Ice breaker

Are the Filipinos, politicians and otherwise, who’ve so far done The Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS also staunch supporters of the RH Law? I assume they are because the ALS Association, the fund recipient, supports stem cell research (including embryonic stem cell research) which as far as the CBCP goes is as radical as RH.  The ALS Association gives the required disclosure on it’s website:

Stem cells are cells that have the ability to divide for indefinite periods in culture and give rise to multiple specialized cell types. They can develop into blood, bone, brain, muscle, skin and other organs.

Stem cells occur naturally, or they can be created from other kinds of cells. Stem cells form during development (embryonic stem cells). They are also present in small numbers in many different tissues (endogenous adult stem cells). Most significantly, stem cells can be created from skin cells (induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells).

iPS cells have emerged in recent years as by far the most significant source of stem cells for ALS research. A simple skin biopsy provides the skin cells (“fibroblasts”). These cells are treated in a lab dish with a precise cocktail of naturally occurring growth factors that “turns back the clock,” transforming them back into cells much like those that gave rise to them—stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells can be isolated from fertilized embryos less than a week old. Before the development of iPS cells, human embryos were the only source of human stem cells for research or therapeutic development. The ethical issues involved hindered development of this research. Most stem cell research in ALS is currently focused on iPS cells, which are not burdened with these issues.

Going further, an article at Inquisitr, If You Are Pro-Life You Shouldn’t Support The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, poses some thought-provoking ethical questions:

  • What do you think about the ALS Association using embryonic stem cells for their research?
  • Is it completely valid (along with testing with animals) because it is for a good cause? Or does the good cause not justify animal testing and using stem cells from aborted embryos?
  • Better yet, do you think the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is actually supporting stem cell research?

I am pro-choice (drawing the line on certain issue areas). I leave it to the individual to make his or her own decision given his or her situation; to discern well from a menu of available and empirical evidence and information; to seek external advice or assistance when needed. If a person finally decides it’s embryonic stem cell that would help save a life, then that is how it is.

We all have done basic science experiments in elementary and high school and it’s a basic fact that one could not make a conclusion or generalization without looking over at least two variables, in this case, adult stem cell and embryonic stem cell.  What if scientists just focus on adult stem cell?  They wouldn’t know the strength of it’s healing properties relative to another.  Embryonic stem cell has the superior healing properties for all they know.  It is in this light that I do not make a distinction between support for adult stem cell and embryonic stem cell.  In the serious search for a cure, both types need to be researched on.  What’s critical, and therefore the focus of continuing discussions and agreements, is the how — how should the scientific community go about studying the more controversial subject of embryonic stem cell?  In this, andupholding the rights to life and liberty, the role of government, the private sector, and civil society, is to make facilities and services (i.e. R&D and medical practice) available and to constantly upgrade such in order to comply with quality standards.

Do the Filipinos who’ve taken the ALS challenge have similar thoughts?

This, I think, is the humor or real challenge in the Challenge: the ice are there to jolt the participant to the cold reality of his or her ‘yes’ with the public as witness (the absence of verbal distinction from the participant is assumed as ‘yes’ to both stem cell experiments. Justice Secretary Leila De Lima’s two buckets of are saying it quite clearly?).  Having taken the bucket, one can’t anymore back down.

But then beyond the bucket taking, the Challenge points to the absence of a national policy (and accompanying guidelines) on human stem cell research.  Instead of hashing up another circuitous show this time over cakes (a formal audit report should’ve cut short the guessing game), Congress should discuss this.  Those who’ve taken the bucket should lead the process.  The Challenge, you see?


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