China and Stem Cell Research

Submitted by: Matthew Neal

With the overturning of the stem cell laws on Tuesday there is likely to be a renewed debate over the ethics and viability of embryonic stem cell research. Obama was smart in how he dealt with this subject. He reversed the laws allowing for the research to be funded by the US government, but left the moral debates to congress. Although this law simply makes it legal for the federal government to use its money on embryonic stem cell research it does not reverse the policy that it is ethically wrong or send any specific funds to the research. This will likely once again open a large debate in congress about whether or not it should allocate funds for this type of research and what moral obligations it may have in this. After hearing about this revived issue I did some research on China. In some ways, China seems to be far ahead of the US in this regard. According to one source “The Chinese government is expected to funnel as much as $132 million annually into [stem cell] research over the next five years.”

I did some research into stem cell research in China and was amazed at some of the things I found. According to it seems that many patients already go over to China to attain stem cell therapy. I did some research on India but surprisingly could not find near as much information. One of my questions is what does this state about the current affairs of American stem cell research and have we been hampered by the lack of funding for embryonic cell research?

At first glance the answer to this may seem to be a resounding yes. When one looks deeper however the issue becomes a little bit more unclear. Take for example the fact that, “There have been no successful treatment trials in human beings using embryonic stem cells. Unlike embryonic stem cells and the recently discovered… “iPS cells”… adult stem cells do not create tumors.” Adult stem cell research has been able to cure hundreds of patients. All while using practices that are almost universally accepted as fair and ethical. Does there really need to be such a push into embryonic stem cells if we are getting amazing results using other forms of stem cells?

What are your feelings on the ethics and moral obligations of scientists and researchers, if any? A can of worms I know, but that’s what I love about these type of debates : ) I am personally against any research done on embryonic stem cells harvested for the sole purpose of research.

Should the government only fund and harvest adult stem cell research?
How about discarded umbilical cord stem cells?
What about the huge stock piles of embryonic cells that are sitting in warehouses?
What about aborted fetuses?
What about harvesting fertile eggs for the sole purpose of stem cell research?
Where should the moral and ethical line be drawn?

Here are some very interesting sites on stem cell research. I also realize that a lot of the “treatments” are suspect, so what do you think?

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2 Responses to China and Stem Cell Research

  1. michael says:

    The stem cell ‘treatments’ offered in China are high tech quack medicine. They are simply a way of cashing in on very desperate people using untested and unproven remedies. If a US company like Pfizer did this they would quite rightly be pilloried and sued out of existence. China is not in any way ‘ahead’ in stem cell research, onl in stem cell marketing.

  2. Andrew Welborn says:

    Stem cell usage to treat disorders and injuries is a very controversial topic here in the U.S., but seems to have found a more understanding home in China. There have always been a lot of hype surrounding stem cells and the Chinese research seems no different. I completely agree with the assessment that there needs to be a full study performed by scientific means before people jump to conclusions about the specific merits of this therapy, which seems to be missing in China. India appears to be taking a more cautious calculated approach, which is much more commendable. Indian firms are following the scientific method to determine the usefulness of these cells and are not marketing any procedures for profit. To me, this system is more credible and will have better long lasting results, than the for profit, no holds barred, therapy in China.

    There is no doubt that stem cells have the potential to benefit many disorders, but without performing a test, there is no certainty of their effects and if they have any side effects. This is an important step no matter what country is performing the research and therapy. To me the Chinese firm is acting without moral regard for human life by not taking these concerns into consideration. Their claims may be true, but without substantial evidence, the procedures seem more controversial than the research. The government may mean well by providing funding, but it is unclear what the purpose of this funding is and how it is directed.

    As far as what is ethical or unethical about stem cells, there is no easy answer. If the cells come from a willing and able donor and are not a source of profit, I think that the research is ethical. When money becomes involved with the donor or researcher that is where ethical issues begin to arise.

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