Friday, September 10, 2004
Although we are hardly above the odd cheap stem-cell gag, stories like the one below fill us with genuine and abiding outrage at the lives that will be lost so that the current president might flatter the superstition and ignorance of his fundamentalist "base." The traditional wall between church and science cannot be rebuilt soon enough to suit us:
Scientists working with embryonic stem cells have made a breakthrough that could revolutionise the understanding of cystic fibrosis, the most common inherited defect in Britain.Link courtesy of Neil Shah at The American Street. (And while you're there, check out the indefatigable Kevin Hayden's state-by-state breakdown of progressive bloggers -- a splendid resource if ever there was one.)
The British Association's Science Festival in Exeter was told that researchers had found a way of producing unlimited quantities of human cells carrying the genetic mutation for the disease, which attacks the cells lining the respiratory tract and invariably leads to premature death. Scientists believe that the ability to produce human cells with cystic fibrosis will lead to new drugs and treatments for an incurable disease that affects 7,500 Britons and kills about 150 children and young adults each year.
The research was licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which gave permission for the group to study stem cells from spare embryos created by IVF.
Professor Stephen Minger of King's College London told the meeting that his team made the breakthrough by extracting stem cells from a human embryo that carried two copies of the most common cystic fibrosis mutation - one inherited from each parent. "We are licensed to do screening of embryos from families for specific genetic disorders," Professor Minger said . . . .
Professor Minger's team is now planning to adapt the technique to produce replicating colonies, or lines, of human embryonic stem cells with other inherited disease caused by defects in single genes, such as Huntington's disease. Scientists hope that eventually they could be used to treat a range of incurable illnesses by repairing damaged tissues in situ without recourse to organ transplant.
Britain has led the international effort in this area of medical science since President Bush banned the creation of stem cells derived from human embryos.