University stem cell research promising

Opponents are fighting the wrong battle when they attack researchers.

For the past year and a half, University professor Dan Kaufman of the Stem Cell Institute has been turning embryonic stem cells into white blood cells – specifically, natural killer cells – with the goal of using them to fight cancer. With plans in the works to start testing on lab mice, if the technique works, embryonic stem cell research will prove its worth right here at the University.

Embryonic stem cell research is regulated by the federal government – only certain lines are allowed to be used when federal funding is involved. The University has also secured private funding for use on nonfederally approved lines, which are already showing promise. Because this research involves the destruction of human embryos, many abortion opponents and other conservative groups oppose the research altogether. But these groups are fighting the wrong battle. Most embryos used in stem cell research come from fertility clinics. Typically, more embryos are created at these clinics than are needed by the woman trying to have a child. When she no longer needs the extra embryos, they are discarded. Stem cell research uses these otherwise unwanted embryos to conduct potentially lifesaving research – and at least the embryos are contributing to science before being destroyed.

Embryonic stem cell research opponents should not condemn the science or the researchers. If they want to prevent the destruction of human embryos, they should fight the battle where it begins: fertility treatment procedures. Do these opponents also want to deny the creation of life for the benefit of those who cannot have children naturally to prevent the creation of embryos that will eventually be discarded? If so, that is the battle to be fought. Kaufman’s research uses stem cell lines approved in 2001. While plenty of research is possible with the available lines, there would be infinitely more possibilities if the restrictions were lifted