The February 26th CBS 60 Minutes Sunday show is the second this month which has focused exclusively on destructive, unethical embryonic and fetal stem cell trials (and their trials due to Federal funding limits). The lack of balanced reporting is obvious.
Scientists say the pace of research has been slowed down by President Bush’s 2001 ban on the use of federal money to create new lines of embryonic stem cells. Researchers need those new stem cells to expand their work, because the existing lines are at least five years old and may have been weakened over time, limiting their value. However, extracting new stem cells destroys human embryos, which the president strongly opposes.
“These are the cells that go to make up the heart muscle cells,” Robbins explains. “They all started out as cells from embryos. With the potential to develop into any type cell.”
Robbins hopes to one day inject the cells, which actually beat like a heart, into someone whose heart has suffered some kind of damage.
In theory, those cells would then replace the damaged part of the heart.
But there is one area of stem-cell research that is now ready for human testing and it may be the only chance that Joanna and Marcus Kerner have to save the life of their 6-year-old son, Daniel. The FDA recently approved a clinical trial using brain stem cells from fetal tissue to treat the rare and always fatal neurological disorder called Batten disease, which Daniel was diagnosed with a year and a half ago. The Kerners’ doctor gave them the grim prognosis.
The research is reported as novel, although adult and umbilical cord research in each of these areas is ongoing and showing results. Here’s my letter to the show:
Your reporters have done 2 stories in the last month concerning destructive embryonic stem cell research. The story from February 26 is most troubling, because research trials are already far enough along to prove the usefulness of ethical, non-destructive adult and umbilical cord stem cells in the very neurological problems you describe. Look into Dr. James Baumgartner’s work in Houston, where they are recruiting pediatric patients for a trial of autologous bone marrow stem cell therapy.