Stem Cell Research: For or Against

Mandy Crest Health Guide
  • Swish... swish... swish...

    My slippers make a swishing sound as I slide my feet over the bare wood floors of my home. “Pick up your feet!” My mother's admonishment echoes through the years in my head. She wouldn't say that to me now, of course. It isn't laziness that causes me to drag my feet. It's multiple sclerosis that makes it all but impossible to fully lift my feet off the floor when I walk.

    Five years after diagnosis, I’m still fortunate enough to have relapsing/remitting MS rather than the progressive type. In a previous post, I rejoiced in new research that reversed disability in early-stage MS patients. Researchers used patients’ own stem cells, destroyed all existing immune cells with chemotherapy, and re-introduced them into the immune system. The cells no longer attacked myelin as alien to the system.

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    This particular research bypasses the embryonic stem cell controversy all together, so we have every reason to rejoice. We know that further testing is needed and is, in fact, underway. How long it will be before it’s ready for prime time is anybody’s guess. Early studies indicate that this procedure works well for early stage MS only. Since a large percentage of us will eventually move on to progressive MS, speed means everything.

    It may very well be too late for some of us, but patients of the not-too-distant future may benefit in ways we can only imagine.

    Researchers look to stem cell research to help with dozens of diseases including alzheimer’s disease, parkinson’s disease, and type 1 diabetes, along with disability caused by spinal cord injury.

    Unfortunately, much of the research needed to fully investigate these possibilities involve the use of embryonic stem cells. This January, the Food and Drug Administration approved human testing of embryonic stem cells for research into repairing spinal cord injuries. Tests involving the safety of such treatments are scheduled for this summer.

    Although the Bush administration banned federal funding for embryonic stem cell research in 2001, the embryonic cells for this research were created before the ban. President Barack Obama campaigned on the promise to have this ban uplifted early in his administration.

    As those for and against the use of embryonic stem cells continue the debate, I look to my own family. Multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, and type 1 diabetes are a few of the demons we fight. For us, it’s not just a debate... it’s personal.

    It’s controversial, it’s complicated, and it’s coming to a head. For or against, please take a moment to share your point of view with us.

Published On: February 05, 2009