Embryonic Stem Cell Research: New Developments and Controversies

When an embryonic stem cell research advance occurs, stories are given a superficial, brass band treatment by the media. Consequently, many people in the United States and elsewhere foster false beliefs regarding the awesome potential of embryonic stem cells for the development of new medical procedures involving regenerative medicine.

These misperceptions have societal consequences and seriously distort the bio-political debate over human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. As a result, public and private funding of embryonic and adult stem cell therapies research is detrimentally impacted.

Developing human embryonic stem cell therapy could prevent spending time and money to develop therapeutic cloning (which provides, at least in theory, perfectly immunocompatible, yet specific, tissues). People who only casually follow the research in the media are not aware of this advantage of embryonic stem cell therapy.

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Tips, Tutorials, and Terminology

Tutorials and terminology resources from the Human Genome Project
“The following tutorials are targeted to first-time users of some of the bioinformatics resources described in Genome Database Guide. Each tutorial includes step-by-step instructions and screen shots covering basic skills needed to use each Web site. Links to help files and other Web-based instructions for learning more about the different features of each bioinformatic tool are also provided.”

BITOLA – Biomedical Discovery Support System

BITOLA – Biomedical Discovery Support System
created by Dimitar Hristovski and Borut Peterlin
“BITOLA is an interactive literature-based biomedical discovery support system. The purpose of the system is to help the biomedical researchers make new discoveries by discovering potentially new relations between biomedical concepts. The set of concepts currently contains MeSH (Medical Subject Heading), which is used to index Medline, and around 22000 human genes from HUGO and LocusLink. The potentially new relations are discovered by mining the Medline database (currently around 11000000 citations from 1966 to end of 2001).
To make the system more suitable for disease candidate-gene discovery and to decrease the number of candidate relations, we integrated background knowledge about the chromosomal location of the starting disease as well as the chromosomal location of the candidate genes from resources such as LocusLink, HUGO and OMIM. The BITOLA system can also be used as an alternative way of searching the Medline database.”

NCI Creates Network of Clinical Proteomic Technology Centers for Cancer Research

An excerpt from the September 27th NCI press release:
“The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced funding for a major component of its $104 million, five-year Clinical Proteomic Technologies Initiative for Cancer (CPTI). Awards totaling $35.5 million over five years will establish a collaborative network of five Clinical Proteomic Technology Assessment for Cancer (CPTAC) teams. Each of these teams will bring complementary expertise to assess the full spectrum of measurement technologies for proteins and peptides relevant to clinical cancer research and practice. Proteomics is the study of the structure and function of proteins, including the way they work and interact with each other inside cells; a peptide is any compound consisting of two or more amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins.” Read the full release here.

Mr. Bush’s Respect for Human Embryos

On July 20th, 2006 President Bush issued the first veto of his administration, rejecting a bill that would have lightened restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Bush defended his veto by saying that it “would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others… It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.” According to Mr. Bush, each child created by in vitro fertilization “began his or her life as a frozen embryo that was created for in vitro fertilization but remained unused after the fertility treatments were complete. . . These boys and girls are not spare parts.” Bush characterizes embryos—including frozen ones—as human beings entitled to the same rights as other human beings.

Mr. Bush appreciates the potential benefit of embryonic stem cell research for curing various diseases and injuries. Nonetheless, he justifies his veto by his religious belief that retrieving stem cells from human embryo is destructive, resulting in the killing of a human being or, at least, a “potentialâ€? human being. Accordingly, so goes the argument, this act cannot be justified in spite of the possible therapeutic benefits. Bush’s conclusion is obviously not based on biomedical science but instead is an expression of his religious creed. Asked in March 2004 about the stem cell controversy, his science adviser, Dr. John H. Marburger III said: “I can’t tell when a fertilized egg becomes sacred,” and added, “That’s not a science issue.”

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Natural Environment Research Council

“Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
NERC supports a number of competitive grant schemes for blue skies research:
* Small Research Grants support curiosity-motivated, strategic or applied research with funding of between £2k and £30k. There is a single annual call for Small Grants with a closing date of 1 September.
* Standard Research Grants support scientifically excellent curiosity-motivated research, strategic research projects in excess of £30k funding. Closing dates 1 July, 1 December.
NERC also invites applications to its Thematic Research Programmes, which operate through calls for proposals.�

Forging a connection between research and clinical applications.