you through a Slate article ( yours, mine and others were listed so I decided to take a look around ) and I like your graphic. I included some (non-graphical) definitions of modern approaches to bridging the gap between ethics and medicine in this area if you're interested.