FRC Blog

More iPS Disease-Specific Cells, Less Reality About Cloning

by David Prentice

August 7, 2008

More disease-specific cell lines have been generated, again without using embryos, eggs, or cloning. Researchers at Harvard announced they had produced 20 new human cell lines using the iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cell technology. The technique directly reprograms a normal cell, such as a skin cell, using 3-4 genes added to the cell via viruses. The iPS cells behave like embryonic stem cells but do not use embryos, eggs, or cloning, avoiding any need to create, destroy, or harm any human embryos. Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka developed the technique first in mice, then used the identical technique for human cells, without use of human embryos or human embryonic stem cells for any of his research.

The Harvard researchers developed disease-specific stem cell lines from patients with ten different diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Type I (Juvenile) diabetes, Down’s syndrome, and two types of muscular dystrophy. The Harvard team, led by George Daley, said the point is not yet to treat anyone, but to get as many researchers as possible experimenting with these cells in lab dishes to better understand the diseases. Their hope is that the cells will provide clues for how the diseases develop, and possibly be used to test for drug treatments. A similar disease-specific cell line for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) was announced recently by another Harvard lab. Doug Melton, co-director of Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute, said it is important to simply understand the diseases. “We don’t even know when a patient gets diabetes if each patient gets it the same way,” Melton said. “There could be 50 different ways.” Melton plans to generate 50 diabetes-specific iPS cell lines from different patients in the next year. The goal of the Harvard core lab facility is to create 50 to 200 new iPS cell lines each year, in addition to hundreds expected to be made in other Harvard labs and around the world by other investigators.

The creation of these new disease-specific stem cell lines would seem to ring the death-knell of cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer, SCNT). Supposedly the ability to reprogram a normal cell into a stem cell was the ultimate goal, allowing scientists to make cells that were disease-specific and patient-specific, for laboratory study and potentially for treatment. The cloning technique creates an embryo that can be destroyed to harvest its stem cells for experiments, or that can be implanted in a womb for gestation and birth. But cloning has never worked well, and requires a tremendous number of eggs, risking the health of women (see Pining for Clones, Whining for Eggs.) Yet despite his new success with iPS cells (and previous failures with cloning), Daley says cloning technology is still superior. “The egg does it faster and better,” he said. Well, maybe, if it actually worked, theoretically. In the same way that, theoretically, a Star Trek transporter might be better than an elevator. But only one will get me there now, reliably, repetitively. And maybe fantasy is superior to reality in some current biotechnology circles. But the evidence indicates that now the only real use for cloning technology is to birth clones.

The study is published in the August 8 issue of the journal Cell.

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Ezra Pounds the Human Rights Tribunals

by Michael Fragoso

August 7, 2008

Via NRO I see that Ezra Levant, a Canadian magazine publisher, has been acquitted by the kangaroo Human Rights Tribunal that had been investigating him.  His account of the acquittal-and further denunciations of his inquisitors is here.  I once heard Levant speak here in Washington and he was just as full of justified indignation then as he seems to be now.  In Canada these tribunals have been used by radical Muslims to silence critics of Islam and by homosexual activists to silence religious speech they find offensive.

On the Islamic side, the experiences of people like Levant are dangerously close to the experiences of those who live in Muslim countries and have to face “blasphemy laws.”  These blasphemy laws are a growing problem in many countries, since they are often used to repress religious minorities and to silence political opponents.  They also are part-and-parcel of a growing problem at the international level, namely the ten-year effort to establish “defamation of religion” as a prohibited action by customary international law.  In other words it would be a blasphemy law as an international norm.  (The Becket Fund has been watching this issue carefully, especially as it would affect established religious liberty.)

