Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Docky To The Rescue!

Apropos of my earlier post, Docky just sent me this and asked me to post it. He is a man of rare class and a top ginger to boot.
Observe, from Docky.

"There are stem cells for almost every tissue. You walk around with a
small number of stem cells in your muscles - buried deep inside. Your
bone marrow contains stem cells and indeed bone marrow stem cells are
used in the cure of cancers - leukaemia and tumours. The stem cells in
muscle and bone marrow are an 'advanced' stem cell, derived from
embryonic stem cells from waaaay back when you were a small ball of
cells (called a blastocyst). The thing about embryonic stem cells is
that they are complete blank cells. We can induce them to become any
cell in the body, where muscle stem cells can only be turned into
muscle. We have spent some years trying to re-programme muscle stem
cells to make them into a different kind of stem cell and there has
been some success.

So, the progression is: embryonic stem cell goes to tissue-specific
stem cell goes to being a tissue. This is why the embryonic stem cell
is so valuable for research.

We only get embryonic stem cells from blastocysts. They are developed
by in vitro fertilisation (sperm plus egg in a tube). They are put
into a warm incubator and at the 10-day stage, you have a blastocyst.
This is a ball of 100 cells and in the middle of the ball, are the
embryonic stem cells. To obtain the stem cells, you break open the
blastocyst and retrieve the cells, which can be the coaxeed into
becoming a specific kind of cell (blood, skin, heart, brain). The
reason for doing this is to cure diseases such as alzheimers,
diabetes, parkinsons. Essentially, diseases that won't heal
themselves (a cut will heal itself).

I'm in favour of this kind of research. The clincher for me is this question:

There are 500,000 blastocysts being stored in freezers around the
world. These are from IVF treatments. It is unsafe to use these
blastocysts in IVF after 5 years in the freezer, therefore, they must
be destroyed or kept frozen for the millennia, persumably. Should
they be destroyed without retrieving the embryonic stem cells first or
should the embryonic stem cells be removed first before the
blastocysts are destroyed?

I have asked this in several embryonic stem cell debates and so far
have not received a satisfactory answer from the pro-life movement. I
debated Dr. Berry Kiely on Prime Time a couple of years ago and she
didn't want to touch the issue. In a different debate Prof. William
Reville in Cork weakly suggested we would get half a million women to
allow their wombs be used to 'adopt' the embryos. Here in Maynooth, I
debated Prof. Gerry Whyte (at a meeting organised by the pro-life
movement of all things) and he has the opinion that it is not illegal
to not try to cure diseases (I find this attitude unacceptable).
Bottom line is that these blastocysts are all going to be destroyed.
The question is whether we use some of the cells from these embryos in
our efforts to cure disease.

As for importing the embryos - of course it is an irish solution to an
irish problem. If the research is to be done, then there is a sop to
those on the committee that are slightly frightened to give the stamp
of approval."

Terrific, and a big hearty thank you Docku for taking the time to explain things is such fine readable detail.
This quote fucks me right of, 'he has the opinion that it is not illegal
to not try to cure diseases" No, it's not illegal, but surely immoral. Why on earth wouldn't someone want to cure disease?

Right, plenty of food for thought no? Off to the gym, later.



Anonymous sheepworrier said...

Thanks for clearing that up Doc.

3:39 p.m.  
Anonymous problemchildbride said...

Great summary, doc.

We donated our IVF embryos for stem-cell research last year. We paid to keep them stored for 7 years to make sure this is what we definitely wanted to do. Two of them had grown into our daughters after all. We decided we got so lucky with our kids we should not get greedy and push our luck with another pregnancy. So we made the decision to donate them for research. We haven't regretted it for an instant but more strangely, for me anyway, is that it's been one of the few decisions in my life that has brought me a seemingly incommensurate amount of satisfaction.

We stumbled into this IVF business. To know that besides our daughters, some real good might be done as a result - a side-effect really - has been an unexpected bonus.

I understand it's not for everyone, but speakign just for me and my husband, I'm not overstating it when I say it's felt like an extraordinary thing.

4:39 p.m.  
Anonymous Sinead said...

I always think those who oppose stem cell research would have a different attitude if it directly affected them or their loved ones (a la Ronnie Reagan when he did a u-turn on the subject in the face of his own advancing Alzheimers).

Somewhere in a big hospital fridge, there's a whole pile of my stem cells stored in case my leukemia ever comes back, so I'm all for research (embryonic or otherwise).

4:51 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

That's a very good point Sinéad, people are usually very quick to think outsidr the box when it concerns one of their own. By the by, you looked delightful last night, glowing I'd say.
Sam, I feel that way about donor cards, if any part of me can help out if I have an accident or there's no hope for me I say take what is useful and be done wiht it.

5:26 p.m.  
Anonymous Sinead said...

Cheers doll, man I looked HUGE! Couldn't help think of that Friends gag when Monica is watching old footage of herself and tries to explain it by saying "the camera adds 10lbs", to which Chandler replies, "eh, how many cameras were on you?"

Also did a podcasty thing for Alison Curtis just after where myself and another journo were heaping garlands on your lovely blog. :)

5:34 p.m.  
Anonymous Green Ink said...

Makes perfect sense to me. I heard someone on Newstalk yesterday who's argument against using IVF embryos for disease treatment was the individuals that these embryos might become. Well, they're not going to be anybody without a fucking womb, are they?
That's a great explanation Doc. When can I vote for you?

7:02 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I don't have the foggiest who that might be S, but cheers.

Green, that's the nub isn't it. Potential over existing cannot be right surely. I second the vote for Docky, he's a ginger and a we need more of them in power.

7:33 p.m.  
Anonymous Green Ink said...

So that's Doc for Health, Mulley for Comms, me for Arts (oh I'd love that)... how'd you like Finance?

9:58 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I like it just fine. Don't forget we have philosophers, professors, Tv personalities, writers, mums, fit folk and beer experts too. A wealth of experience all round. A superb group I must say.

10:16 p.m.  
Blogger Dr. James McInerney said...

Doubt that there would be much chance of a heretic, atheistic, pretentious ivory-towered academic ginger getting elected here in Ireland. Maybe I'd get elected in Sweden.

Couldn't deal with the darkness in Winter, though.

Sounds like an interesting cabinet, though, inky. Tax breaks for blogging, I say.

10:18 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

There should be a tax break for Gingers Docky. I'd support it.

11:23 p.m.  
Anonymous Green Ink said...

Quite a CV there James. And I'm all of those except for being a mum, FMC.

I think the Blog Party would offer a convincing alternative to the electorate. WHO'S WITH ME?

11:29 p.m.  
Blogger jothemama said...

Breastmilk has stem cells! Experiment on it!

1:03 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

How would we go about collecting it?*

*imagine milk truck calling to homes.

7:51 a.m.  
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