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Researchers announce possible treatments for two deadly and previously untreatable diseases

Researchers around the world are spending enormous amounts of time and money looking for treatments and cures to various diseases like cancer and neurological conditions. Scientists aren’t ruling out any type of treatment to combat these deadly diseases including genetic therapy and the use of stem cells.

Last week scientists from Yale working with researchers from Asuragen, Inc. announced they found a treatment that has performed well in lab mice for treating lung cancer using micro RNA (miRNA). The miRNA used in the study is called let-7.

Let-7 has been found to be present in reduced amounts in cancerous lung tumors. The low concentrations of this let-7 miRNA are thought to contribute to the development of lung tumors. The work of the researchers has demonstrated that the miRNA inhibits the growth of lung tumors and cancer cells in culture and lab mice.

Senior study author Frank Slack said in a statement, “We believe this is the first report of a miRNA being used to a beneficial effect on any cancer, let alone lung cancers, the deadliest of all cancers worldwide.” The researchers believe that let-7 miRNA applied as a intranasal drug could be a viable treatment for lung cancer.

This breakthrough follows just hours after another group announced a possible treatment for Parkinson’s disease, a fatal illness that currently has no treatment or cure. Researchers from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York have shown that cloned embryonic stem cells can be used to treat Parkinson’s like conditions in mice.

The researchers found that stem cells cloned from the mouse’s own body were less disruptive to its body that cloned cells taken from other mice. The researchers got the cloned embryonic stem cells by taking ordinary cells from the tail of the mouse and transferring the nuclei from the cells into hollowed out mouse egg cells, making clones of the mouse.

The embryonic stem cells were then harvested from the cloned embryos after a few days, coaxed into becoming the type of brain cells lost due to the chemicals used on the mouse to cause the Parkinson’s like state. Once the needed brain cells were grown they were implanted into the brain of the affected mouse.  The mouse got better.

Reuters quotes researcher Viviane Tabar as saying, “It demonstrated what we suspected all along -- that genetically matched tissue works better. It's incredibly hard [growing and implanting the cells] and it involves a series of inefficient steps," Tabar said.

While considerable debate rages over the use of cloned embryonic stem cells, there is little doubt as to the ability of the stem cell to help treat a myriad of conditions and disease states. DailyTech reported in February 2008 that researchers used stem cells to treat diabetes in mice.



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Regardless of your beliefs
By FITCamaro on 3/24/2008 1:51:59 PM , Rating: 5
I just don't see how you can say that curing disease is a bad thing. As long as we're not growing lifeforms specifically to harvest body parts from, I think we're within the bounds of ethical science. Growing some embryos that wouldn't form a life if we let them isn't the same as abortion or anything.

I say this as someone who's against abortion.




RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By djkrypplephite on 3/24/2008 1:55:40 PM , Rating: 3
That's up to opinion. The people against it believe that pretty much the second a sperm gets into the egg, a new life is formed, and that's where the debate is.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By tastyratz on 3/24/2008 2:33:53 PM , Rating: 1
Agreed.

Just because there are 2 extremes to a side (those who may be full force pro life and those who may be pro abortion) doesn't mean there cant be varying shades of gray. This isn't scientific proof were debating its a specific individuals definition of life and any moral/ethical concerns. Although I support stem cell research just as you there are those who have concerns because to them it might be morally wrong, or they just simply fear how far humanity will take this like all other things once they "get their foot in the door"


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By JoshuaBuss on 3/24/2008 4:42:58 PM , Rating: 2
That shade of gray seems to have a pretty well-defined line already.. a very large majority of people are against abortions performed after the second trimester, but not nearly as many are against it before then. Seems like we should just draw the line there and call it a day.

Aside from drawing the line of legality there, I don't think the government should enforce any other laws on something so personal. No one has the right to tell other women what they should or shouldn't do with their often accidental pregnancies... if they go through with an abortion I think living with that for the rest of their life will be punishment enough.

