09 October 2010

Fetishes and the World Stem Cell Summit

For many people ALL stem cells equal EMBRYONIC stem cells (stem cells derived from embryos).

Is it true? Did people imagine it?

Well, it's neither true nor imagined. It comes from our friends at the media. I'm not trying to say that's it's dominated by either liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, left wingers or right wingers trying to skew the story their own way, but let's face it, the media is a business and they sell news, the more controversial, the easier to sell stories. Thus the focus on embryonic stem cells.

It's hot. Using discarded embryos to cure chronic disease.
It's controversial. Using embryos that must be destroyed after the stem cells are extracted.

People are hotly divided. The camps are deeply entrenched. This stuff sells news and it's what is reported. Do you know how many stories I've read and watched about Adult Stem Cells (stem cells derived from the patients themselves) where the story talks about about the controversy over EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS even though they have nothing to do with the story. I watched one story where they were reporting on TCA Celllular Therapeutic's clinical trials for spinal cord injury using bone marrow stem cells and it ended with the news reporters introducing a poll asking if people were for or against embryonic stem cells. This is not just bad reporting, it's a terrible sensationalism which turns stem cells into a moral debate while forgetting the benefits that all people can gain from stem cell research.

In America where the debate over embryonic stem cell research SEEMS the most divisive and courts have recently blocked state funding for embryonic stem cell research, you'd think society was bitterly divided. But even this is not true. An Angus Reid Poll from 2007 shows that two-thirds of Americans favour embryonic stem cell research, and a 2009 poll shows that only about 20% of Americans are opposed to any kind of research using embryos. The only place where the debate is divisive is on the TV and in the newspapers, most people want all options explored.

Think about all the coverage about embryonic stem cells and then consider the fact that there was almost NO coverage for the World Stem Cell Summit held in Detroit from October 4 to 6. Had this been an EMBRYONIC stem cell summit I'm sure that all the press would have been there. But seeing that only a few of the 150 presenters and speakers were talking about embryonic stem cells, the press stayed away from this world showcase of stem cell therapies.

So here it is; people did not imagine that stem cell research equals EMBRYOS, it's been put in our minds.

If opponents of embryonic stem research actually used their energy to work on other stem cell cures instead of selling half truths to the media, at least it would lead to something positive. Oddly enough for all the Vatican's opposition to embryonic stem cell research, they actually do something positive by funding research into adult stem cells. The Vatican isn't just going around condemning stem cell research, they're putting their money ($2.7 million dollars) where their mouths are and funding research at the University of Maryland.

I hope we can someday see: one, more honest in the media over stem cell research, and two, more action on adult stem cell research from those who oppose embryonic stem cell research.

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