On the Christian side, the Canadian tribunals might be a forerunner of what we might see in the United States with expanded hate-crimes laws and same-sex marriage.  As Levant mentions in his piece, one Canadian man of the cloth has already been forbidden to discuss certain tenets of his faith.  In Sweden, Pastor Ake Green was also brought up on charges for denouncing homosexuality (see our brief in the case here).  At least in Green’s case, however, he was tried in standard courts, and acquitted.  As Levant points out, these tribunals are far murkier and less accountable for their actions.  (“The process is the punishment,” I heard him say.)  Their slow importation into the United States poses a serious threat to religious liberty, as we are already learning in places like New Mexico.

So congratulations to Ezra Levant, but we should pay close attention to his story, lest it just be a prologue for similar petty tyranny here in the United States.

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Maybe if it had more pictures?

by Tom McClusky

August 7, 2008

I tried my best to help book sales but it appears Speaker Pelosi (D-List) is having a hard time giving her book away. According to the Drudge Report the Speaker’s book has barely sold 3,000 copies despite a big mediaNancy Pelosi 02.jpg push and fawning interviews on the today Show and The View.

I’d like to extend an invite to FRC to Madame Speaker for a book signing that might possibly gin up some more sales. While here she can kill two birds with one stone and also bring Congress back with her to allow a vote on energy.

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Knight Moves

by Tom McClusky

August 7, 2008

Last year I was honored to join the prestigious Knights of Columbus (my Dad was a Knight and my father-in-law and some of my brothers are fellow Knights and besides I couldn’t find the local Stonecutters.) They do very extensive charity work and are also heavily involved in church going activities. Today, I’m assuming in honor of my birthday, the Knights just knights emblem.gifpassed some new resolutions during its 126th Supreme Council Meeting in Quebec City.

One is a resolution calling for “legal and constitutional protection … for the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.” The other is a resolution opposing “any governmental action or policy that promotes abortion, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, euthanasia, assisted suicide and other offenses against life.” A third vows to “uphold that all religious believers have the right to express and live out the truth of their faith both in their personal lives and in the public square.”

The Knights have long been involved in different national and international efforts to protect marriage, liberty and life - however it is great to see them put it into writing this way.

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The 7th Circuit sends the Italian genius packing …for now

by Pat Fagan

August 7, 2008

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that The Freedom From Religion Foundation had no legal standing to sue the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for incorporating chaplain work into its veteran health care. What does this have to do with Gramshi, the Italian genius of soft communism?

To have the federal government expand its reach into virtually every corner of life (family, school, health, the economy) and simultaneously to push for a radical “wall of separation of church and state” is to ban religion from life. It is the perfect scenario for a slow but Sherman-like “march through the institutions” as Gramsci envisioned.

As Mapping America shows, the practice of religion is integral to superior outcomes in most dimensions of life, and medicine is no exception as reviews of the literature make clear.

The plaintiff in a case against Veterans Affairs for their support of chaplains’ work with ill patients, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, clearly falls among the ranks of those dedicated to a Gramsciite deconstruction of American society, not a building up of her strengths nor even of the care of her sick soldiers.

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Knick Knack Paddy Whack, Adult Stem Cells Mend Bones

by David Prentice

August 7, 2008

Australian doctors are reporting early results of using adult stem cells to mend non-healing bone injuries. Eight of the ten patients treated so far have seen remarkable regrowth and repair of bones, with a ninth patient showing some regrowth. One man’s broken bones had failed to heal for 14 months. He told how within weeks after being treated with his own adult stem cells, he threw away his crutches. The Australian company running the clinical trial, Mesoblast, says they will also be initiating trials using donor adult stem cells for bone healing.

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Sex-selective abortion: “It turns our whole framework of choice on its head.”

by Jared Bridges

August 7, 2008

In a New York Times/Blogging heads clip, Linda Hirshman and Michelle Goldberg — two pro-abortion feminists — take on the issue of sex-selective abortion:

Both Hirshman and Goldberg seem (rightly) opposed to sex-selective abortion, but can’t wrap their heads around the irony that they’re unable oppose sex-selective abortion in the United States because it would be, in their eyes,an attack on “choice.” As Goldberg admits in the end, “It turns our whole framework of choice on its head.”

