Another Embryonic Stem Cell Alternative

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the fact that new research seemed to demonstrate that adult stem cells when combined with peptides can serve the same function that researchers are hoping that embryonic stem cells may be able to serve. Now, according to Reasons to Believe, a new diabetes treatment has been investigated that appears to provide the same benefit hoped to be derived from stem cell treatment without using stem cells at all.

Scientific advance continues to point to ethically acceptable alternatives to embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). New research, for example, demonstrates that virus-mediated delivery of the gene encoding an enzyme called PC 1/3 improved the glucose-stimulated insulin secretion of pancreatic islet cells. PC 1/3 generates the active form of another hormone called GLP-1. This technical description means that biomedical scientists have focused attention on the therapeutic potential of this hormone because of its ability to promote insulin production (necessary for diabetics). Advances like this obviate the need to pursue ESCR as a treatment for Type I diabetes.

The notice is accompanied by a link to the following article by Rhonda D. Wideman et al., "Improving Function and Survival of Pancreatic Islets by Endogenous Production of Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 (GLP-1)," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 103 (2006): 13468-73.

Personally, the linked article is beyond my knowledge in this area and I am relying on Reason to Believe's summary. But assuming that their summary is accurate, it is simply another bit of evidence in support of my position from a couple of days ago: embryonic stem cell research is being offered as a false dilemma. There are alternatives to embryonic stem cell research that do not present the same ethical problems that embryonic stem cell research presents. Regardless of your view on the "humaness" of the embryo, we should continue to reject embryonic stem cell research while other alternatives are both presented and apparently closer to actually offering the medical treatments that embryonic stem cell research only dreams of offering at this point in time.

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