So for this stem cell research stuff, let's just come to terms with the fact that these harvested stem cells are going to do more good then harm. It's not a slippery slope if we already know how far we have to go to see benefit from the research. I'm sure if someone started growing third-trimester, almost born babies for body parts it wouldn't be tolerated.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By tastyratz on 3/25/08, Rating: 0
RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By desertvet on 4/4/2008 9:22:43 AM , Rating: 2
An organ doesn't have the potential of becoming a conscious being.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By zinfamous on 3/25/2008 1:07:42 PM , Rating: 3
the caveat is that it isn't "pro-abortion," but "pro-choice." No one really likes abortion; it's a rather extreme decision for someone to make. The pro-choice crowd advocates that option should be available for those who really need it.

as for stem cells. speaking as someone who works in molecular genetics, and works with ES cells (mouse), my argument has always been that insemination is no guarantee of life occurring. So much can happen between insemination and up to and beyond blastula stage that will halt development. The process of cell division begins, but natural miscarriages are a part of reality, and always will be.

We also do IVF in our facility. One of our co-workers worked in a human IVF clinic with experience performing ICSI (injecting individual sperm into an oocyte--higher percentage of fertilization). She attests that IVF clinics routinely toss out frozen embryos after they have been fertilized. The debate around this issue is pretty silly, being that it's fostered by those who have no experience in the field. It takes physical space to house embryos, and such space is not infinite. Also, when per diems cost clients ~$50 per month to house their embryos, they aren't going to be willing to pay this ad infinitum. Embryos are frozen as backup, in the event that the initial implantation does not lead to pregnancy, or if the couple chooses this method for further pregnancies. No2 is also quite spendy.

simply put, individual IVF clinics can not function if they were expected to house frozen embryos for eternity. Those that argue that IVF clinics do this, only look at the theory of cryogenics, in that embryos, if frozen properly over infinite years, will still be viable. Indeed, this is the case, but doesn't touch on reality. No one will maintain embryos for this amount of time.

The issue that remains after this, then, is why toss out fertilized embryos? For those that think this is life, then it is indeed wasting life, and will always happen. Why not, then, put those embryos to use by potentially saving the lives of countless others.

For a man, and administration, that believes sacrificing the lives of his own soldiers, and 150,000+ innocent Iraqis is worth the cost of a very unlikely peace in a historically contentious region, to approach the actual facts behind stem cell research and IVF, yet hold the opposite moral viewpoint, is beyond hypocritical. And frankly, rather disgusting.

Sorry for the politics, but this is a sensitive issue with me. And when a jackass administration effs with my job and potential income b/c he uses blatantly false info to support a morally unjust side of a serious life-saving field of research....I get bitter.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By clovell on 3/25/2008 1:31:12 PM , Rating: 2
This administration was the first one to even consider the ethical dilemmas of this research by appointing a highly qualified multi-disciplinary council to prepare a report on it. Ultimately the council made its recommendations based on the research out there. The report was published. If you take issue with the facts it contains, I'd be interested to hear more.

If your field (ESC research) shows more than the twilight of promise that it has historically (being far eclipsed by adult stem cell therapies), then the issue will likely be reconsidered by a future administration. I realize that, by your view, you're hamstring by the current regulations.

While one side argues that the embryos will be wasted is research isn't done, the other side says it never should get to that point, and that by allowing 'some good to come of it' they are condoning that scenario that should not have been.

Though I disagree with your view, I think you laid it out well, and I can understand being upset; I work in pharma and the political prophecies of socialized medicine make me upset out of a fear for my paycheck and my industry, which, ultimately is in the business of helping people.

Dynamics like this balance our country well, in the end.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By BMFPitt on 3/24/2008 4:32:45 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The people against it believe that pretty much the second a sperm gets into the egg, a new life is formed, and that's where the debate is.
And how many of those people are against organ transplants? I honestly don't see where the difference is.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By phattyboombatty on 3/24/2008 5:49:55 PM , Rating: 2
The difference is that organ transplants are voluntary.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By BMFPitt on 3/24/2008 9:50:43 PM , Rating: 2
So is this. An embryo legally has as much say in the matter at anyone under 18 does. The parents have the power in either case.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By phattyboombatty on 3/25/2008 10:36:09 AM , Rating: 2
Parents do not have carte blanche to make any decision they want for their child. Every decision they make for a child must be in the best interest of the child. If a parent needed a kidney transplant, they could not force their 16-year old child to donate the kidney to them.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By BMFPitt on 3/25/2008 11:03:55 AM , Rating: 2
I'll take your strawman and throw it back at you. At what age should someone be able to object, and why? Should a 4 year old be allowed to dent their sibling a kidney?

