Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fantastic ethical news - Guardian reports world's first blood vessels grown from patient's skin and trials into using new blood vessels to treat heart patients in Cambridge..... so why are scientists, reported by the Sunday Telegraph, still sidestepping UK law and planning to import embryonic stem cells?

Fantastic news reported in the Guardian (16/11/05) that kidney patients have successfully been treated for the first time with new blood vessels created from their own skin cells! The research was reported to the annual conference of the American Heart Association and proves yet again that adult stem cells provide an ethical alternative to the hypothetical and much-hyped sensationalism surrounding embryonic stem cells. The blood vessels breakthrough is particularly exciting because this technique could also be used to treat patients with heart damage and to treat diabetics as an alternative to limb amputation, as well as treating children with congenital heart defects which would mean that the blood vessels would grow naturally with the child rather than requiring further surgery. The Guardian reports that British trials will be taking place at Papworth hospital in Cambridge to treat heart bypass surgery patients with lab grown blood vessels which will avoid requiring blood vessels from the patients' legs. All credit to the science correspondent on the Guardian for this particular report, but the impression still prevails that embryonic stem cells are necessary.

Only three days before the Guardian report of this world first, the Observer included a wideranging piece about future controversial manipulations of science in which embryonic stem cells were casually referred to. References to curing parkinsons and diabetes were casually tossed around, no mention of the real progress being made with adult stem cells into the treatment of over 60 different conditions. The article concluded with "Milestones in human biology" which mentioned Dolly the sheep and the first cloning licence issued in the UK, despite the fact that the cloning licence isn't a milestone, it's only a licence and (again not mentioned) is under legal challenge for being unnecessary and unlawful because alternative avenues of research exist.

Here for example are some real breakthroughs that merited a mention from the news updates on the CORE website:

Bone marrow stem cells improves heart's efficiency (14th November 2005)

Commercial umbilical cord stem cell bank possible in Cambridge,UK (26th October 2005)

Spina bifida may be cured using amniotic stem cells (11th October 2005)

Fast and efficient technique to reproduce cord blood stem cells (10th October 2005)

Vacanti brothers quietly pioneering adult stem cell treatments for diabetes and paralysis (8th October 2005)

London: Liver failure patients treated using bone marrow stem cells extracted from blood (6th October 2005)

A cure for baldness (3rd October 2005)

Major advantages of placental stem cells (27th September 2005)

Only 1 out of 96 New Jersey research proposals involves Embryonic stem cells (22nd September 2005)

World's largest umbilical cord bank to be set up in India, to provide stem cells for transplant surgeons globally (12th September 2005)

Nature Genetics: Embryonic Stem Cells produce cancerous mutations (4th September)

Embryonic stem cells trigger immune rejection (29th August)

First real progress in acute renal failure: bone marrow stem cells "fast direct improvement" (16th August)

Placenta contains 300 million amniotic epithelial cells (5th August)

Adult stem cells could help tens of millions of heart patients each year (2nd August)

And then in the Sunday Telegraph on the 20th November it was reported that two fertility specialists plan to sidestep UK law and import embryonic stem cells. Again readers were informed that "Stem cells are gathered from embryos at an early stage of development..[and] can grow into any of the 220 types of tissue in the body, offering scientists the best hope of cures for many disorders." - no mention of the complete pointlessness of this when countries around the world are setting up banks of umbilical cord stem cells and having real success using stem cells collected from ethical sources.


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