I realize we have never met, but I send you warm greetings. I want to begin by letting you know that I have prayed for you on many different occasions. Your job is tough, and I do not envy you. It is my prayer, as you continue to serve in your position as an elected official, that you never forget ultimately Who we all serve.
You time is extremely valuable so I will get straight to the point. I earned a doctorate in anatomy and neurobiology in 2001 and have watched the stem cell debate go back and forth for many years. Having written and spoken on the topic many times, I am troubled that it appears you are only receiving a limited version of the “truth” regarding the efficacy and potential of stem cells—a version that is often tainted by money, lobbyists, and yes, even politics. The mainstream media and even influential men and women in Hollywood have waged a successful campaign to promote only embryonic stem cell research. I ask for a few minutes of your time to reveal this cover up and help set the record straight. Please bear in mind that this is not an “emotional plea” or my “opinion,” but rather, the results I share have been peer-reviewed and documented scientifically.
I suspect most of your mornings begin with a quick scan of the major papers. Unfortunately, many of the newspapers you read are taking their cues from Hollywood and selected science journals. You might recall that in 2004, New York Times science author Gina Kolata wrote regarding adult stem cells: “There are no ethical issues in studying these cells, but the problem is in putting them to work to treat diseases. So far, no one has succeeded” (emp. added). At the time she penned that statement, I had documented 61 peer-reviewed studies that successfully treated disorders using adult stem cells (See Harrub et al., 2004; See also “The Stem Cell Cover-Up” Fumento, 2004). Whether Kolata’s statement came from poor research or ignorance is yet to be determined. But nevertheless the damage was done.
In discussing the obvious bias from the mainstream media, Michael Fumento correctly observed, “Yet when an ESC (embryonic stem cells—BH) so much as hiccups, it makes international news, while tremendous breakthroughs with ASCs (adult stem cells—BH) are as a rule ignored. Welcome to what’s been called “ ‘stem-cell wars,’ ” a deliberate effort to downplay the proven value of ASCs to attract more attention to the potential of ESCs. It is a war that is being fought partly over ethics, but mostly over money” (Fumento, 2004).
On May 8, 2008, there was a selective hearing in the House on stem cell research. As you are aware, the controversy surrounds the efficacy of adult stem cells and whether or not embryonic stem cells are needed (or should be federally funded). In the 1990’s, many scientists were under the impression that embryonic stem cells had greater potential. These special cells were deemed “pluripotent” indicating that these cells have the ability to become almost any cell in the body. These special cells can become healthy heart tissue or nervous tissue which could potentially be used to treat congestive heart failure or various brain disorders respectively. In reality, we know today that those embryonic stem cells are totally unnecessary.
Seven years before the selective hearing in the House, Rodney Rietze and his colleagues had already demonstrated that pluripotent stem cells could be harvested from an adult (see Rietze et al., 2001). While the mainstream media continue to promote the “potential” benefit of embryonic stem cells, they sadly remain tight lipped about what is already being accomplished by adult stem cells. As Wesley Smith observed “It has been repeated so often that it is now a mantra: ‘Embryonic stem cells offer the most promise for finding cures’ for degenerative diseases and conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury. But saying something ten thousand times doesn’t make it true” (Smith, 2006, “The Great Stem Cell Cover Up”).
The real controversy is not which stem cells are beneficial to mankind, as scientist have proven time and again that adult stem cells are superior in treating clinical conditions. The real controversy surrounds where the stem cells are collected and the means by which they are obtained. Currently stem cells are collected from four different sources: adult tissue, umbilical cords, aborted fetuses, and leftover embryos stored from in vitro fertilization procedures. Two of these categories involve the destruction of a life form (aborted fetuses and leftover embryos from in vitro), two do not. Ask yourself this simple question: If we can obtain consent and harvest pluripotent stem cells from adult tissue, then why proceed with the controversial method that destroys life?
Scientifically, it has been proven that adult stem cells can treat disorders—without the tissue rejection problems associated with embryonic stem cells. And yet, individuals appear determined to present a different picture to you, your colleagues, and society in general. For instance, in the July 28, 2006, issue of Science authors Shane Smith, William Neaves, and Steven Teitelbaum wrote a commentary letter stating “By promoting the falsehood that adult stem cell treatments are already in general use for 65 diseases and injuries, Prentice and those who repeat his claim mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients” (p. 439). They tried to back this up by claiming that the FDA has only approved treatment in nine conditions. However, what Smith et al., fail to realize is that medical research conducted outside of the U.S. does not need FDA approval. Also, Smith el al., remained eerily silent on the successes of embryonic stem cells. The record stands for itself.
On June 20, 2008, William Beckman wrote an article titled “Media Cover Up Adult Stem Cell Research Success With Misleading Terms”. In the article he references a study that was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that led to headlines declaring, “U.S. doctors kill skin cancer with cloned T-cells.” Beckman goes on to point out: “However, since reporting of this stem cell research success never used the phrase “adult stem cells”—even though original cells were taken directly from the patient—confusion is very likely to occur for many readers, whether that confusion was intended or not.” I am asking you as our elected official to cut through the confusion and tell the public the truth.
Let me strongly encourage you to arm yourselves with the facts, not just emotions or opinions. If you would like a full list of all of the successful treatments that have been published using adult stem cells I can furnish that for you. As Wesley Smith observed, “Based on published science, there are 72 maladies for which human patients have received some benefit (which is not the same as being “cured”) from adult stem cell or umbilical cord blood interventions. Meanwhile, embryonic stem cells have yet to demonstrate any human therapeutic use” (Wesley Smith 2006). David Prentice, William Saunders and Michael Fragoso have published an updated list of adult stem cell success stories that ups that number to 73 different conditions (2007).
In 2000, I attended the neuroscience convention in New Orleans and listened as actor Christopher Reeve pleaded with neuroscientists to “cut through the red tape” and ease his pain and suffering. I hope and pray that my compassion for my fellow Americans is deep and wide, but I also pray I never allow that compassion to cloud my judgment on truth and life. Adult stem cells are successful in treating illness and disease. As to whether or not science should pursue embryonic stem cell research, I would point out: (1) that it is completely unnecessary, and; (2) that there are some things that science is inapt to answer. This is one such item. When you go to cast your vote representing our country, I encourage you to remember in Whose image we were made, and that ending human life is not solely about the advancement of science—it’s also about the value of human life.
Beckman, William (2008), “Media Cover Up Adult Stem Cell Research Success With Misleading Terms,” Free Republic [online], http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2034778/posts.
Fumento, Michael (2004), “The Stem Cell Cover-Up,” Insight on the News, [online], http://fumento.com/biotech/stemcell.html.
Harrub, Brad et al., (2004), “Presidential Elections, Superman, Embryonic Stem Cells, Bad Science, and False Hope,” [online], http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/print/2621.
Prentice, David, William L. Saunders, and Michael Fragoso (2007), “Adult Stem Cell Success Stories—2007 Update”, [online], http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=IS07L01.
Rietze, Rodney L. et al., (2001), “Purification of a Pluripotent Neural Stem Cell from the Adult Mouse Brain,” Nature, 412:736-738.
Smith, Shane et al., (2006), “Adult Stem Cell Treatments for Diseases?” Science, 313:439.
Smith, Wesley (2006), “The Great Stem Cell Coverup,” Discovery Institute, Bioethics [online], http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=3687&program=DI%20Main%20Page%20-%20Article&printerFriendly=true ).