Monday, September 6, 2010
Wall St. Journal: Judge Is Asked to Lift Stem-Cell Funds Ban, by Laura Meckler:
The judge, Royce Lamberth in Washington, D.C., ordered a temporary halt last week to the funding, saying it violated a federal law that prohibits the use of public funds for research that involves the destruction of human embryos. The Justice Department said the halt would cause irreparable harm to experiments and could negate "years of scientific progress" toward new treatments for a range of diseases. . . . .
Monday, August 30, 2010
The Checkup (Wash. Post blog): NIH shuts down its own stem cell research, by Rob Stein:
The move came in response to a temporary injunction issued last week by a federal judge barring the federal government from funding research involving human embryonic stem cells. The judge ruled that the research violated a federal law banning the federal government from funding any research involving the destruction of human embryos. . . .
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
AtlanticWire: The Moral Inconsistency of Stem Cell Opponents, by Michael Kinsley:
OK, let’s go through this one more time.
Half of all pregnancies end in miscarriages, usually in the first couple of weeks, before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. A miscarriage destroys an embryo. If you believe that every embryo is the moral equivalent of a fully-formed human being, miscarriages are like a perpetual natural disaster like a flood or an earthquake, and you should be urging a massive effort to reduce miscarriages as the best way to save millions of human lives a year. As far as I know, there is no such effort going on in the United States or elsewhere. . . .
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
New York Magazine: Judge Blocks Obama's Stem Cell Research Expansion:
In a setback to the Obama administration’s efforts to expand stem cell research, a judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the federal government from funding any medical research that involves embryonic stem cells. In his ruling, U.S. chief district court judge Royce Lamberth cited a law that bans the use of federal dollars for research in which an embryo is destroyed.
See Also: Wash. Post: NIH cannot fund embryonic stem cell research, judge rules, by Rob Stein & Spencer S. Hsu:
A federal judge on Monday blocked the Obama administration from funding human embryonic stem cell research, ruling that the support violates a federal law barring the use of taxpayer money for experiments that destroy human embryos.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits the National Institutes of Health from funding the research under the administration's new guidelines, citing an appeals court's ruling that the researchers who had challenged the less-restrictive policy have the legal standing to pursue their lawsuit.
The decision, a setback for one of the administration's most high-profile scientific policies, was praised by opponents of the research. . . .
Friday, July 30, 2010
NY Times: Prescriptions blog: F.D.A. Clears Way for Embryonic Stem Cell Trial Using Patients, by Andrew Pollack:
The world’s first authorized test in people of a treatment derived from human embryonic stem cells has been cleared to begin by the Food and Drug Administration.
The trial will test cells developed by Geron Corporation and the University of California, Irvine in patients with new spinal cord injuries. . . .
Friday, July 23, 2010
Time Magazine: How Saving Umbilical Cords Saves Lives, by Bonnie Rochman:
As their due date creeps closer, many pregnant women pack a go bag for the hospital: toothbrush, iPod, cute bringing-baby-home outfit. But in recent months, savvy mothers-to-be have started tucking in one more important item: a kit to collect and donate the blood in their babies' umbilical cord.
Cord blood is a noncontroversial source of stem cells, yet experts estimate that 99% of this potentially lifesaving resource gets thrown away postpartum. Unlike the stem cells in human embryos, which can morph into any kind of cell in the body, the stem cells in cord blood have their futures largely mapped out, as blood, brain, liver or heart-muscle cells, for example. But researchers have shown that cord-blood cells can be reprogrammed, and over the next decade, doctors hope to adapt these cells to treat heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and maybe neurodegenerative diseases too. . . .
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Newly Released Documents Reveal Little New Information About Elena Kagan's Views on Abortion and Other Issues
CNN: Kagan documents reveal pragmatic approach on abortion controversy, by Bill Mears:
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan took a pragmatic approach to the issue of late-term abortion when working as a top lawyer in the Clinton White House, documents released Friday show.
The material was part of more than 46,000 pages released by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Kagan was a top lawyer in the administration's Office of Domestic Policy.
At issue at the time was a bill in the Republican-controlled Congress that would ban a type of abortion performed in the second trimester. Critics of the procedure called it "partial-birth" abortion. . . .
A new cache of documents from Elena Kagan’s days as an adviser to President Bill Clinton shows that she frequently scribbled notes in the margins of memorandums yet rarely expressed forceful views. . . .
Ms. Kagan’s missives in the margins offer little hint of how she might behave if confirmed to the Supreme Court. But the 46,700 pages released Friday by the National Archives do offer glimpses into her thinking, revealing a woman who, like the president she worked for, was trying to balance competing policy objectives and chart a centrist course on matters as varied as abortion, race relations, immigration, AIDS, gun rights and embryonic stem cell research. . . .
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
USA Today: Faith & Reason: Embryos are not 'life forms,' South Korea court rules:
A story out of South Korea today gives one pause: The Constitutional Court there has ruled that "human embryos left over from fertility treatment are not life forms and can be used for research or destroyed," according to Agence France-Presse.
