America's Leading Adult Stem Cell Scientist
- What is your position regarding Obama’s reversal of Bush’s stem cell policy?
President Obama was facing a significant dilemma. It is a very delicate situation, mostly because the information that has been presented to the American public was twisted to serve political aims.
- What information are you referring to and in what way was it twisted?
An emphasis was placed on the intrinsic value of a human embryo and the emotion around it was manipulated to gather an opposition to embryonic stem cell research, mostly to tap politically in the built around this idea. The problem does not lie with stem cell research, it lies with in vitro fertilization.Embryonic stem cell research would utilize a fraction of the human embryos that are routinely destroyed in fertility clinics, and yet the focus has been strictly on embryonic stem cell research.
If we value human life, and I certainly do, then we should not be creating human life in a test tube. Once it is created, it is a much greater honoring of that human life to use it for a greater purpose, instead of destroying it by throwing it down the sink, which is the normal fate of a human embryo in a fertility clinic. Embryonic stem cell research would utilize a fraction of the human embryos that are routinely destroyed in fertility clinics, and yet the focus has been strictly on embryonic stem cell research.
- So you are supporting embryonic stem cell research?
The situation is not as black and white as portrayed in the media. No, I do not support embryonic stem cells research, but not for the reasons that are normally expressed. I believe that human life is sacred, but we have already breached the sacred by creating human embryos in test tubes for the purpose of in vitro fertilization. Once they are created, a minority will develop into infants, the greatest majority are simply destined to be destroyed. So at that point what is the most sacred, letting this human life disappear in vain or allowing it to serve a higher purpose?Why wrestle with all these issues when adult stem cells have shown much greater promise, without the downside?
Letting a human embryo die in vain is giving greater importance to a possible though improbable life, while turning our backs to living people affected by diseases. But more importantly I do not support embryonic stem cell research simply because it is not the solution that is being trumpeted in the media. Embryonic stem cells present many problems, aside for the ethical dilemma that surrounds them. They present significant risks of tumor formation, their manipulation in vitro opens the door to contamination, and the genetic manipulation that they often involves is yet another breach of the sacred. Why wrestle with all these issues when adult stem cells have shown much greater promise, without the downside?
- In what way are adult stem cells a better alternative?
This debate is a delicate issue that has unnecessarily divided the American people, with both sides of the debate having at heart the well-being of the people involved.
Adult stem cells are often compared to embryonic stem cells using standards and methods developed for embryonic stem cells; of course they do not compare well in that context. But if we use adult stem cells according to protocols designed to tap into the potential of adult stem cells, then not only do they compare well, but they surpass embryonic stem cells. Forget the test tube, in the body, if you take an adult stem cell and place it in the liver, it will form a population of liver cells. If you place it in the pancreas, it will form a population of pancreatic cells, and likewise if it is place in a muscle, in the skin, in the retina… an almost any organ and tissue of the body.
- How can we take advantage of the promise of adult stem cells, how can we practically tap in their potential?
Despite what is commonly promoted in the media, adult stem cells show great promises. Hundreds of scientific studies over the past few years have clearly established the quasi-unlimited potential of adult stem cells, without the risk of tumor formation seen with embryonic stem cells.
There are many ways of tapping into the potential of adult stem cells. Probably the most common and one of the safest approaches is the extraction of one’s own stem cells, their proliferation in vitro, and then the re-injection of one’s own stem cells in one’s blood or organ. But here again there are risks of contamination or malignant transformation of cells. Probable the safest, easiest and most efficient use of adult stem cells is to stimulate the release of one’s own stem cells from one’s bone marrow. When they are released, stem cells will find on their own the areas of the body in need of repair. They will migrate in the affected tissue and will become cells of that tissue, effectively repairing the tissue. Stem cells from the bone marrow constitute the natural renewal system of the body.
- What would you tell Obama if you had a chance to speak with him on this whole issue?
I would tell him, “This debate is a delicate issue that has unnecessarily divided the American people, with both sides of the debate having at heart the well-being of the people involved. On one side the focus is put on the embryo, which is a possible though improbable life, while on the other side the focus is on living people affected by diseases. It is a very difficult debate because it is essentially a debate between honoring early human life on one side, and honoring existing human life on the other side. Both views are based on a true concern of honoring human life.
This being said, it is overall an unnecessary debate that divides the nation, as it ignores the fact that adult stem cells are a much better option than embryonic stem cells. Despite what is commonly promoted in the media, adult stem cells show great promises. Hundreds of scientific studies over the past few years have clearly established the quasi unlimited potential of adult stem cells, without the risk of tumor formation seen with embryonic stem cells. Your stem cell policy must contain an emphasis on adult stem cells.”