Dr. Dan Kuebler, professor of biology here at Franciscan University of Steubenville, penned an article for National Catholic Register on the latest “breakthroughs” in embryonic stem cell research (ESC).
Apparently some scientists published their research showing that they finally were able to get cloned human embryos to develop to the point where ESCs could actually be harvested. This is the sort of thing that conventional wisdom would have assumed was already happening. Not so. And while it is finally happening, it is not the answer they want it to be.
It turns out that in order to get the cloned embryos to develop long enough to actually harvest stem cells from them, the researchers had to leave the genetic material of the egg in the clone. As a result, the cloned cells had three copies of genetic material, one from the egg and two from the donor nucleus, as opposed to the two copies that are normally present in our cells.
There is no possible therapeutic use for cells that have three copies of genetic material. Such triploid cells would be even more unstable, harder to control and even more likely to develop tumors than normal diploid ESCs. All that the researchers demonstrated was that they could produce genetically aberrant ESCs via this process, hardly a scientific breakthrough.
The hard truth is that not a single treatment or therapy has come from research on ESCs to date, while many have come from perfectly ethical research using adult stem cell lines.
And the Catholic Church has not only advocated for the use of adult stem cells in research for many years, but has, in the past couple of years, put a significant amount of money toward the research as well. Kuebler notes:
The most ironic aspect of this whole situation is that — for years — ESC supporters have criticized the Church’s stance on ESC research as anti-science or just one more example of the Church being out of touch with reality. Yet it has been the Catholic Church that, from the start, has promoted adult stem-cell therapies, the only stem-cell therapies that have displayed any type of therapeutic benefit. In fact, these scientifically tested therapies have already reached the clinic and have benefitted a multitude of patients.
The Church has been so supportive of this ethical research and its scientific promise that it has even begun to support it financially, as the Register has reported in these pages. In 2010, the Vatican donated roughly $3 million to support researchers who were looking at the therapeutic benefits of adult intestinal stem cells. In 2011, the Vatican donated $1 million to develop a partnership with an adult stem-cell company called NeoStem. Just this past November, it organized a conference on adult stem cells that brought together leading scientists and ethicists to promote and facilitate research in this area.
Adult stem cells produce results. ESCs do not. Why continue doing something that shows no promise and has shown no promise for years when a perfectly viable alternative, that lacks the ethical baggage, is available and already happening?
Private investors are taking note. One reason ESC research requires federal funding is private money is drying up. People don’t want to give money to something that shows no promise of success or of netting a profit, especially when an alternate investment is viable. Adult stem cell research is viable and successful. ESC research is neither. Yet Barack Obama ended the Bush-era restrictions on ESC research within two months of his inauguration; and just this past December 23, as we were preparing to welcome the Christ child, the Obama administration approved funding for more stem cell lines to be subjected to research. Only government officials with an agenda, disregard for human life, and the power to tax and spend with impunity would throw so much good money after bad.
And thus another difference between the Church and our present administration. Kuebler ends:
The Church, from the start, has thrown its complete support behind the ethically sound, scientifically viable and therapeutically successful adult stem-cell field. Its critics continue to bull-headedly throw their support behind ESC research that is so ethically problematic and scientifically suspect that it is being abandoned in droves by biotech companies and investors alike. Who is it, then, exactly, that is out of touch with reality?
It ain’t the Church.