Four Genes

This just won’t do.  No, I’m sorry, it’ll have to go.  You have to understand, as a card carrying non-member of the culture of life, I don’t want an alternative to destroying human embryos to advance the cause of finding cures to diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.  No, in order to get full gratification out of the whole deal, human life must end.

This is silly, of course, and I feel no such thing.

As it turns out, though, four genes seem to be the key to ending the ethical debate on whether or not to perform embryonic stem cell research.  Echoing findings earlier this year, researchers have discovered that by altering four genes in a human skin cell, that cell becomes, essentially, tabula rasa, a blank slate that behaves in every measurable way like an embryonic stem cell.

And in this instance, I think I share Ron Chusid’s optimism.

I personally just want to see modern medicine reach its potential, and over the past few years, the ethical questions surrounding embryonic stem cell research have stood as a great and terrible obstacle to that.  Now that it looks like there might be a way to grow cells and study diseases without destroying human embryos, that obstacle is on the verge of getting blasted out of the way.

But if you think this is going to signify a bright new day where medicine can freely advance, I will warn you not to get too far ahead of yourselves.

There are still some kinks in the system, much of them having to deal with cancer.  For one thing, these cells are supposedly highly maleable, making them highly susceptible to cancer.  The method used to inject the necessary genes also poses a risk; retroviruses are used, and viruses do have a tendancy to muck up the genetic code and cause mutations (unlike what your comic book education might have you believe, mutations for the most part means cancer).

And in the case of the Japanese discovery, one of the genes injected actually IS a cancer gene.

For these reasons along with the uncertainty of any new discovery, scientists still would like to continue on with embryonic stem cell research, but the optimistic tone set by some that the hurdles provided by this new discovery will be soon overcome gives many cause for hope.

I have a great respect for ethics in the realm of science, and while I never agreed with the religious argument of using embryos for stem cell research, we must all understand that ethics is as important an aspect to science as advancement and scientific method.  Just because we can do a thing does not mean that we should.

In the case of the ethical question that has surrounded embryonic stem cell research up until now, I believe that phrase was reversed; we should do the thing, but because of irrational opposition, we couldn’t.

Hopefully, all of that will be put behind us soon.

2 Responses to “Four Genes”

  1. Shawn says:

    Well, nihilism is a great help in getting oneself the night. 🙂

  2. Shawn says:

    “No, in order to get full gratification out of the whole deal, human life must end.”

    I was, of course, responding to this lil’ tidbit.

    and, add “through” to the above post.

    Who needs linear thought?

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