Yesterday, I was privileged to speak as a panelist at the Early Stage Symposium in Madison. Topic: “On again, off again: The unpredictable nature of human embryonic stem cell research.”
Also on the panel was Dr. Timothy Kamp, an embryonic stem cell researcher. Probably one of the most amazing things he said is that it is widely held in the scientific world that a human embryo is not a human life. While totally inaccurate, it is understandable from his viewpoint. He wants to be viewed as one who is forging new frontiers to improve the human condition, rather than one who destroys human life.
I was able to make many solid points in the discussion, promoting the distinct advantages of adult stem cell and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell research which are rapidly advancing and not reliant on destroying embryos for results. These two ethical forms of research are better for patients as they have the ability, which embryonic does not, of producing patient-specific cells which will not be rejected.
The unpredictability factor is very real for embryonic stem cell researchers. As taxpayer funds dry up, as they may given the enormous imbalances in federal and state budgets, “it is least painful to cut that which is controversial,” I stated. The outcome of the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funds for embryo destruction, in the courts and either the lame-duck or the new Congress should give researchers cause for concern. Perhaps, so much concern that they will turn their efforts into moving forward with the two types of superior and ethical stem cell research available to them.