Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Stem Cells Update

Adult stem cells have notched up yet another breakthrough, as Tim Worstall notes. Oli makes the same point here.

Meanwhile, we're still waiting for the advances promised by embryonic stem cells actually to materialise.


Blogger Merseymike said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/04/2008 2:09 PM  
Blogger Merseymike said...

I'm happy with research on either adult or embryonic stem cells, as both may lead to welcome advances.

As I think embryos have no moral status there is no moral issue as far as I am concerned.

12/04/2008 2:11 PM  
Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...

Still not so hot with the understanding of how scientific research works then, eh Maria?

12/05/2008 4:53 AM  
Blogger David Lindsay said...

We are the side of science in all of this.

It is the other side that prefers ideology, entirely regardless of science.

12/05/2008 9:14 AM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

VP, you're right, my dizzy little head is so filled with concerns like the VAT reduction in lipstick prices that of course I don't know how scientific research works, of course I can't tell the difference between a hypothesis and a fact, of course I can't don't understand what big badass words and terms like totipotence and chromosomal abnormalities mean. I leave that technical stuff to experts, you know, anthropology graduates like you.
As a mere financial journalist, of course I can't interpret a company report, or look at a biotech company's position in the index and work out that its stock prices are driven by sentiment. And of course I have no idea of how well-funded industry lobbies work, or how to determine the difference between a claim and a result.
What on earth do I know about the fact that Professor Neil Scolding, an acknowledged world expert in stem cell science who is carrying out groundbreaking research using stem cells on multiple sclerosis, says embryonic stem cells are unecessary, indeed backward science?
Who on earth am I to contradict Nobel laureate, Sir Martin Evans who said: "The writing is on the wall for stem cell research that depends on using human embryos."
But I know that as an anthropology graduate you are more than well placed to do so. What, after all, can Professor Scolding teach you about scientific research and stem cells? I'm sure you'd say that there's a lot you could teach him. And who would he, or anyone else, be to disagree with you?

12/05/2008 6:09 PM  
Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...

Good rant, not an answer to the question though. Showboating of that sort only works when you do not know the other party, dear. ;)

I actually think you're playing dumb here - but in case you're not it's worth making the same point that people with a basic understanding of science make to you all the time. It is not the case that you evaluate research on the basis of "well has it cured Parkinsons" or any other condition. It's research, you use it to eliminate possibilities and isolate questions. Further, not producing a cure for xyz disease does not mean that useful information has not been gleaned. And finally (and most obviously) the fact that a particular method has not produced a cure as yet, does not mean that it will not do so tomorrow. It's research, not a dead cert on the 3:45 at Chepstow.

Stem cells are a platform for research, not a cure in and of themselves: this also appears to be something you've forgotten.

Scolding would certainly understand this, and I very much doubt that he would put forward the same arguments that you and the peculiar Mr Lindsay do. I think he'd also acknowledge that he's in a small minority of current opinion in the field for his stance on stem cell research.

Peer-reviwed science versus SPUC, the Life League, the Church of Cleetis and the Beverly Hillbillies: by those who flock to their cause shall ye know them ;-)

12/07/2008 1:29 AM  
Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...

PS - I refer specifically to embryonic stem cell research in my comment above.

Lindsay - sorry to be blunt, but if you think that your and Maria's base reasons for your stance on this issue (namely Catholic religious doctrine) are "scientific" then you're even odder than your website suggests.

12/07/2008 1:33 AM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

VP, I'm afraid your comments reveal just how shockingly ignorant you are about the embryonic stem cell debate.
And an illuminating lecture on how science works - I think we all knew it works on the basis of experiments designed to test hypotheses - does not mask that.
The use of embryonic stem cells and animal human hybrids has been justified precisely on the basis of the fabulous cures they would provide. That is a fact. The AMRC and Wellcome Trust did NOT call for their use on the grounds that they may glean some useful information from them; they waved the possibility of cures, of an end to Parkinsons, of an end to Alzheimers. They cynically framed the debate in these terms by emotionally manipulating the public. Critics are entitled to answer them in their own terms and entitled to point out that their claims have NOT translated into results.
I have not forgotten that stem cells are not a cure in and of themselves, rather than a "platform for research", whatever that means. I never said such a thing in the first place. If you're going to do dissing, VP, it would be better if you did so with an eye to accuracy.
Neither do you have any idea what Professor Scolding thinks, or how he argues his case. I do. I know that he says embyronic stem cell research is a) backward science and b)unecessary. And no, I don't think he would agree that he's in a professional minority on this one, either. There aren't any polls of scientists' attitudes to embryonic stem cell research. You're confusing industry lobbies, which have a commercial interest in ESCR, with the voice of scientists themselves. They are emphatically not the same thing. The AMRC and Wellcome Trust, two of the main industry lobbying groups for ESCR and animal-human hybrids are NOT representive bodies. We cannot deduce the opinion of scientists from AMRC press releases, sorry.
You would do well to remember that peer-reviewed science is not your or any other lobby group's personal property. It may be appealing to set this up as a Manichean clash between light and dark, of peer reviewed science versus fundamentalist nutjobs. But that is worse than simplistic, it's sheer bollocks, frankly.
Peer-reviewed science, in which we all repose our trust, has stubbornly failed to show any breakthroughs associated with embryonic stem cell research, which is how their use was, yes, justified. They haven't lived up to their hype. Fact.
And when it comes to understanding one's stance on this issue, the boot is firmly on the other foot. If you, for a moment, think that your position on embyronic stem cells and animal human hybrids has anything to do with science rather than sheer credulousness in the face of some very sophisticated industry lobbying, you flatter yourself.
Don't believe the hype, we warned time and again. But sadly you did.

