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Re: [Channel-talkbio] Cell Biology and Cancer and Reply to Genetics of Development

From: Mary Johnston <mjohnston@haverhill-ps.org>
Date: Tue Feb 27 2007 - 08:43:24 EST

Dear Karen,
     I am totally disgusted by someone selling fertilized embryos for
$3000 per embryo. This is the blatant selling of human life. I thought
we abolished selling people in this country quite a long time ago, but
apparently every time we take a few steps forward, we also take a few
steps backward. I realize that a fertilized embryo is not the same as a
fully developed new-born baby, but what else would an embryo ever
become? I know you could take the argument to the extreme and say what
about a sperm or an egg cell? Don't these have the potential to become
a new life? I don't believe so. It is that beautiful moment of
fertilization that makes all the difference. The information and
directions for a whole person are not present until that occurs.
Otherwise, any other point at which we say "Life" has occurred is really
arbitrary such as is it heart development or brain development or the
moment the fetus looks "human"? I know a lot of people would not agree,
but a sperm left alone will never become a human being. An embryo
allowed to develop will and this makes all the difference in my opinion.
      In regard to the chapter on cancer, I was really surprised that
the National Cancer Institute's Budget was 4.6 billion dollars ten years
ago and we still have not managed to beat cancer. I know that there is
a lot of great work going on from tumor suppressor drugs to
anti-angiogenesis factors, but the fact that cancer is still killing so
many of us is a hard pill to swallow. Of particular interest to me was
the fact that cancer death rates differ among different sub-groups of
the population. For example, as quoted in the unit, the 1996
"colorectal cancer death rate was 16.4 per 100,000 for white Americans
and 22.5 per 100,000 for black Americans and that the death rate for all
cancers combined is about 30 % higher for blacks than whites." This
indicates that cancer is ravaging our society and also exploiting
discrimination. Perhaps blacks do not have as easy access to health
care or perhaps they are mistrustful of a medical system predominated by
white male doctors. Perhaps they are more often dismissed as being OK
when early signs of disease should have been caught or perhaps even that
they themselves have a culture of not seeking medical treatment because
they feel they cannot afford it or don't want to be burdensome to their
families. Whatever is the case, I found this to be a disturbing and
unacceptable trend. What can we as a scoiety do to stop this disparity?
Perhaps we need more free clinics that provide public services and
walk-in programs. More importantly, we need a national healthcare
system that provides everyone with equal access to medical care just as
we have a national public school system. I realize that there would be
some problems with this, but just because the situation wouldn't be
perfect doesn't mean that we shouldn't try and attempt beneficial
change. What do you think?
Mary Johnston
    

________________________________

From: channel-talkbio-bounces@learner.org on behalf of
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Sent: Mon 2/26/2007 12:00 PM
To: channel-talkbio@learner.org
Subject: Channel-talkbio Digest, Vol 6, Issue 5

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Today's Topics:

   1. Re: Unit 7 Genetics of Development (Karen Blaustein)

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Message: 1
Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2007 16:51:12 -0500
From: "Karen Blaustein" <kblaustein@haverhill-ps.org>
Subject: Re: [Channel-talkbio] Unit 7 Genetics of Development
To: "Discussion list for REDISCOVERING BIOLOGY"
        <channel-talkbio@learner.org>
Message-ID:
 
<69BB75AAB563AB418EEB93D45855D87D0196E2CF@hps-mail.haverhill-ps.org>

Hi Mary,
I basically agree with you. It was interesting to learn about the
differences between a totipotent stem cell and a pluripotent stem cell.
I had never heard of a totipotent stem cell, but now realize that they
are the only ones that have the ability to develop into a fetus with the
associated placenta. Personally, I do not believe that we should produce
embryos for the sole purpose of research when other sources of stem
cells are available. These include embryos produced by infertile
couples that are no longer needed due to various factors. Many of these
embryos may be discarded and therefore I believe that these embryos
could be used for research. However there are still many controversial
implications concerning stem cells. Should we ban couples from using
fertility treatments because they will inevitably be producing some
embryos that may never be used? Is this the same thing as killing a
possible life? To me, it basically comes down to this... the stem cells
have not diferentiated into specialized cells. Accordingly, they do not
have nerve cells, brain cells, etc. which are cells assoicated with
thought, feelings, and pain. Similarly, organs have not yet developed.
Therefore, they are not really a living human being yet. Could we dream
up that ovarian egg cells and sperm cells are also a potential person?

I was watching the news the other night and they had a story about a
woman who is making and selling fertilized embryos to the general
public. The cost was about $3000 dollars, which is significantly less
that adoption (except that it was preferably to buy more than one
because implantation might not work the first time). She is making and
selling possible human life. What do you think about this?

________________________________

From: channel-talkbio-bounces@learner.org on behalf of Mary Johnston
Sent: Fri 2/16/2007 10:50 AM
To: channel-talkbio@learner.org
Subject: Re: [Channel-talkbio] Unit 7 Genetics of Development

________________________________

Dear Karen,
      I found this unit on the genetics of development to be quite
interesting and controversial. In terms of research it seems that
embryonic stem cells are the most useful. They can differentiate into
many more cell types. They are easy to grow in large numbers in the lab
and hold much promise in the treatment of many illnesses and medical
conditions including Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and leukemia.
However, in the harvesting of these cells, the embryo and thus a
potential person are detsroyed. Adult stem cells are much harder to
grow in large amounts and cannot differentiate into as many different
cell types. It is my opinion that research on existing cell lines
should continue as directed by the Bush administration, but the
destruction of embryos for the sole purpose of research should not be
allowed. We could be destroying a human being that actually does
discover the cure for cancer or HIV or any number of diseases. At the
same time, we must be reasonable and allow medicine to advance, so those
embryos that are already marked for destruction such as in unused
in-vitro fertilization procedures should at least have some useful
purpose.
     The key to this whole issue really is figuring out how to get adult
stem cells to become pluripotent. I have heard in the news that
researchers are making great strides in this research. Therefore, I
think that in the future the stem cell debate will not be an issue
because scientists will have figured out how to use adult stem cells
more prominently in their research. How do you feel?
Mary Johnston

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End of Channel-talkbio Digest, Vol 6, Issue 5
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Received on Tue Feb 27 08:58:21 2007

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