Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dead Penis Skin Cells, The Moral Debate Thickens

it is less often i find an insatiable need to speak about politics at with the rigor i do fashion. actually, that's not true at all- it's instead rare that i find an insatiable need to write about politics with the rigor i do fashion. those who know and love me have at least once heard me ask a self-admitted 'pro-life' man if he's ever been pregnant. (no, the answer is usually no).

however, today i'm typing as violently about stem cell research as i have, in the past, high waisted jeans.

this morning, two well known scientists (Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison) brought to public attention their notable findings regarding the ability of human skin cells to act like embryonic cells-- that is, these human skin cells are presenting, or appear to be presenting, an ability to help other cells regenerate. both scientists have modestly acknowledged the relative immaturity of their work, and the numerous questions left unanswered. similarly, both men have admitted the use of viruses in making these skin cells do what embryonic stem cells do. which is dangerous, or something. you get the idea.

so they're being humble and with good reason. but it doesn't change the fact that this is sort of a big deal.

on my ride home from starbucks a few minutes ago (first trip to starbucks today, i swear to god), i listened to two dudes, whose names i don't recall, have it out. one was the president of something-pro-life-something-else, the other was super president of some kind of medical association for the advancement of research. it is worth noting, by the way, the the medical research guy was way classier and calmer than the pro-life guy. big shocker there.

anyway so medical research guy first points out something the media seems to be sort of glossing over-- these aren't just any human skin cells-- these are foreskin cells. newborn baby foreskin cells. medical research guy says he understands that millions of americans object to embryonic stem cell research, but, fairly, also notes that these same americans may object to the use of foreskin human skin cells. after all, just as embryonic stem cells necessitate the termination of an embryo, foreskin skin cells necessitate the termination of the foreskin.

yes, there are some of us who disagree with circumcision. and if you think it's all fine and dandy, you should consider that the american pediatric society no longer recommends it, and many medical authorities have acknowledged that it is a myth that circumcision is necessary for hygienic reasons. and in fact, the whole hygienic hoopla is basically bullshit. circumcision is a barbaric ancient tradition with a secular background which basically equates it with genital mutilation, and while we americans think it's 'normal,' only about 30% of men are, in fact, circumcised.

not so normal now, is it?

but i'll put my feelings on the foreskin aside for a second, which is NOT THAT HARD TO DO, OH EMBRYO-OBSESSING AMERICANS. JUST PUT IT ASIDE FOR A SEC.

so let's pretend (and this is quite an assumption), that these dead penis skin cells have all the potential that embryonic stem cells do. wow, that's super great, huh? amazing medical breakthrough. gonna save the world. holy cow. let's have a party. big deal, right?

wrong. i don't really see why this is exciting at all and frankly, i see it as yet another reason to suck funds from well-intended, progressing embryonic stem cell research to take the hit. the bottom line is that while these dead penis cells do apparently have potential, this research is light years behind that of embryonic cell research. i mean, are we going to abandon efforts on embryonic stem cells merely because someone else might have a super great idea about how to do THE SAME THING?!

as medical research guy said, quite plainly, and no this is not a direct quote, this research is not about finding ways to reach a solution. this research is about finding a solution for the millions of people who can benefit from it. and finding it fast.

if you're reading this before i've added citations, please accept this invitation to kiss my ass. it's all true. and if you're reading it after citations have been added, feel free to click on the little blue links which will take you to other sites which will show you were i got my info.

that's all for now.