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Tilting at Windmills

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November 21, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BUSH AND THE STEM CELLS....Did President Bush's defunding of embryonic stem cell research back in 2001 motivate scientists to redouble their efforts on adult stem cells? Does Bush therefore deserve some of the credit for yesterday's dramatic breakthrough in creating stem cells out of adult skin cells?

Well, Shinya Yamanaka is a Japanese biologist from Kyoto University, so he probably wasn't much affected by Bush's decision. But how about the American scientist? What does he have to say?

One of the researchers involved in yesterday's reports said the Bush restrictions may have slowed discovery of the new method, since scientists first had to study embryonic cells to find out how to accomplish the same thing without embryos.

"My feeling is that the political controversy set the field back four or five years," said James Thomson, who led a team at the University of Wisconsin and who discovered human embryonic stem cells in 1998.

In other words: par for the course. Heckuva job, Bushie.

Kevin Drum 1:57 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

Once again, The Decider's anti-Midas touch turns something to shit.

Ugh.

Posted by: jcricket on November 21, 2007 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

Being able to make stem cells from adult cells will still be an awesome discovery no matter what state embryonic cell research is in.

Posted by: Boronx on November 21, 2007 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen caught a nice line by Digby yesterday:


So, here we find ourselves more than 40 years after the conservatives began decrying the moral depravity of the left and 15 years after Patrick Moynihan told us that our liberal culture was defining deviancy down and we find that they were right all along. They just got one little detail wrong. It wasn't the liberal left who were morally depraved. It was them.

Posted by: buck on November 21, 2007 at 4:14 AM | PERMALINK

First of all, a "don't count your chickens before they are all hatched" warning. the process that I have seen involves steps from viral transformation, which could muck things up later for any tissues form stem cells.

What is now being announced is the same goal that it always was. The ideal has always been a method of producing isografts [stem cells --> tissues in vitro --> grafted tissues all from the same person] in order to minimize immunological problems. Not having enough embryonic stem cell lines as a model just delayed the whole process by inhibiting the accumulation of knowledge about how cell differentiation occurs.

qanother thing is that nothing was accomplished in saving embryos from being used to clone embryonic stem cell lines. The same number of fertilized eggs are being produced, the same number are being implanted and the same number of embryos are being frozen and forgotten until they are no longer viable and then will be disposed - except that a few more will be discarded later than sooner. Net result, science is delayed, possible cures are delayed and the same number of embryos destroyed.

Posted by: natural cynic on November 21, 2007 at 5:30 AM | PERMALINK

Every time I hear Bush's whiny, petulant voice on the radio, I think,

Go. Just go already.

Posted by: jprichva on November 21, 2007 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

Breaking news - McClellan dishes dirt on Plame affair in new book ...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7105001.stm

Posted by: royalblue_tom on November 21, 2007 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

All of those right wing claims are pathetic. What they really did is lose us a decades worth of research, and eventually luck out on the fact that their ideology didn't completely ruin everything this time. Next time? I seriously doubt we'll be able to find an alternative the next time these nutjobs get a bug up their ass about a form of technology.

Posted by: Soullite on November 21, 2007 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with cynic above. This means nothing. It is preliminary. It has not been replicated. The authors indicate that the cells resemble stem cells, but cells are very complicated. They probably resemble in some ways, and do not resemble in others.

Most importantly, this means that MORE embryonic stem cells are needed to ensure that the results DO match embryonic results. You can't say that unless you have embryonic results.

Posted by: POed Lib on November 21, 2007 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

I am so glad that Scott McCellan had the nerve to stand up and tell the truth in his book about who outed the info on Plame, it just proves what I have been saying all this time Bush and his gang of Phycos are as corrupt as they come, Cheney needs to take the Commander and Theif on a hunting trip and we may get lucky by Cheney shooting his boss but I sure hope Cheney takes better aim this time out.

Posted by: Al on November 21, 2007 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, it would be interesting to address why exactly conservatives think that this finding makes the ethical question go away. In fact to me it looks even more fraught with peril for conservatives than before. Since the reprogrammed skin cells can probably be used to generate new human life (as was done in the mouse cell version of these experiments published this last summer by the group at the University of Tokyo - they cloned a mouse using their reprogrammed fibroblast cells) doesn't this mean that now even skin cells have to be considered people with full rights of their own? Put into a reductio ad absurdum fashion - shouldn't exfoliation be illegal according to conservatives? This study has pointed in the direction that even largely differentiated cells in adults still have the ability to give rise to independent organisms through simple molecular biological treatments. It has the possibility to negate the thinking that embryonic cells are somehow special and distinct enough from other cell types that they deserve rights of their own.