And let's get back to the valid comparison. The embryo is about to be destroyed. It has no way of indicating its "wishes" on the matter. Just like that braindead 16 year old (or anybody without a living will, for that matter) who doesn't have any say. You propose that it's better to let the cells/organs die than to transplant them. I say that is absurd.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By clovell on 3/25/2008 11:54:22 AM , Rating: 2
It was hardly a strawman. Medical procedures have to be in the best interest of the patient. What he proposed isn't that we respect an embryo's 'wishes', but that we respect its life. It is a distinct difference.

Were the arguement as simple as you make it out to be, the matter would have been settled long ago.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By BMFPitt on 3/25/2008 12:10:47 PM , Rating: 2
And as I noted, the "patient" in this case is about to be thrown in an incinerator. A heart transplant is not done for the benefit of the one giving up the heart. But they're already effectively dead, so it doesn't matter. Same as with the embryos on death row.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By clovell on 3/25/2008 1:09:53 PM , Rating: 2
Very true. Some would argue that we shouldn't have let it get to that point, though. This is reflected in the current administration's limited support of ESC research.


By phattyboombatty on 3/25/2008 1:13:17 PM , Rating: 2
Your fact scenario has changed since your initial post. I will grant you that there is not much difference between a harvested embryo that is no longer viable and the harvesting of organs from a deceased minor child, where in both cases the parents have consented.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By phattyboombatty on 3/25/2008 12:50:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
At what age should someone be able to object, and why?


When a child has reached the age of majority (usually 18), they are allowed to make their own medical decisions. Prior to that time, the child's parents are entrusted to make medical decisions on behalf of the child, because the child is not yet competent to make complex medical decisions. However, the parents' decisions regarding their children's medical care are to be made in the best interests of the child.

quote:
Should a 4 year old be allowed to dent their sibling a kidney?


I'm not sure what you mean by "dent" here. I'll assume you mean "donate." This decision would be made by the 4-year old's parents, taking into account the best interests of the 4-year old.

quote:
And let's get back to the valid comparison. The embryo is about to be destroyed. It has no way of indicating its "wishes" on the matter.


A six-month old baby has no way of indicating its "wishes" on whether it would like to continue living. However, the law says that the baby has the right to continue living. As I've stated, parents are entrusted with making decisions on behalf of the child (who cannot indicate their "wishes" independently) taking into account the best interests of the child.

quote:
Just like that braindead 16 year old (or anybody without a living will, for that matter) who doesn't have any say.


The 16-year old in my example wasn't braindead. I'm not sure why you thought that. In the situation where a child has died or death is imminent, the choice of whether to harvest the child's organs rests with the parents. Obviously, since the child is dead or about to be dead, the "best interests" qualifier does not really apply in those cases.

quote:
You propose that it's better to let the cells/organs die than to transplant them. I say that is absurd.


Please show me where I proposed this. After reading your last reply, I have the impression that when you originally talked about organ transplanting, you were talking about the specific scenario of harvesting organs after a donor has died or is about to die. If this had been clear in the original post, it would obviously have changed the dynamics of this discussion.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By BMFPitt on 3/25/2008 1:28:37 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
After reading your last reply, I have the impression that when you originally talked about organ transplanting, you were talking about the specific scenario of harvesting organs after a donor has died or is about to die. If this had been clear in the original post, it would obviously have changed the dynamics of this discussion.
We're talking about whether or not to get material from something before it is destroyed. There is no "continue to 'live'" option involved. I assumed you were just ignoring that out of convenience.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By clovell on 3/25/2008 1:39:12 PM , Rating: 2
Okay, but it's not that simple. Your opponents don't think it should get to that point, but the reality is that it does. So what to do now? Condone it? What does that do for their arguement? It shows that if you can get into such a situation (no 'continue to live' option) before anyone can stop you, people who are against it will let you do it, which is also, a reality.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By BMFPitt on 3/25/2008 1:52:11 PM , Rating: 2
Those people are wrong. They have come to their reasoning out of a combination of ignorance and stubbornness, and I regret that they are paid any attention to. Thankfully, it appears that the next administration will be run by someone who is not wrong on this particular subject.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By clovell on 3/25/2008 2:55:27 PM , Rating: 2
LOL - they're wrong, huh? Why? Because you say so? Maybe you could provide some substantiation for such a baseless claim. I've given plenty, and I've given plenty of thought and reading to the subject, which I've laid out.

