“By changing one little word, the committee drafting the Republican 2008 election platform last week proposed banning all human embryo research in the United States, whether publicly or privately funded.”

[Republicans at odds over human embryo research via Nature]

How John McCain diverges from the Republican party platform:

  • Wants to loosen restrictions on federal funding of human embryo stem cell research.
  • Will enact limits on “greenhouse gas” emissions through a cap-and-trade system.

As if there weren’t enough restrictions on stem cell research already, Republican committee members would propose to eliminate it entirely. Bah, humbug!

Embryonic stem cells [ESCs] have a special place in my heart, because those little guys are pluripotent, which means they have “many possible outcomes.” You, being the non-embryo you are, are composed mostly of unipotent cells (a gross oversimplification): your skin cells will divide to form more skin cells and your muscle cells more muscle cells and so on. These unipotent cells have long since differentiated from the totipotent cells from when you were a zygote, and now each cell has been programmed to have “one outcome,” to be only one kind of cell. Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, remain undifferentiated and can give rise to any mature cell or tissue type of the three germ layers. In addition, ESCs are capable of continual self-renewal and are literally immortal, unlike other cells which eventually age, degrade, and undergo apoptosis (cell death). Can you imagine the incredible potential of ESCs? 

Once we fully understand the molecular triggers to induce and/or reverse cell differentiation and organ development, we will have the ability to bioengineer all human tissues and organs, cure neurodegenerative diseases, and control cancers. We can create therapeutics to repair or even replace any portion of our ailing human bodies – the possibilities are endless. ESCs represent a veritable fountain of youth and supreme health that need only be deciphered by scientists to obtain. Thus, stem cell research should be allowed to continue by lifting funding restrictions, not by an outright ban.