Docky To The Rescue!
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
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.
Labels: He's a doctor you know.