Friday, 27 March 2009

Debate: Stem-Cell Research Should Be Banned

The 27th of March 2009 will go down in history as the day in which Ipoh International School flattened STAR school in a debate on the topic: Stem Cell Research should be banned. 

Here is an interesting article you might want to read:






Stem Cells Heal a Broken Heart


Sixteen-year-old Dimitri Bonnville had already been accidentally shot in the heart with a nail gun while doing home repair, undergone open-heart surgery and suffered a massive heart attack, when doctors told his parents he needed a heart transplant.

The doctors did offer an alternative: Bonnville could become the first human to receive experimental stem-cell therapy to revive his damaged heart tissue. They went ahead with the procedure, the results of which could turn the stem-cell debate on its head.

Doctors at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, used a procedure that, if successful, could eliminate some of the controversy surrounding the medical use of embryonic stem cells, as well as the practice of therapeutic cloning.

"We're very excited because we think that there's already been substantial recovery of cardiac function," said William O'Neill, Beaumont's chief of cardiology, regarding Bonnville's progress.

The teenager's therapy began Feb. 17 with a four-day regimen of a drug that stimulated the production of stem cells in his blood. On Feb. 21, doctors harvested Bonnville's stem cells. Using a heart catheter, they transplanted the stem cells into the artery that supplies blood to the front of the heart.

He was discharged about a week later and is now recuperating at home. His doctors say they have never seen a recovery like his.


"We did cardiac MRI studies and we found that basically the entire front wall of his heart was dead (before the procedure)," O'Neill said. "Many other patients we have observed like this have never seen any improvement."

The stem cells -- master cells that can grow into almost any type of tissue in the body -- used to treat Bonnville were taken from his own blood, which eliminated the possibility of rejection by his immune system.

Many scientists believe that embryonic stem cells -- usually taken from 4-day-old embryos that are often obtained from leftover stores at in-vitro fertilization clinics -- are the most powerful and flexible of all the cells.

On Aug. 9, 2001, President Bush declared that scientists who receive federal research funds could work only with the 60 or so embryonic stem-cell lines that had been created before that day. In reality, however, the number of usable lines turned out to be fewer than 10.

However, the Beaumont procedure doesn't require embryonic stem cells at all, because the necessary cells were taken from Bonnville's own blood. The experimental therapy also eliminates the need for another intensely debated technique: therapeutic cloning.


The assumption that therapeutic cloning is key to the success of embryonic stem-cell therapies (none of which has yet been shown to work) has permeated both the stem-cell and cloning debates.

By creating a cloned embryo of a patient and extracting stem cells from it, scientists believe they might get around the body's tendency to reject new cells as an immune response.

Since Bonnville's own cells were used in the procedure, rejection isn't a concern, O'Neill said.

"They're his own cells, highly concentrated, and we put them into the damaged area," he said. "We wouldn't anticipate anything different than we would normally."

Other studies have suggested that simply injecting stem cells into a damaged area might be enough to instigate tissue repair. But most of the work has been done with younger stem cells taken from embryos or aborted fetuses.

This appears to be the first piece of evidence that stem cells taken from someone as old as 16 have differentiated so effectively. Still, O'Neill says he's not sure the results could be duplicated in older people.

"We know that based on age, older people have less recovery of heart function," he said. "It's very possible this is age-dependent."

Other researchers said the results look promising, but that it will take time to determine whether the treatment is a success.

"I think it's extremely hopeful," said Dr. Neil Theise, a stem-cell researcher at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Dr. Sam Dudley, a cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta who is also involved in stem-cell research, said that even if Bonnville continues to improve, it may be hard to know whether it was thanks to the therapy, and, if so, how it worked.


"I think this is a wonderful thing that they did," Dudley said. "We have to (proceed) judiciously because we need to know a little bit more what we're doing."

The fact that Dimitri Bonnville didn't have any appealing alternatives to the stem-cell therapy made the decision to go with an experimental treatment easy, his father said.

"We felt that he just had really limited options," Craig Bonnville said. "We heard the doctors talk about it, and they offered a chance as long as it was approved through their hospital to have it done. And we felt that was a very low-risk, high-reward scenario for Dimitri, especially being 16 years old."

Beaumont doctors said they hope soon to begin clinical trials of their stem-cell technique. 
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