The current administration did likewise, as it was the first to appoint an interdisciplinary bioethics council for this exact issue. Ethics must be carefully considered and weighed against the potential advantages of any research, and that's exactly what Bush did.

It's not a position arrived at out of stubbornes, and it certainly isn't one arrived at out of ignorance - you might try reading the report yourself. Contrary to what some may think, the people who hold this position are not ignorant people who defend inconsistent positions to the death - many are just as educated, some much more so than you or I on the subject.

Since you're familiar with logical fallacies, and you often quote them, you must certainly realize that you just stereotyped an entire group so that you could blast their position with an ad hominem attack. If that's all you've got left, then any further discourse on the subject is rather futile.

Good day.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By BMFPitt on 3/25/2008 7:13:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
they're wrong, huh? Why? Because you say so? Maybe you could provide some substantiation for such a baseless claim.
Most people find it pretty self evident. Those who agree with them would generally never change their mind short of finding themselves in need of some therapy that stem cells may help with.
quote:
The current administration did likewise, as it was the first to appoint an interdisciplinary bioethics council for this exact issue.
Great way to add credibility to your side. Even when Bush's approval ratings were in the 70s, most people were against his policy on this.
quote:
Since you're familiar with logical fallacies, and you often quote them, you must certainly realize that you just stereotyped an entire group so that you could blast their position with an ad hominem attack.
I simply can't respect anyone who holds that position, and while I recognize the possibility of exceptions, those few who have tried to argue with me on it have all reinforced my view of themselves as a group.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By KCjoker on 3/24/2008 6:03:26 PM , Rating: 2
This debate could be EASILY avoided. There are other ways to get embryonic stem cells like from umbilical cords. However you very rarely hear that in the media.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By werepossum on 3/24/2008 7:46:25 PM , Rating: 2
These methods involve making and cloning stem cells from your own body, not from strangers. The one issue that many stem cell advocates miss is rejection of foreign matter; a fetal stem cell injection is literally a tiny little organ transplant, and successfully using such a therapy requires nuking your immune system just like for an organ transplant. Certainly freezing your umbilical cord at birth would greatly help if you grow up to need stem cell therapy, but it's not an option for those of us who have long since outlasted our cords.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By abzillah on 3/24/2008 6:23:59 PM , Rating: 2
Many people don't understand where stem-cells come from and how they are used. Did you know that stem-cells can be taken from the spine of bone. Researchers are often taking stem-cells from the spine. Another source of stem cells are from animals. Here in UCSD, none of my professors work with human embryonic stem-cells.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By zinfamous on 3/25/2008 1:17:32 PM , Rating: 1
Sounds like you don't understand where ES cells come from either, b/c they sure as shite aren't found in bone marrow.
these are adult stem cells, and no where near as useful as embryonic stem cells. ES cells are fully pluripotent, meaning a greater potential to become any type of cell.

Adult stem cells are only useful in treating undesirable side effects caused be the actual treatments of the diseases that they are wrongly thought to treat.

What every parentshould do, however, is save the umbilical blood when they have a newborn. There is absolutely no moral dilemma here, and ES cells from umbilical blood has already been used to more or less cure cerebral palsy in a handful of children. (This was their own umbilical blood). These aren't fully pluripotent as true ES cells (as I understand it), but are extremely effective in actually treating some very serious diseases.

Again, Adult Stem cells have not been shown to treat any disease, and seem to have extremely limited potential to do so. They are, however, effective at treating the side effects of the actual treatment (eg: chemotherapy).


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By clovell on 3/25/2008 1:44:54 PM , Rating: 2
He didn't say that ESCs were found in bone marrow.

Adult stem cells are currently far more useful than ESCs are. They are currently used in scores of approved therapies. They have been shown to be particularly useful in treating conditions such as lupus and MS. Maybe you should read up a bit more.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By FeralMisanthrope on 3/24/2008 6:50:58 PM , Rating: 4
Judging from the controversy surrounding the morning-after pill and the Catholic church's stance on the use of condoms, I am forced to conclude that many on the pro-life side of the abortion issue believe that life begins before the sperm even meets the egg. Beliefs based on such a profound lack of rationality do not lend themselves to intellectual debate.