The AFP wire says the court upheld an existing law allowing the use of leftover embryos for research. This also permits fertility clinics to . . . "dispose of frozen embryos five years after fertilization treatment is completed. . . .
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
NPR: Reflecting on a Decade of Stem Cell Research, by Joe Palca:
Some say they hold the potential for medical miracles. Others claim they are a moral abomination. Either way, human embryonic stem cells captured headlines during the past decade in a way few areas of scientific research have before. . . .
So where does the science of embryonic stem cells stand after a decade of political wrangling? A lot of exciting basic research is being done with embryonic stem cells, says Len Zon, a stem cell researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston. But using stem cells for therapy? . . .
Thursday, December 24, 2009
NY Times Magazine: The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker, by David D. Kirkpatrick:
On a September afternoon, about 60 prominent Christians assembled in the library of the Metropolitan Club on the east side of Central Park. It was a gathering of unusual diversity and power. Many in attendance were conservative evangelicals like the born-again Watergate felon Chuck Colson, who helped initiate the meeting. Metropolitan Jonah, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, was there as well. And so were more than half a dozen of this country’s most influential Roman Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop John Myers of Newark and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia.
At the center of the event was Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker. Dressed in his usual uniform of three-piece suit, New College, Oxford cuff links and rimless glasses, George convened the meeting with a note of thanks and a reminder of its purpose. Alarmed at the liberal takeover of Washington and an apparent leadership vacuum among the Christian right, the group had come together to warn the country’s secular powers that the culture wars had not ended. As a starting point, George had drafted a 4,700-word manifesto that promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage. . . .
Friday, December 4, 2009
NY Times: New Stem Cell Lines Open to Research, by Nicholas Wade:
The action followed President Obama’s decision in March to expand the number of such cell lines beyond those available under a policy set by President George W. Bush, which permitted research to begin only with lines already available on Aug. 9, 2001.
Since that date, biomedical researchers supported by the N.I.H. have had to raise private money to derive the cells, which are obtained from the fertilized embryos left over from in vitro fertility clinics.
With federal money banned from being used in any part of the work on the derived lines, researchers had to divide their laboratories and go to extreme lengths to separate research materials based on the financing source. . . .
Friday, November 20, 2009
Univ. of Nebraska Regents Consider Resolution to Limit Stem Cell Research to Cell Lines Approved by Pres. G.W. Bush
LINCOLN -- Omaha.com is providing live online updates as the University of Nebraska regents' decide whether to restrict embryonic stem cell research.
Four regents are co-sponsoring a resolution to restrict embryonic stem cell research to cell lines approved by then-President George W. Bush.
Keep checking Omaha.com for the latest comments and the regents' final decision.
NY Times: University Weighs Tighter Limits on Stem Cell Research, by Monica Davey:
LINCOLN, Neb. — In an unusual pushback against President Obama’s expansion of federal financing of human embryonic stem cell research, the University of Nebraska is considering restricting its stem cell experiments to cell lines approved by President George W. Bush.
The university’s board of regents is scheduled to take up the matter on Friday, and if it approves the restrictions — some opponents of the research say they have the votes, though others remain doubtful — the University of Nebraska will become the first such state institution in the country to impose limits on stem cell research that go beyond what state and federal laws allow, university officials say.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Kansas City Star: Two Missouri ballot initiatives on abortion-related issues OK'd, by Jason Noble:
One of the proposals would prohibit state and local governments from providing funds to medical facilities for some research and services, including abortion and certain types of stem-cell research.
The other would define the term “person” to include all human beings from the beginning of biological development and grant such persons constitutional rights. Advocates and opponents of the initiative say the change would ban abortion.
Both initiatives would change the state constitution. To get them on the ballot for a statewide popular vote, supporters must gather signatures from at least 8 percent of voters in six of the nine Congressional districts — about 150,000 signatures.
Monday, October 26, 2009
ABC News/BBC: Stem cell scientist guilty of research fraud:
A South Korean court has given a suspended two-year jail sentence to disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk after finding him guilty of fraud in a case that shocked the global scientific community.
His work raised hopes of finding cures for diseases such as Alzheimers, but three years ago an investigation found some of his work had been faked.
After a long legal process, a court of law has now found him guilty of using his fabricated research to embezzle state funds, some of which it says were diverted for his personal use.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
NY Times/Reuters (7/30): Obama Enacts New U.S. Stem Cell Research Rules:
The rules, issued earlier this year by the National Institutes of Health, loosened some ethical requirements that scientists said could have cost them a decade of work....
Friday, July 24, 2009
ScienceNow: Embryonic Stem Cell Substitute Passes Acid Test, by Gretchen Vogel:
ES cells are prized by scientists for their flexibility. Taken from early embryos, they can in theory develop into all the tissues of the body. This talent makes them useful for studying--and perhaps someday treating--diseases. But because isolating ES cells involves destroying an embryo, they have proved ethically and politically controversial.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Reuters: Obama at Vatican for first meeting with pope, by Jeff Mason:
Unlike his predecessor George Bush, Obama and the pope do not see eye-to-eye on abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research....