12/07/2008 3:00 PM  
Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...

"We" being the various political-religion lobby groups which oppose embryo research because they think it's a sin, readers...

Gotta go out, but will come back to you more substantially later.

12/08/2008 12:54 AM  
Blogger David Lindsay said...

Voltaire's Priest, our position delivers the goods in practice. Yours doesn't.

That people now have to move from Britain to militantly secular France to pursue research that actually works, rather than ideologically approved "research" that doesn't, says it all.

With human-animal crossbreeding, spare parts babies, two women listed as the parents on birth certificates, and all the rest of it, Britain is becoming a rogue state.

12/08/2008 6:18 AM  
Blogger Merseymike said...

But who cares? Largely those who are primarily moved by their atholic theology, but it means that I find them very difficult to take seriously, given that I disagree so strongly with the basis of that belief.

As I said - do both, adult and embryonic, and lets hope that progress can be made. It doesn't matter because these are not people , just cells, little tiny specks of matter in a petrie dish.

12/08/2008 3:32 PM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

"We" being the people who think the embryonic human being, as a member of our species, has moral worth and inate dignity which should not be compromised by being used as raw material for destructive experimentation.

We include people of all faiths and none. And we don't oppose embryo experimentation because it is a sin; many things are sins but we don't call for their prohibition. We oppose embryo experimentation because we think it is gravely wrong, an affront to human dignity and unecessary.

We point out, as we are entitled to do, that contrary to the excitable claims made for embryonic stem cells, they have not yielded a single cure or therapy. We note that proponents of embryonic stem cell research have conducted the debate in appallingly emotive terms, deliberately raising public expectations about their potential applications.

We observe that while adult stem cell research is powering ahead, providing real results, in the UK it's receiving less funding than embryonic stem cell research. And to us that seems to be absolutely absurd.

12/08/2008 7:55 PM  
Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...

"We" being the people who think the embryonic human being, as a member of our species, has moral worth and inate dignity which should not be compromised by being used as raw material for destructive experimentation.

To paraphrase:

"Zygyotes are human beings, and those of you who believe in legitimate medical research to save living human beings are all sinnuhs. Therefore we will use any minority medical opinion, spurious statistical argument from more or less any source, or just about any other perversion of the truth in order to further our ideologically based argument."

Or is that unfair?

12/12/2008 5:27 PM  
Blogger Merseymike said...

By the embryonic human being, you mean a few cells in a petrie dish.

Get real. That has about as much moral significance or 'human dignity' as a tin of cat food.

Try doing something useful like worry about the gross overpopulation of the world, not imaginary people who don't exist.

12/13/2008 6:04 PM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

Just a touch, unless I've misunderstood you.

Blastocysts are NOT members of the human species, is that right?

Any research, on any unborn human, no matter how destructive, is legitimate, if it may just may, potentially, possibly, result in a cure or therapy for, what? a fatal disease or just a debilitating one because the end justifies the means, yes?

And the views of Professor Neil Scolding, who is carrying out the only stem cell research of its kind on Multiple Sclerosis in the world, that embryonic stem cell research is backward and unecessary is a minority *medical* opinion, right? And Sir Martin Evans, who said the writing is on the wall for embryonic stem cell research, that's another minority *medical* opinion, yes? And professors Colin McGuckin and Anthony Hollander, yet more examples of minority *medical* opinion, I take it.

All that's fine and it's very brave of you to dismiss these very eminent voices. Perhaps you can direct me to the majority medical, or even scientific opinion which says embryonic stem cell research has resulted in the breakthroughs promised?

And I have used spurious statistical arguments in referring to the uncomfortable fact that so far ESCR has a big fat zero percent success rate, right?

And even more I've perverted the truth.

That's a serious charge, VP and I invite you to substantiate it.

12/13/2008 6:50 PM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

Sorry, Merseymike, I don't subscribe to the notion that there is such a thing as overpopulation and neither does your pension fund.

12/13/2008 6:51 PM  
Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...

Maria: well if you sue me you'll have to get in the queue behind Johanna Kaschke :P

Come on now. You're hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to the use of language, so don't play the Victorian fainting woman with your uncle Volty or you may find yourself among the Tinfoil Hat nominees ;)

As to the truth, you'll notice my comment wasn't specifically addressed to you, however if you wanted a couple of issues to address then you might want to look at the definition of "us" (ie your side) as the good guys, people with respect for human dignity, and "them" (ie those who supported keeping the research legal) as being dupes for the demonic biotech industry that presumably wants to kill babies for no reason. That is hardly the composition of both "sides" that I or anyone else who honestly watched the debate unfold. Truth issues there, then.

Further, on the scientists, to be honest with you I could drop twice as many eminent names who believe that climate change is caused by lizard farts or whatever, rather than by man-made Co2 emissions. Their papers would look scholarly, they would undoubtedly be personally nice people. Bjorn Lomborg's books indeed are both well researched and good reading - however he and his fellow climate change "dissidents" remain in a minority.

Here's another minority opinion, but what a convincing list of articles: this time apparently showing a stellar list of scientists who support "Intelligent Design"

So when I talk about your side (not you personally) perverting the truth, it's devices like that to which I refer. I'm sorry if the use of the word upset you, but it was neither baseless nor addressed to you personally.

12/14/2008 2:38 AM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

Errrr alright. I'm molified.

I could see that creationists one coming at me from some distance. But I don't think the comparison is valid.

12/20/2008 3:53 PM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

I meant intelligent design. Not dissimilar.

12/20/2008 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The trouble with t'interweb is that completely ignorant fuckwits get to say what they like.

The representation of the science on here is laughable and your understanding of it is so shallow that it's no longer funny.


12/27/2008 10:41 AM  

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