The way around embryos

It has been a decade of having undergarments in a twist over something that measures only 20 nanometers in diameter.

In a fantastically underplayed way of tiptoeing the stem cell divide, California has added its latest two cents to a contentious national issue that — like many contentious national issues — is portrayed as the chasm between religion and science.

On Wednesday, California’s stem cell researching program awarded $230 million to colleges and companies looking to treat diseases with the regenerative cells. Shockingly, only four of the 14 grant recipients plan to use the money to experiment with embryonic stem cells, which have proven themselves to be one of America’s touchiest tissues.

Because embryonic stem cells are — as the name implies — taken from embryos, much protest has emerged about the inherent ethical dilemma. Boiled down to rudimentary terms, is it ethical to effectively breed and destroy embryos to potentially help cure otherwise life-threatening diseases?

The perpetual potato-potahto debate won’t be quelled any time in the near future, but the grants prove that progress in the field can move beyond the mire of debate. The fact that only four of the institutions plan to pursue embryonic research demonstrates a necessary spirit of compromise.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama lifted the ban on embryonic research instated by former President George W. Bush, allocating approximately $90 million toward research. California has long been fighting against the ban; in 2004, voters approved a $3-billion move to circumvent Bush’s tricky legistlation.

The benefits of embryonic researching are hard to deny, but recent scientific advances have shown that it may not be the only recourse to fight degenerative diseases. Last April, researchers in La Jolla, Calif. found they could induce pluripotent cells — basically, change skin cells into stem cells by genetically altering them or, in the case of the La Jolla research, channeling proteins into the cells.

If stem cells can be created with the efficacy of embryonic cells, there may be no need to wade into dangerous ethical waters. Stem cell research should be focused on finding these compromises; not all scientific research has to create divides.

Lucy Mueller is a junior majoring in cinema-television production and is the Daily Trojan’s editorial director.

2 replies
  1. Diane
    Diane says:

    Indeed, the “great scientific progress” we were promised with embryonic stem cells has not happened, and it hasn’t been because such research has been banned (as Joseph so clearly pointed out).

    As a matter of fact, the benefits of “embryonic researching” (as Lucy so awkwardly states) are in fact quite easy to deny. Put plainly, they’ve amounted to about nil.

  2. Joseph Clark
    Joseph Clark says:

    Check your facts. Bush did not ban embryonic stem-cell research. He didn’t even cut of federal funding of ongoing stem-cell research. All he did was decide not to fund projects that would kill new embryos. These projects were perfectly legal. Despite what many university faculty believe, federal funding is not a “right”, and lack of funding does not equate with oppression.

    Furthermore, you got it wrong about why embryonic stem cell research is controversial. It is because these cells are harvested from the killing of innocent human beings.

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