When we first heard the news about the breakthrough in stem cell research I was, frankly, quite leery. So often we have seen scientific news, proclaiming some "ethical" marvel that has turned out to be nothing more than a step further down the road toward evil. But this latest news is for real!
Many expert bioethicists have concurred that the work most recently reported by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto, Japan is going to change the way scientists look at the entire stem cell question. This newest technique does not require the killing of a single human embryonic child, but rather uses skin cell stem cells.
As our own expert, Nathanael Blake, told me in an email after he read the actual scientific presentation in Cell magazine, "I'm in a celebratory mood. Since last summer, when the mice results were published, we've said that this is a promising option for ethical stem cell research. There are still some technical hurdles to work around, but this is a huge leap forward, and the closest thing we've seen to victory on this in a while.
"The pro-cloning and embryo-killing side won't pack up and leave yet, but this knocks a lot of wind out of their sails. This is far ahead of clone-and-kill in producing patient-specific pluripotent stem cells (and though it still has safety issues, they seem less than those of clone-and-kill).
"I think this is a wonderful discovery for us to give thanks to God for," and most assuredly it is precisely that. Let us hope and pray that this ethical research continues and that those who favor killing-for-cures will stop the madness and work with the scientists who have made this most recent discovery.
We must remain cautious, for as not only Blake, but also Wesley J. Smith have pointed out, "the energy of excitement is missing in many media reports."
These latest discoveries are encouraging despite the media hesitance. The science is ethical and now all we need is admission from the death peddlars that these recent advances represent the wave of the future. Let us hope this comes to pass.