Less than two months after his inauguration, Obama lifted restrictions of federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, which the Vatican opposes because it destroys embryos.
U.S. Catholic bishops criticized Obama for lifting the ban and later many of the bishops denounced Notre Dame University, a leading American Catholic institution, for giving Obama an honorary degree.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Time Magazine: Scientists Create Human Sperm from Stem Cells, by Alice Park:
Researchers at Newcastle University in England report they have coaxed the first human sperm cells from embryonic stem cells, in a remarkable demonstration of how quickly the field of stem-cell science is moving.
The achievement, described in the journal Stem Cells and Development, comes just 11 years after the first human-embryonic-stem-cell line was created — an eyeblink in scientific terms — in the lab of James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin. (See the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2008.)
Although the development once again raises the specter of creating humans in a petri dish or custom-designing egg and sperm cells for reproduction, lead author Karim Nayernia says that was not his team's intention. Rather, the experiment was a proof of concept that stem cells can generate any cell in the body — not only the dozens of tissues that make up the human body but also those egg and sperm cells that may give rise to altogether new bodies.
Monday, April 20, 2009
By limiting federal funding to research on stem cells derived from embryos that were created for reproductive purposes and that were slated for disposal, the National Institutes of Health's draft guidelines, issued yesterday, offer an intelligent solution to an issue that demanded great sensitivity. While a decision with such deep moral and ethical considerations shouldn't have been left to scientists alone, the NIH outcome is a good one.
President Obama issued an executive order last month that lifted the ban on federal funding of research on stem cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001, and he instructed the NIH to develop guidelines for the research. Because stem cells can be transformed into different kinds of cells, scientists (and quite a few hopeful patients and their loved ones) believe them to hold the key to cures for a host of debilitating diseases and conditions, such as Parkinson's. But because stem cell lines are grown from human embryos, many people have ethical or religious objections to their use. President George W. Bush proposed a compromise that limited federal funding to a set of existing stem cell lines. But they proved too few, limiting potential research.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Peter Steinfels' "Beliefs" column in yesterday's New York Times laments the absence of "moral argument" in the debate over stem cell research. Steinfels suggests that there are important moral questions at stake in the debate, but he doesn't venture to say what they are, let alone take a position on those questions.
NY Times: In Stem Cell Debate, Moral Suasion Comes Up Short, by Peter Steinfels:
Almost no one was surprised this week when President Obama lifted restrictions on stem cell research that involved the destruction of human embryos. Even jaded Washington watchers are adjusting to the idea that this is a president with an eerie determination to do exactly what he said he would do during his campaign.
Those who approve such research applauded Mr. Obama’s action. (“Fantastic,” said one stem cell scientist on PBS.) Those who disapprove condemned it. (“Deadly,” said an anti-abortion leader in The New York Times.) But some commentary focused at least as much on the nature of the president’s moral argument as on the specific conclusions he reached.
When it comes to the controversy over human embryonic stem cell research, moral argument has not been much in evidence. The president spoke of a popular consensus in favor of it reached “after much discussion, debate and reflection.” That is a kindly description of the hype, exaggeration and denunciation that have dominated the controversy.
Steinfels appears to admire an article by William Saletan in Slate, in which Saletan criticizes knee-jerk attacks on those who oppose stem cell research. Steinfels then meekly concludes:
To label the opposition to embryonic stem cell research as “ideology,” Mr. Saletan suggests, is to “forget the moral problem.” To pursue this research is a moral choice. Not to pursue it is a moral choice. And moral choices of this nature properly wind up in the political arena.
Here's Saletan's piece: Winning Smugly: You just won the stem-cell war. Don't lose your soul. Saletan is more upfront about the kinds of moral choices at issue (and hints at where he stands on them, although he doesn't tell us where his concern about an ethical slippery slope should ultimately leave us on stem cell research):
At their best, proponents of stem-cell research have turned the question on its head. They have asked pro-lifers: How precious is that little embryo? Precious enough to forswear research that might save the life of a 50-year-old man? Precious enough to give up on a 6-year-old girl? How many people, in the name of life, are you willing to surrender to death?
To most of us, the dilemma is more compelling from this angle. It seems worse to let the girl die for the embryo's sake than to kill the embryo for the girl's sake, particularly since embryos left over from fertility treatments will be discarded or left to die, anyway. But it's still a dilemma. And as technology advances, the dilemmas will become more difficult. Already, researchers are clamoring to extend Obama's policy so they can use federal money to create and destroy customized embryos, not just use the ones left over from fertility treatments.
The danger of seeing the stem-cell war as a contest between science and ideology is that you bury these dilemmas....
On this point, Obama has been wiser than his supporters. "Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research," the president acknowledged on Monday. "We will never undertake this research lightly. We will support it only when it is both scientifically worthy and responsibly conducted."