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Stem cell Nobel Prize

October 13, 2012

[J.P.'s Moment of Common Sense on Broad View, KBZZ 1270 AM and 96.1 FM in Reno. Listen live Saturdays at 2:00 PM Pacific Time.]

On Monday the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to a pair of men—British scientist John Gurdon and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka—who discovered how to transform regular adult cells into stem cells.

It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of what these men did. Their discoveries will usher mankind into a new era, revolutionizing healthcare in ways that will affect the quality of our lives more than the personal computer and the cellphone combined. You heard it here first.

Imagine a world where the blind can see, the deaf can hear, new teeth grow when rotten ones are pulled, incurable diseases are cured, nerves are regenerated to end paralysis, fresh new organs replace old ones when they wear out, and even limbs are replaced... all from a person’s own cells. This isn’t hyperbole. Every single thing I just listed is already happening to some extent. Paralyzed people aren’t walking yet but they’ve already restored sensation where formerly there was none. Limbs haven’t been replaced yet but they did re-grow the tip of a Pittsburgh man’s middle digit, fingernail and all. (Now, the poor guy can communicate while driving.)

It sounds like science fiction, I know, but this stuff is really happening.

This Nobel Prize for John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka reminds us of the incredible benefits brought to us by science but it reminds us of something else, too: the obstinate, mindless, lemming-like wrongness of liberals. Please don’t miss the message of this prize and what it says about one of the great scientific controversies of the 21st century. This Nobel Prize happens to be a slap in the face for Barack Obama and every liberal who ever waxed hysterical about the need for embryonic stem cell research.

(Although they probably won’t admit it.)

Do you remember the great hullabaloo about stem cells when George Bush was president? The entire controversy was based upon a false meme which boiled down to the argument—repeated ad nauseum—that Bush stopped federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Scientists who wanted more federal grants and liberals who simply hated Bush screeched that he was anti-science, and a certain Hollywood actor suffering from Parkinson’s wailed mightily about his need for a cure, even attending a State of the Union speech to embarrass the president.

It might interest you to know that Michael J. Fox has changed his tune since then. He won’t come out and say that Bush was right but he does admit that he no longer expects a cure for Parkinson’s to come from embryonic stem cells.

Here are two important facts:
Fact number one: Bush never ended federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. He simply recognized the dubious morality of letting scientists harvest baby human beings for purposes of medical research. Most Americans don’t like the sound of that. It reminds us of the 1973 movie Soylent Green. To prevent the harvesting of embryos with taxpayer money, Bush issued an executive order requiring that federally-funded embryonic stem cell research be from pre-existing cell lines. Over the eight years of his presidency about two billion dollars of federal grants was given to stem cell researchers. (Makes you wonder what the liberals were screeching about, doesn’t it?)

Fact number two: the real progress in developing treatments for human beings has always been with adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells. At the current time there are thousands—thousands—of treatments either currently being used or in FDA-approved human trials being tested, using adult stem cells. By way of contrast, worldwide, in total, there are currently three human trials using embryonic stem cells and no approved treatments whatsoever. To put it bluntly, while embryonic stem cells can teach us things, as a treatment for human ailments they’re a dead end.
In early March of 2009, as one of his first acts as the brand new President of the United States, Barack Obama issued an executive order reversing George Bush’s and allowing federal grants for embryonic stem cell research without restriction. In spite of the mountains of evidence that showed the success of adult stem cells and the failure of embryonic stem cells, in spite of the knowledge that tens of millions of Americans objected to the moral implications of harvesting human embryos for research, in spite of the fact that every dollar spent on embryonic stem cells is one less dollar for adult stem cells, Barack Obama increased the flow of federal money to a dead end area of research.

That’s what I mean about the obstinate, mindless, lemming-like wrongness of liberals. No matter what the facts are, no matter how the evidence mounts against them, they never give up on a bad idea.

Kudos to the Nobel Prize committee for recognizing the benefits of adult stem cells and I wish our president would read a newspaper once in a while.

That's... today’s dose of common sense.

"Everyone has a right to be stupid; some people just abuse the privilege." – author unknown

"Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone." – Albert Einstein

From Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA       

October 13, 2012 - Great article Jim! Yea... there is hope for my macular degeneration after all! Thank you God! – Mary D., Silver Lake, Michigan
J.P. replies: They might not have to cure your macular degeneration. They might just grow you a new eyeball.

October 13, 2012 - To support what you're saying, the story of Geron. Two years after Obama signed his executive order, the company which was approved for the first ever embryonic stem cell therapy trial on humans abandoned the field entirely. They're a private company. They have stockholders to keep happy. They can't chase after pipe dreams. – Pinto Babe, New Mexico

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