Friday, June 21, 2024

Stem Cells For Dummies: The Controvery, Pros and Cons, Facts, Future Research

January 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured Stories, Stem Cells

Stem Cells for Dummies CoverOk, I admit it. I am a Dummie!  Especially when it comes to Science!  I do hold a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Berkeley but it’s not exactly the type of “Science” degree you need when your children are dying from a rare cholesterol disease that causes dementia.

All of a sudden topics like gene therapy and stem cells are very important topics in our household as research into these areas could lead to life-saving treatments for our twins.   But learning complex scientific topics like stem cells can be intimidating to many people.

Dr. Larry Goldstein, professor of cellular and molecular medicine and director of University of California San Diego’s stem cell program, has written a book in plain English on stem cells called Stem Cells for Dummies. The book is intended for anyone who wishes to learn more about stem cells, where they come from and the potential use of stem cells in medical research and in treating disease.

What is the difference between Embryonic stem cells (ESCs), Adult stem cells (ASCs) or iPS cells (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells)?  What are the many objections to stems cell use in research and why is it such a highly controversial topic?  The book is written for the layperson, doctors or even someone in the medical research field who is not familiar with stem cells.

Stem cell derived neurons will someday allow scientists like Dr. Goldstein determine whether breakdowns in the transport of proteins and  lipids within cells trigger the neuronal death and neurodegeneration that is a hallmark in Alzheimer’s and Niemann-Pick Type C disease.

Stem Cells for Dummies is a fantastic book that allows anyone to brush up on basic biology and learn about critical stem cell research at the same time. You can read the index of topics here. Learning about stem cells today could be life-saving for you or someone you love in the future as the world moves closer to regenerative medicine.

Life Versus Freezers

January 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Stem Cells


If you were a frozen embryo, would you rather die in a freezer or donate your life to science? It seems like a very easy choice to make, don’t you think? I have never had to think much about the stem cell debate before Addi and Cassi were diagnosed with a rare and fatal disease but now stem cell research is at the forefront of my mind.Stem cell research could someday save  children who are suffering from Niemann Pick Type C and other deadly childhood diseases.

I ask any person who is opposed to stem cell research to put themselves in our position — our children are on a path to losing their minds and will suffer a most horrific death if we don’t accelerate scientific research across the board, including into stem cells.

I tend to fall into the more conservative camp on a number of moral and political issues but I have been thinking about my vote in the upcoming 2008 election. I want to support candidates who will work to allow science to move forward while addressing the main moral conundrum.  Because we are faced with this horrible situation, I am quickly understanding that the Bush administration’s position on this subject is simplistic and naive.

All I can think about is Addi and Cassi ending up dead in a freezer …just like these embryos. Why? If embryos are "life" it seems to me that these embryonic "children" would be honored to give up their lives to save other children like Addi and Cassi who in turn might end up giving their lives to try and solve one of the most complex brain mysteries in science. Children should not be in freezers – left to die as an embryo or dead from a disease that can be solved. It’s time to let scientists and researchers do their jobs — to save lives, including yours, your children and your grandchildren.

The following is a quote from a letter to the editor of the Reno Gazette Journal in January 2007 written by Lawrence Goldstein, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Department Of Cellular and Molecular Medicine Director for UC San Diego Stem Cell Program.

"It’s unfortunate that those opposed to embryonic stem cell research have jumped to the wrong conclusion once again about the recent report that a new cellular reprogramming method might eliminate the need for embryonic stem cells. There are two important facts about this exciting recent advance in reprogramming adult cells: first, this advance was possible only because of work done with embryonic stem cells; second, like most stem cell advances, we are still early in our understanding of the implications of these findings.

What remains certain is that thousands of embryos will die in the coming years in freezers across this country and around the world. There is abundant genetic diversity in those frozen embryos that could be a lifesaving source of novel therapies for devastating diseases. Scientists have never argued that embryonic stem cells have the only medical potential. Scientists do say that policymakers should not tie the hands of science by allowing us to look through only one door in our quest for new disease treatments."  Read the entire letter here.

Clearly, this issue is extremely complicated. I do not support the creation of embryos purely for scientific purposes. However, the harsh reality is that 10s if not 100s of thousands of embryos are currently being stored in freezers for "family building."  Of those, many will never turn into children like Addi and Cassi and thus will be destroyed by fertility clinics. As a society, we have already accepted the creation of embryos outside the body for the purpose of creating life and in vitro created children are filling up classrooms everywhere. The possibilities of embryonic stem cell research are limitless. These embryos, who are now living under a death sentence in freezers, should be entitled to a right to life by living on in others through helping solve complex medical problems.

Finally, let’s hope we can create stem cells from other reprogrammed cells so the embryo debate can be over (Newsweek’s most recent article).