Arguments from the more objective pro-lifers typically revolve around the "sanctity of life." But what's so sacred about life? Pigs, trees, even bacteria, are all alive yet we have no qualms about killing them for our own benefit. Meanwhile, the sanctity of human life depreciates rapidly, following birth, to become virtually non-existent by the age of 18, as demonstrated by our social institutions and countless man-made atrocities.

The only thing that makes human life objectively more sacred (pardon the oxymoron) than that of a chicken or an amoeba is our capacity for rational thought. Unfortunately, empirical evidence suggests that the sanctity of a human life is inversely proportional to its cognizance. In other words: brain-development diminishes sanctity.

I find the whole "sanctity of life" concept to be a self-aggrandizing dogma in that the more vocally one advocates the sanctity of life, the more they demonstrate a profound lack of rationality, thus making their own life all the more sacred.

</pseudo-intellectual rant>


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By clovell on 3/25/2008 12:08:20 PM , Rating: 2
First, you have neither a concept of the pharmacokinetic properties of Plan B, nor a clue as to what the Catholic Church believes about when life begins.

Plan B isn't merely a contraceptive - it is an abortafacient, as are many 'contraceptives', including, but not limited to IUDs and the pill.

And no, the Catholic Church believes that life begins at conception, not before. Hence why it is against many 'contraceptives' which have abortafacient properties. Furthermore, it is against the use of condoms because it believes that sex is sacred and has two fundamental aspects - procreative and unitive. It holds that when either of these are deliberately and knowingly diminished and disrespected, that the act of sex is incomplete.

It is a very Aristotlean viewpoint, and it is very rationally laid out if you accept the precepts - the axioms on which it is based, because the view is consistent with those viewpoints.

Now that we've dealt with that strawman, "the sanctity of life" concept is centered on such concepts like every person has an immortal soul - something which is given by God, but as you aptly pointed out, is debased by man. Still, should it just simply be cast aside because some people are jerks? Most don't think so.

So, for 'pro-lifers', it doesn't have anything to do with brain development. It has to do with beliefs and how they apply in practice. It is a consistent body of thought, much as any other philosophy. By misunderstanding it you've managed to show what you think it is to be lacking, but I'm here to say that you shot the wrong guy.

Let the lashings commence.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By FeralMisanthrope on 3/25/2008 1:45:16 PM , Rating: 2
The whole point of my post was to present an absurd conclusion, rationalized from a set of naive observations (i.e., a joke). I appreciate your refutations but rest assured, my personal views are far more pragmatic.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By clovell on 3/25/2008 2:56:40 PM , Rating: 2
Oh damn. Sorry about that XD


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By bplewis24 on 3/24/2008 2:09:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I just don't see how you can say that curing disease is a bad thing.


Because 6 months later they can turn into hemocytes!

;)

Brandon


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By clovell on 3/24/2008 2:42:16 PM , Rating: 2
> Growing some embryos that wouldn't form a life if we let them isn't the same as abortion or anything.

How would you respond to someone who denies the premise that these embryos wouldn't form a life if we let them? I'm not sure how you can logically make such an assertion.

These debates always come beack to how a person defines where life begins, which is something that isn't set in stone, and can often be rationalized no matter what you believe (albeit some positions are more defensible than others).

Those who are against abortion, but for ESC research walk a fine line of defining where life begins, because they're forced to chose some arbitrary time point between conception and birth in order to remain consisitent in their beliefs.

A lot of people are in that boat. Defining life as beginning at conception raises a myriad of other ethical issues that deal with 'contraceptives', which are generally regarded as 'archaic'.

Still, as many DT frequenters would agree - concensus is not science (see AGW), so the morality of such research, is not yet decided; I don't expect it to be decided within my lifetime.


RE: Regardless of your beliefs
By sweetsauce on 3/24/2008 4:01:42 PM , Rating: 1
I find all these abortion and embryonic research debates silly considering we are all products of alien genetic manipulation. Then again i don't subscribe to normal beliefs that some people do :).


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