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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

This is amazing

...Doctors think they might be able - if they get there quick enough - to 'repair' the damage caused by heart attacks, using stem cell injections:

"Doctors are launching a trial to see if patients can be treated using injections of their own stem cells within five hours of a heart attack. Early evidence has suggested bone marrow stem cells can be used to repair the damage to the heart muscle which is inflicted during a heart attack."

Not only that, but:

" ...it could help prevent subsequent heart failure, which is more of a threat than the initial attack itself."

Oh, and:

"Heart attacks kill 108,000 people in the UK each year, and there are currently estimated to be 660,000 heart attack survivors. It is estimated that heart attacks cost the UK economy around £7bn a year."

Furthermore:

"Theoretically, it should be possible to use stem cells to generate healthy tissue to replace that either damaged by trauma, or compromised by disease.
Among the conditions which scientists believe may eventually be treated by stem cell therapy are Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, burns and spinal cord damage.
Stem cells may also provide a useful way to test the effects of experimental drugs.
It is also hoped that studying stem cells will provide vital clues about how the tissues of the body develop, and how disease takes hold."


Yes, many stem cells are created using scheduled-for-destruction embryos (although excitingly, not those being used in the heart attack trials - suggesting that embryos may not need to be utilised in this research forever, surely?) and yes, there is 'some' evidence that stem cells - as others - may turn cancerous. However, given the enormity of the possible benefits of stem cell research, surely we owe it to ourselves and our society to allow the scientific community to conduct the research it believes may assist, prolong and save (existing fully-formed) lives?

Science is about exploration, as is medicine. Medical advancement is a messy, difficult and, yes, at times, morally ambiguous affair. But such progress is also vital. To allow the ethics of a minority to prevent the development of the cures and treatments of the future would be, in my opinion, a tragedy.

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