Wow, that was an excellent presentation by Christoper Scott last night. Stem Cells is a complex issue from so many angels: Biology, politics, science, potential health benefits, moral issues, economics, international competition, ... Chris super cool and with loots of dry humor made the topic very accessible and kept us captivated throughout the presentation.
Things I learned last night in no particular order:
Chris' assessment regarding stem cell therapies and I think he even interviewed the Korean scientist who cured a paralyzed woman: These therapies are still years away. Especially for cures of complex organs like the brain: Forget about Alzheimer (Bad pun no donut :-)
Stem cells in the right environment can live forever.
In the moral question one should weight the actual suffering of for example thousands of diabetes patients against the harm and potential suffering that is done to the embryonic stem cells. (I was thinking the whole evening, what an unfortunate name. It invokes such strong emotions and is one of the reasons we are having these strong political problems.)
Australia has the best regulatory body where the research is permitted, but tightly controlled. While searching for that information I came across this map showing the permissive or flexible policy on human embryonic stem cell research throughout the world.
The US policies are hurting the scientific developments. He mentioned two examples, one young scientist about to switch the field because of uncertainty regarding next grant / job in the industry as well as an SF State (I think it was) professor picking up tend and leaving for London back in 2001 when Bush's politics where implemented.
Brownback Bill: Committee chair Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan) introduced legislation that would ban all human cloning. Brownback's bill mirrors one reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Dave Weldon (R-Fla) on January 8; Weldon's original version passed in the House in July of 2001 by a wide margin. The bills stipulate jail time and $1 million in fines for anyone attempting to clone a human being.
Adult stem cells not as easy to study in a lab environment. Scientists don't really understand adult stem cells.
In your body 50 million blood cells get replaced every minute. Wow.
Korean scientist asked for guidance from Buddhist monks regarding his research and got encouraged from them.
How Nuclear Transfer (therapeutic cloning) is done.
Last but not least: Game OPERATION patient's name is Cavity Sam.
Chris told me at dinner afterwords, that he forgot to talk about a dark time in Russian history where science was guided by ideology Lysenkoism:
Under Lysenko's guidance, science was guided not by the most likely theories, backed by appropriately controlled experiments, but by the desired ideology. Science was practiced in the service of the State, or more precisely, in the service of ideology. The results were predictable: the steady deterioration of Soviet biology. ...
It was due to Lysenko's efforts that many real scientists, those who were geneticists or who rejected Lamarckism in favor of natural selection, were sent to the gulags or simply disappeared from the USSR. Lysenko rose to dominance at a 1948 conference in Russia where he delivered a passionate address denouncing Mendelian thought as "reactionary and decadent" and declared such thinkers to be "enemies of the Soviet people" (Gardner 1957).
Let that be a warning.