Whoops Mr. Moto I’m a coffee pot

16 05 2013

Scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University created the first human embryo clones and used them to derive embryonic stem cells.

Their secret?

The OHSU team added caffeine to the growth medium that nourished the eggs after they were stripped of their original DNA and awaited the new DNA from a skin cell.

Coffee really does make everything better.
Someday I’ll figure out how to use that nifty Logitech camera-&-microphone to record sound, at which point I’ll sing you my coffee song.
I do like “Java Jive”, with one large reservation: the inclusion of tea as a drink deserving of equal adoration.

Mmmmm, no.


All hail Leigh Turner!

22 03 2012

Well, goddamn.

Leigh Turner has been fighting the good fight regarding the dubious stem cell “treatments” offered by Celltex, recently sending a letter to the FDA requesting that they investigate the firm.

Celltex has responded by sending a letter to Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota alleging misdeeds by Turner, and ending with the following:

Please inform us at your earliest convenience whether Associate Professor Turner’s February 21st letter, on the University’s letterhead, was authorized by the University. If it was not authorized, please inform us of what steps the University will take to disclaim any sponsorship of the Turner letter, retract the letter, remove the letter from the internet, prevent further distribution of the letter, and prevent recurrence of this type of action by Associate Professor Turner (or any other University professor). We wish to limit legal liability to those responsible for the wrongful acts and appreciate your cooperation in that regard.

Yeah, no.

Now, at this point I must admit that I know Leigh Turner—I worked with him at McGill—and like and greatly respect him. Leigh is a methodical thinker and researcher and, unlike your erratic and absurd host, not at all prone to popping off.

I also have to say that I found out about this SLAPP-suit at Carl Elliott’s blog, that I know, like, and greatly respect Carl, AND that I know, like, and greatly respect a number of the people who have also written to the FDA in support of Leigh.

(I also admit that I disclose these connections not just for reasons of honesty but because I think these people are terrific and am glad I know them.)

Anyway, read through the comments at Carl’s post and you’ll understand what I mean by “all hail Leigh Turner!” Note, for example, his patient and relentless responses to the evasive comments and personal attacks levelled by Laurence B. McCullough’s of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. Leigh responds to every single point, respectfully requests additional information, and does. not. let. up.

Did I mention Leigh is methodical?

Okay, he does let one snipe go: McCullough at one point accuses Leigh of  “American provincialism”;  Leigh is Canadian.

In any case, Leigh has set a standard on how to respond to evasion, misdirection, and intimidation: know your stuff and don’t back down.

It’s a good standard for a hothead like me to follow.

h/t for Turner letter to FDA: Carl Elliott; for Celltex letter to the U of M: Ed Silverman at Pharmalot

It’s all the same: dead is dead

16 03 2009

Drill Babies, Drill’?

Ah, yes. Another stunning allegory from William Saletan. He’s just discovered that scientists find fetal tissue useful, and wonders why arguments in favor of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research aren’t similarly applied to research on fetuses.

What he neglects is that federal guidelines on fetal research have long been in place (here’s the relevant statute, revised in 2005; see subpart B), as well as being subject to ethical and political skirmishes (regarding, for example, the admissibility of transplants of fetal material; cf. then-Secretary of HHS Sullivan’s rulings in the late 1980s).

So what’s new in what Saletan has to say? Not much.

I guess he’s going after the rhetoric: Those in favor of hESC research tend to argue for the urgency of such research: It’ll save lives! It’ll improve quality of life! We’ll learn so much more about human development. . . which will help us save lives and improve the quality of life!

If this is the case for hESC research, he wonders, why aren’t those in favor of research on fetuses making similar claims?

Well, in some cases, they have (I’ll have to dig out the cites), but these were arguments made years and decades ago. More to the point, perhaps, is precisely what Saletan both highlights and elides: Partisans in the hESC debate deploy rhetoric strategically (disassembling a blastocyst versus dismembering a human being), such that those who favor fetal research are likely not to want to trumpet a line of research which would create rhetorical openings to those opponents.

After all, many people distinguish between the status of an embryo and that of the fetus, such that most folks (if you trust poll data) don’t see embryo destruction as equivalent to dismemberment, while harvesting tissue from a fetus might seem, mm, grotesque.

Thus the reaction of Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con, who theorizes that fetal research will lead to the mining and cannibalization of babies.

As I point out in the comments to his initial post, however, I question the logic which links the harvesting of cadaveric fetal tissue to cannibalization—not least because he doesn’t consider how this situation is any different from the harvesting of adult cadaveric tissue for research and transplantation.

In other words, as grotesque as research on cadaveric fetal tissue may appear, it’s not clear to me that it is in kind any different from research on any other cadaver-derived tissue. The only difference is what led to the availability of that tissue: Abortion, in the first case, and death caused by accident or disease.

I have my own questions regarding transplantation and the pressures to donate (or create a market for)  tissues and organs, and generally think skepticism ought to be applied to any claims of Imminent Medical Breakthroughs! That said, I think that those who criticize fetal-tissue research exclusively are unwilling to allow that there could be any medical-social benefits from abortion.

They might truly be appalled by research on fetuses. I simply wonder why they are not similarly appalled by research on adults.