Posted by: reader on November 21, 2007 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Bush deserves no credit for anything good that happens. Typical blind hog rooting for acorns.

Posted by: Don Quixote on November 21, 2007 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

This stuff is so silly. Like debating (and deciding) energy policy based upon the first reports of cold fusion or an obscure paper on switch grass. Fundamental biomedical research leads down many dead ends, takes decades to reach fruition, and doesn't take you directly to the stated goals in the initial PI's grant proposal.

Setting arbitrary limits on the most promising lines of research will limit advances. Setting arbitrary limits on the second most promising lines of research will limit advances.

Ethics should control the limits of research -- but the ethical debate will continue to exist as long as grant reviewing researchers in the field feel that the science supports pursuing research on embryos. The only way that changes quickly is if you take away 90% of their money.

Posted by: B on November 21, 2007 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Japanese Scientist is in San Francisco.

He is actually working at UCSF with money from the Bond that California passed to replace missing federal funds.

So adding up the time it took the Bond to pass and the time to fight right wing lawyers so the bond money could be spent, 4 years sounds about right.


Yay for California.

Meanwhile at the Mississipi Insitute of Creation Science.....

Posted by: JImmy on November 21, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

jprichva: Every time I hear Bush's whiny, petulant voice on the radio, I think, Go. Just go already.

For me, if I looked up the word "querulous" in an audio dictionary, I'd expect to hear a recording of a Bush speech as an illustration of the word.

"whiny, fretful, habitually complaining, peevish, sour, sulky, self-pitying"

That's our Bush.

Posted by: cowalker on November 21, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

After the SCOTUS chose to ignore the will of the people in November of 2000 and illegally install Bush as president, I thought, "Alright, although he is an illegitimate president, this ignorant man can't do too much damage in 4 years". Boy, was I wrong!

This stem cell delay is one more example of where ignorance and being excessively wed to an ideology can do so much more damage than you might first imagine. How many people with spinal cord damage could have been helped in the past five years, if Bush has been willing to fund or at least permit proliferation of existing stem cell lines? I hope this is a teachable moment for all Americans as to how bad consequences can flow out of bad thinking.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 21, 2007 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

reader In fact to me [this finding]looks even more fraught with peril for conservatives than before. Since the reprogrammed skin cells can probably be used to generate new human life (as was done in the mouse cell version of these experiments published this last summer by the group at the University of Tokyo - they cloned a mouse using their reprogrammed fibroblast cells) doesn't this mean that now even skin cells have to be considered people with full rights of their own?

I had a variation on this thought when I read the news also. I think conservatives would still allow facials without having a moral problem, but it would seem to make human cloning easier.

Posted by: cowalker on November 21, 2007 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

"My feeling is that the political controversy set the field back four or five years," said James Thomson, who led a team at the University of Wisconsin and who discovered human embryonic stem cells in 1998.

Without the removal of federal funding for embryonic stem cells in new lines, they would have gotten this answer in only 2 or 3 years. And all of the other federal funding for stem cell research that was first approved by the Bush administration was totally irrelevant.

Sure.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on November 21, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Does Bush therefore deserve some of the credit for yesterday's dramatic breakthrough in creating stem cells out of adult skin cells?

Maybe.

Bush's was the first administration to specifically fund stem cell research, but with one narrow and specific exclusion that applied only to federal funding. Lots of the funding on the other kinds of stem cells, including the (nearly) pluripotent epidermal stem cells, contributed to this and other discoveries. Epidermal stem cells have been used for regenerative therapies (e.g. treating torn ligaments and tendons) in equine medicine for a while already.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on November 21, 2007 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Bushs approval rating is at a new high at 28% up from last month at 24% look out folks hell he is on a role, but the fact is he is still the sorriest president in history, but he can not help that he still is a dunb azz, but you have to look a little deeper and see who his parents are.

