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Stem Cell Breakthrough

Tuesday, October 31, 2006, 19:42 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Scientists in the United Kingdom have taken a leap forward in the area of producing specialized human tissue from stem cells. The breakthrough is the kind of stuff that activists and politicians promise will become commonplace only if unfettered research using embryonic stem cells is allowed.

But the story has nothing to do with embryonic stem cells.

British scientists have grown the world’s first artificial liver from stem cells in a breakthrough that will one day provide entire organs for transplant.

The technique that created the “mini-liver”, currently the size of a one pence piece, will be developed to create a full-size functioning liver.

Described as a “Eureka moment” by the Newcastle University researchers, the tissue was created from blood taken from babies’ umbilical cords just a few minutes after birth.

[ . . . ]

While other researchers have created liver cells from stem cells from embryos, the Newcastle team are the first to create sizeable sections of tissue from stem cells from the umbilical cord.

They believe their technique is better suited to growing larger sections of tissue.

(Hat tip: Drudge)

This story, of course, won’t get a lot of coverage here in the United States because it has nothing to do with embryonic stem cells and offers no justification for human cloning or the destruction of embryos created for in vitro fertilization. That’s too bad, because this kind of research goes on every day in countries all over the world. Here in the United States, it is legal, federally funded, and ongoing. It is far more advanced than research on stem cells harvested after embryos are killed. The source of the cells is readily available from the millions of infants born every day. It also offers far more promise for quick results that can actually be used to treat real people with real diseases. Not that you will hear that from embryonic stem cell aficionados, who seem intent on creating the impression that such research and the results it produces don’t exist.

Before you call me paranoid, take a look at the results of a Google news search I did on “‘Newcastle University’ ‘stem cells’ liver” at 1:40 pm (EST), more than 24 hours after this story first broke. For your convenience, I have noted U.S. coverage in boldface.

That’s a total of 27 stories, all but seven from outside the United States, despite the fact that the UPI wire service has run it. Of the U.S. sites that have the story, three (Science Daily, Medgadget.com, and LiveScience.com) are scientific sites, not news organizations; two (The Weekly Standard and Redstate) are ideologically conservative sites; and one isn’t a news organization at all, but rather a web site where readers can submit links to stories from other sources—and the source they link to is the Daily Mail (U.K.). Earthtimes.org is a left-leaning environmental site. Conspicuously absent from the above list are all major print, broadcast, and cable media outlets in the United States.

By contrast, a Google news search on “‘Michael J. Fox’ ‘stem cells'” turns up 34 pages—that’s pages, not links— of stories arising from a political ad Fox did in favor harvesting stem cells from cloned and destroyed embryos—which has never yielded breakthroughs nearly as significant as what has happened in the U.K.

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