Bioethics, embryonic stem cell, research, stem cells, wound healing

MIT adult stem cell research soap opera?

Yesterday’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology press release (“MIT bioengineer advances survival, promise of adult stem cells”)led to the story behind the story and and maybe more.

Behind them all, of course is the truth that human embryos are, indeed human, and that there is not any difference between the embryo in the petri dish and the one that each of us once was.

The February 27, 2007 Press Release concerns an article published on line in the January 18, 2007 online edition of Stem Cell Express Online. The Abstract is available here. According to the website, the paper, “Tethered EGF Provides a Survival Advantage to Mesenchymal Stem Cells” was submitted last year, on May 26, 2006 and accepted for publication January 9, 2007. The research supports that stem cells develop in reaction to and influenced by their environment and details a way to manipulate the growth factor EGF on an implanted scaffolding to encourage bone marrow mesenchymal cells to develop bone and encourage healing after surgery or severe wounds.

Linda G. Griffith, Ph. D., leads the Griffith Lab at MIT, which focuses on bioengineered tissue, using adult stem cells. In fact, the MIT press release and the Science Daily adaptation both mention that Dr. Griffith has a personal interest in preferring to avoid research on embryonic stem cells.

Griffith, who does not work with human embryonic stem cells, believes that adult stem cells offer promising therapeutic possibilities.

“I’m very optimistic about the potential for adult stem cells to be useful clinically for the problems I work on, since there are already some clinical successes based on these cells” she said. “Continuing, careful, methodical work will lead to improved therapies based on adult stem cells. We are aiming to expand the range of therapies that work in the clinic.” Griffith is one of several MIT biological engineering faculty members who work with adult stem cells but not human embryonic stem cells.

Griffith is also one among many scientists around the world who have at least some objections to creation of human embryonic stem cells, for a variety of reasons. She says her current focus on adult stem cells is driven largely by the interesting science and the feasibility for near-term clinical use for the types of cells she investigates. However, she also avoids research with human embryonic stem cells following a personal experience with in vitro fertilization almost 10 years ago.

“Like some other scientists I know, my personal views about creating human ES cell lines changed when confronted with the reality of doing so from my own embryos. After this experience, I was not comfortable conducting human ES cell research myself, and I have a better understanding of why some scientists object to all work with human ES cells,” she said. She also said she feels her personal views, and those of others, are respected in the scientific community.

Currently, federally funded research is only allowed on certain established lines of embryonic stem cells, although a few states, including California and Connecticut, offer state funding for broader embryonic stem cell research. There are no legal restrictions on funding to study adult stem cells.

These quotes are exactly what so many of us have been saying all along. I certainly intend to use them in any testimony I give in the future, although I wish there were not quite so much stress on the theme of “personal views.” I don’t see much room for personal views in whether or not the embryos who are her children and those who other researchers would disaggregate for stem cells.

What’s the story behind the story? We may never know all of it. But here’s just a bit from an article on the MIT website about the hunger strike of Dr. James Sherley which was also covered here earlier this month:

Additionally, Sherley also outlined his main reasons for complaint, which included denial of independent lab space by then Provost Robert Brown and the conflict of interest that resulted from the spousal relationship between Lauffenburger and BE Professor Linda G. Griffith led him to believe his case for tenure was not handled fairly.

About bnuckols

Conservative Christian Family Doctor, promoting conservative news and views. (Hot Air under the right wing!)

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