Spinal Confusion

...an attempt to clarify confusing and innacurate information in science articles

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Bush's Stem Cell Policy Helps Research?

Paul R. Sanberg argues in The Scientist that President Bush's policy of restricting federal funding of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research is the cause of the private industry's love for the field.

The majority of the piece is standard Republican rhetorhic about industry being better suited and more efficient than a government-run program. I don't take issue with his economic arguments -- my knowledge in that area is weak -- but I will have to disagree with his conclusion.

That said, NIH [ed., National Institutes of Health] funding does provide another level of scientific review and more open dissemination of results. The ideal situation from a science point of view is for the NIH to be involved in the development of viable stem cell therapies, whether they are based on cells of embryonic or adult origin. From a global perspective, however, it's hard to ignore the fact that federal limitations have caused and may continue to accelerate increased stem cell funding and research through other means.
While Sanberg does state that ideally, the NIH should be involved with embryonic stem cell research, he fails to address the negative consequences that lie in an unregulated, non-peer reviewed system.

Namely, any scientist can loudly proclaim cures for patients using a "newly discovered" ESC techniques. Without peer review and duplication of the claimed results by other labs, patients have no outside source to confirme or refute the purported miraculous cures. The lack of significant NIH involvement is, in my opinion, harmful and neglectful to American citizens.

Ethical methods to obtain ESCs exist. By failing to provide the NIH with the funding and tools it needs to properly oversee this research, Congress and the President are negligent in their duties to protect affected citizens.

Many scientists -- the majority, in fact -- would not tout undocumented and unsubstantiated "cures," but vultures do exist. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and desperate people will flock to these vultures.

The United States Government has a duty to protect its most vulnerable citizens. It needs to stand up and assume its duty.

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