Thursday, August 24, 2006

Raising the Bar on Stem Cell Opposition

The Journal-Sentinel is fronting an article today about a medical breakthrough with embryonic stem cells that allows researchers to grow embryonic stem cell lines without destroying embryos.

Rather than extracting stem cells directly from the embryo, which destroys the embryo, the new technique only takes a single cell from the embryo and subsequently coaxs it to grow into a colony of stem cells. Since single cells are already taken from embryos during in vitro fertilization without any noticeable harm to the viability of the embryos, this procedure averts the issue of destroying embryos for research.

And this is what leads the JS to report that the new procedure "could significantly reshape the ethical and political debates that have long entangled the research."

Great news, right? Wrong.

Upon hearing of the discovery, President Bush suggested that he still wouldn't be willing to lift restrictions on federal funding unless no embryos were used in the process, which is different from his previous expectation that the research simply not destroy embryos.

So, in other words, Bush will only support embryonic stem cell research that doesn't involve embryos. Yeah, you read that right.

The important question for Wisconsin, of course, is whether Mark Green agrees with President Bush.

Green has said in the past, as Bush did, that he merely opposes the use of public funds for research that destroys embryos. Since this research does not destroy embryos, does that mean he's willing to support it with public resources -- or is he going to raise the bar on his opposition like the president?

The research, it should be noted, is still far from viability. The JS reports that issues remain, such as the need for animal ingredients during the growth process and the inability to conduct genetic testing during the process.

Nevertheless, the breakthrough raises the important question for Wisconsinites of exactly where Mark Green stands on embryonic stem cell research. We know Doyle supports it whole-heartedly -- and with him at the helm, breakthroughs like this one will only strengthen the state's commitment to the research.

Can we say the same about Mark Green, or is his position going to continue to slide every time a breakthrough occurs that negates his previous concern?

Does Green agree with President Bush that the only embryonic stem cell research worthy of state support is essentially no embryonic stem cell research at all?


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