Terrorism and the Iraq War defined the presidency of George W. Bush, but in the more tranquil months before 9/11, the president’s early term was defined by a very different issue: Stem cells.
Back in August of 2001, Bush gave what was then naively hailed as possibly one of the defining speeches of his still-nascent presidency.
“The issue of research involving stem cells derived from human embryos is increasingly the subject of a national debate and dinner table discussions,” the president said, before announcing that federal funding would be limited to existing stem cell lines.
Long hailed by scientists as the source of possible “miracle cures” to previously debilitating diseases, stem cells stayed in the national conversation in the early 2000s and into the next decade.
The controversy is tied to the abortion question because many experts believed that early stem cells could hold the keys to new discoveries. And those cells, often, come from aborted fetuses.
“Researchers typically take tissue samples from a fetus that has been aborted and grow cells from the tissue in Petri dishes,” CNN explained in 2015. “One concern is that women would have more pregnancies or abortions because they want to donate fetal tissue.”
Those kinds of concerns were amplified after Planned Parenthood employees were revealed to be bluntly discussing the harvesting of human organs from aborted fetuses, appearing to view lifeless human beings as nothing but lab experiments.
But while advocates on the right expressed concern and urged caution, many in the research community and the political left scoffed. Fetal tissue, experts declared, was vital to research — and pro-life voices were often dismissed or mocked as opposing science.
“Using fetal tissue is not an easy choice, but so far there is no better choice,” insisted University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher Lishan Su in a 2015 Scientific American piece. “Many, many biomedical researchers depend on fetal tissue research to really save human lives.”
Fast-forward to 2019. It now turns out that the scientists who were so sure that fetal and embryonic stem cells were vital to research just a few years ago may have been very, very wrong.
Instead, leading scientists are finding that it is actually adult stem cells — which can be obtained by ethical means — are far more promising.
“Adult stem cells are the successful standard for stem cells,” wrote David A. Prentice, Ph.D., in a groundbreaking research paper published by the peer-reviewed medical journal “Circulation Research.
“Although in the past their regenerative/reparative capacity was ignored, misunderstood, or even maligned, a rapidly growing host of clinical applications are being developed, and the clinical utility of adult stem cells is increasingly validated in the literature,” Price wrote.
Going on to call adult stem cells the “true gold standard in regenerative medicine,” the scientific paper confirmed what many conservatives have been saying since at least the Bush era: We don’t need to harvest human fetuses or embryos to make progress and potentially cure diseases.
“Nonembryonic stem cell research has surpassed embryonic stem cells,” Prentice explained.
His conclusion left no doubt about his findings in the matter.
“The superiority of adult stem cells in the clinic and the mounting evidence supporting their effectiveness in regeneration and repair make adult stem cells the gold standard of stem cells for patients.”
That’s stunningly good news, yet the establishment media has stayed mostly quiet on this development, at least compared to the wall-to-wall coverage embryonic stem cells received in recent years. It seems left-leaning journalists just aren’t as interested in covering stories that don’t allow them to defend abortion.
At the same time, this leading-edge research is another important reminder that science is never actually “settled,” whether the issue is stem cells, climate change, or dozens of other topics.
Science is a process, and assumptions can be overturned in a very short time when new evidence emerges.
Those discoveries can bring many benefits, but they must also be tempered by morality that protects and dignifies human life.
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