Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mark Green & Stem Cell Research: Two Steps Back, One Step Forward

After backing away from meaningful embryonic stem cell research for his entire political career, Mark Green took a step forward today when he pledged to give $25 million in state money to embryonic stem cell research that doesn't destroy embryos.

It's still not enough to make him even with Doyle on this issue, however.

What if the research into creating new stem cell lines without destroying embryos doesn't pan out? Where would that leave embryonic stem cell research in Wisconsin under Mark Green?

And what about all of the other promising embryonic stem cell breakthroughs that have occured or will occur in the near future? They still get nothing from our state under Green.

The Journal-Sentinel reported that there are still some significant question marks surrounding the research announced by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) two weeks ago:

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The process is inefficient, Lanza acknowledged - and would probably be even more so if researchers were limited to taking just one cell per embryo. Moreover, the colonies were grown in mixtures containing animal ingredients, which can leave human stem cells too contaminated for use in medical therapies. The team is now developing non-animal nutrients.

But some experts raised more daunting concerns. Several questioned whether using an embryo's single biopsied cell for stem cell cultivation before doing the genetic testing - a kind of testing that always destroys the cell, so it cannot be done first - might put that cell at risk of dying before the crucial gene test is done.

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Of the 91 cells plucked from 16 embryos donated to ACT for the study, only two grew into new stem cell colonies.

This has raised some additional concerns that the only way to make the research efficient enough to be viable would be to take enough cells from each embryo to create a solid chance of actually growing stem cell colonies from them. However, plucking more than one cell from the embryo kills it -- which is exactly what happened to all 16 embryos in the ACT study.

In the end, Green is right to fund this line of research. But he is still wrong to withhold public funds from other forms of embryonic stem cell research.

It also will be interesting to see if this pledge by Green creates any fallout with fiscal and social conservatives in the state. The fiscal crowd might be concerned about exactly where Green plans to get this $25 million (as usual, he didn't say), while the social crowd will still object to any research that uses embryos.

In fact, here's what Wisconsin Right to Life had to say on the topic today: "Amazingly, some researchers are claiming in the wake of this untruthful revelation that if we could just use tax dollars for this unethical research – well, problem solved. How about just discontinuing the unethical research and using adult stem cells which are daily providing real treatments for real people?"

Sounds like a certain GOP candidate we know has some explaining to do.

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