Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stem Cells Without the Politics

From the Washington Post:

The discovery that it is possible to create equivalents to embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos has the potential to reshape — and perhaps defuse — the acrimonious political debate that has raged ever since human embryonic stem cells were discovered in 1998.

Even before the research was officially published yesterday, White House officials began making the case that the studies vindicated the president’s unwavering six-year opposition to funding for embryo-cell research and his long-standing position that scientific progress is possible without offending the morality of millions of Americans.

“The science has overtaken the politics,” Karl Zinsmeister, the chief domestic policy adviser to President Bush, said in an interview yesterday. “If you set reasonable parameters and offer a lot of encouragement and public funding, science will solve this dilemma, and you don’t have to have a culture war about this.”

Others involved in the stem cell debate cautioned that much work remains to be done to prove the value of the new cells. No one yet knows, for example, whether the new cells will be as effective as conventional embryonic stem cells may prove to be against certain diseases, or whether the new cells will even prove safe for use in people.

For those reasons, several said, it would be wrong to halt efforts to loosen the president’s controversial restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research, which prevent federal dollars from going to research on cells from embryos destroyed after Aug. 9, 2001.

It would be great if the skin cells could do what embryonic cells could do; getting the politics and the religious nuts out of the scientific area would be as much of a breakthrough as the science itself. But until it’s proven that this new method is just as effective as the embryonic, they should continue to research both, and Congress should fund it.

It is, however, beyond the ability of science to measure the sheer chutzpah of this particular president lecturing other people about offending the morality of millions.