Posted by: Al on November 21, 2007 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Solar Power:

http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Record_Early_Sales_Of_Solar_Power_2008_Reflects_Growth_Trajectory_Of_US_Solar_Industry_999.html

The solar power expo will be held in San Diego, Oct 13-16, 2008. Just in time for the 2008 general elections. In 2006 the U.S. increased its solar power 46% and in 2007 will have increased about 60%. That's more than double in just two years. It's set to double again in 2007, which will mean a quadrupling or more since the Republican energy bill was passed. Commensurate increases in wind and biofuels have also occurred.

In response to international petroleum prices, China has become a world leader in alternative energy technology as well. They are big on coal gasification and liquifaction. They are big on renewables as well, ranking up there with the U.S. and Germany in solar.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on November 21, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Two things,

1. Bush doesn't care about stem cell research and neither does so many Republicans. If it was up to them the government wouldn't be giving a dollar to fund research of any type. The "free market" would do the stem cell research but thats when the Christian conservatives step in.

2. This proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that yes elections do matter. It's a common meme, probably installed by righties who want to distract Americans from the awfulness of their candidates, that "both sides are the same". That old South Park episode "douche and turd" was hilarious but in today's political climate it does not apply.

Posted by: Joshua on November 21, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Virus infected stem cells have been developed to bypass the belief of our president so biologists can continue their work in the field:

Another caveat is that, so far, scientists use a type of virus, a retrovirus, to insert the genes into the cells’ chromosomes. Retroviruses slip genes into chromosomes at random, sometimes causing mutations that can make normal cells turn into cancers.

One gene used by the Japanese scientists actually is a cancer gene.

The cancer risk means that the resulting stem cells would not be suitable for replacement cells or tissues for patients with diseases, like diabetes, in which their own cells die. But they would be ideal for the sort of studies that many researchers say are the real promise of this endeavor — studying the causes and treatments of complex diseases.

I would guess that setting the field back four or five years is too optimistic, but at least scientists have figured out a way to do research without disturbing the delicate sensibilities of W. Bush.

Posted by: Brojo on November 21, 2007 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Better than hundreds were flushed down the toilet at fertility clinics than used to advance research!!

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on November 21, 2007 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

"but with one narrow and specific exclusion "

LOL.... Matthew, dear, do you realize just how silly you sound when you play these semantic games? I'm not even going to dignify this bit of drivel with a serious response.

Man, you used to occasionally cough up a serious argument. What the hell happened to you?

Posted by: PaulB on November 21, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta find something to do with all those embryos now.

Aw crap this was one of them ethical problems the wingnuts were talkin about weren't it?

Posted by: Orwell on November 21, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Bush's quibbles have merely served to offshore another technology
Putting concerns about the unborn ahead of policies for the living is a measure of the 'compassion' among the Christo-taliban in the US.

Posted by: Mike on November 21, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's important to remember that Bush's decision was a political one. Not a scientific or moral one. It was an amoral attempt at Solomonic wisdom.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on November 21, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I think conservatives would still allow facials without having a moral problem

Yeah, but they are now firmly against bukkake....

Posted by: Disputo on November 21, 2007 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

not about stem cells here, but termites:

http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/DOE_JGI_Plumbs_Termite_Guts_To_Yield_Novel_Enzymes_For_Better_Biofuel_Production_999.html

soon to be exploited to provide fuel for humans.

Matthew, dear, do you realize just how silly you sound when you play these semantic games?

The Bush administration led a large increase in stem cell research. Other institutions continued to fund embryonic stem cell research from other donors, while taking advantage of the federal funding for non-stem cell research. There was little actual damage to American stem cell research.

meanwhile, enjoy reading about the termites.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on November 22, 2007 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

A number of months ago in Scientific American that use of non-embryonic stem cells increases the probability that the stem cells will incite cancer.

NB: a few months before that it was reported that an American politician had claimed that the use of stem cells would do that, but he did not use the "non-embryonic" part.

Posted by: raj on November 22, 2007 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

MOTILITY MATTERS
.
( Daily Mirror front page picture of Bush
is reproduced on original post)

Stem cells, brain cells, idiocy and imbeciles.

I am again reminded of the November 04' Daily Mirrors' front page picture of our just reelected president and this question:

"How can 59,054,087 People be so STUPID?"

Labels: clo(w)ning, dna, dumb-nuclar-assid,

Posted by: cognitorex on November 24, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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