It seems that Hirshman and Goldberg would rather fend off any perceived threat to choice than side with a conservative on prohibiting sex-selective abortions. Then again, it’s not all that surprising that they’re personally opposed — yet would continue to allow the destruction of baby girls just because they are girls.

We’ve all heard that line before.

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Are babies bad for the economy?

by Pat Fagan

August 6, 2008

A report from Austrailia’s Productivity Commission claims that an increase in the nation’s birth rate will hurt the economy.

However, if one looks at the Australian Government’s own charts it is clear that Australia is heading into a big demographic problem with way too few children to support an aging population.

The Commission’s suggestion is very shortsighted and parochial: loss of taxes for the government.

The reality view: The longer the fertility increase is delayed the greater the crisis eventually faced. Babies that are not born in a particular year cannot be made up in future years. Australia may later decide to import other countries’ people (but these people will likely be poorer and less well-educated than the children that could be born in Australia).

Furthermore, while the government may lose some taxes short term the average Australian household will likely not be much affected, except those where the mother brings in a very large salary (say over $110,000 per year). U.S. research shows that for married mothers with children who go out to work the income is virtually a wash when all the extra expenses and taxes are factored in (Aguirre M.S. 2006). And this without adding another loss: the loss of household productivity through which the wife adds value to her husbands income (it really is their income, but you get the point) by her own labor value added.

This is a case of an alliance between socialist and capitalist interests. Feed the market for the time being, bring in the taxes and forget the long term common good and definitely forget what women might want.

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No prize for religious freedom at this Olympic Games

by Bill Saunders

August 6, 2008

On the cusp of the Olympic games, we should pause to recall that, in order to win the right to hold the Games, China argued that hosting the Olympics would help it move toward democracy and respect for human rights. Now, the day before the Olympics, we know that is not the case. Human rights have deteriorated in the year leading up to the Games. In particular, religious freedom - for all religions - has been curtailed. Christians have suffered as well.

In a case in which FRC got involved last December, over 200 pastors were arrested, beaten, and 21 imprisoned for multi-year terms. Their crime? Holding an unauthorized Bible study. “House churches” have been targeted in a crackdown called the “strike hard” campaign. Likewise, Catholic members of the underground or unregistered or unofficial Catholic church have been imprisoned.

China remains a “country of concern” for violating the right to religious freedom on the short lists of the State Department and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. One Chinese Muslim likened these Olympics to Hitler’s - both showcased a totalitarian regime. It will be a sad day for human rights and religious freedom when the Games open tomorrow in Beijing.

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Way Down Mexico Way

by Tom McClusky

August 6, 2008

At least 116 U.S. federal employees at a cost to taxpayers of close to half a million dollars are in Mexico this week at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.

Senator Coburn, who has done quite a bit in both fighting HIV/AIDS and in fighting taxpayer waste, has the scoop:

Taxpayers will contribute almost a half-a-million dollars to the event, an amount that could have been spent to provide life-saving medication to every American on a waiting list for AIDS drugs or to prevent over 50,000 newborns from becoming infected with HIV.

In addition to some scientific and scholarly workshops, the event will feature a “Sex Workers Mini Film Festival,” and a session led by a pro-prostitution group that brags of being “proud” of its work and proud to bring in “lots of tourist dollars” for Thailand. There will also be a workshop on the “Sexy Life” after HIV infection and one entitled “Good Catholics Use Condoms: How to Answer the Tough Questions Surrounding HIV/AIDS Prevention and Religion,” which will be moderated by a woman whose D.C.-based group favors legalized abortion, gay marriage, and contraception — all positions opposed by the Catholic Church.

Thailand is well known as a stop for degenerates looking to have sex with minor boys and girls. You can read the full report here.

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