Month Archives: January 2011

Adult Stem Cells Gone to the Dogs

by David Prentice

January 26, 2011

While the successes of adult stem cells for human patients make little news, animal treatments continue to grab headlines. The latest is the story of Sam the border collie, from Georgia. Sam was experiencing increasing pain and loss of movement from spindalosis and arthritis. Dr. Kevin Brantly used the dog’s own adult stem cells from fat to treat Sam, the first time the treatment has been done in a vet’s office in the state of Georgia. Sam is expected to be up and around soon and enjoying a game of Frisbee.

Previous stories have highlighted successful adult stem cell treatments for dogs, for horses, and for a quadriplegic donkey.

Adult stem cells have successfully treated human patients, too.

Defending the Defenders

by Robert Morrison

January 26, 2011

Liberals have a favorite slam on pro-lifers: “They believe life begins at conception and ends at birth.” It is a base slander of people who give more time and money to Christian charities—and non-Christian charities—than many others in America.

It is indeed a lazy and despicable slander of pro-lifers. Helen Alvare and her co-authors are certainly right in their recent Christianity Today column. Theirs is a powerful defense of the defenders. They demonstrate pro-lifers’ commitment to social justice and to lending helping hands.

But the liberals slam raises another pertinent question: Whats wrong with saving human lives? I served in the Coast Guard for nine years. I took part in rescues at sea. The Coast Guard recently claimed to have saved 1 million lives since its founding in 1790.

In 230 years, not one of those million persons whose lives were saved ever complained that the Coast Guard did not teach them to read, or help them obtain a job, or give them a breakfast. (Actually, we did give them breakfasts, but only until we got them safely on shore). In the Coast Guard, we did nothing about illiteracy. Or poverty.

Still, Americans honor the Coast Guard all the same.

The entire charge against pro-lifers is as offensive as it is absurd. When 3,000 unborn children are unjustly killed every day, there is an urgency that life alone can command.

Several years ago, I was writing a paper late on a Friday afternoon. We were then living at the U.S. Naval Academy. I was struggling to convey to the reader the enormity of 3,000 lives a day.

My wife, a Navy captain, pulled me away from my word processor to a ceremony on the Parade Field. With the band leading the parade, the Brigade of Midshipmen marched by the reviewing stands.

There were young men and women, from every state, marching by. They formed up nine abreast. It took eleven minutes for this company to pass the Superintendent and take the salute. And there were three thousand of them.

Watching these vital young Mids marching by, it struck me with a pang: we lose the equivalent of this wonderful brigade—a hopeful brigade of future Americans—every day.

For anyone to say that stopping the fatal parade of abortion is not urgently needed—or to slander those good Americans who are trying lawfully and lovingly to stop it—is cruel and unjust. It is as morally wrong as those who take innocent lives. God bless the pro-lifers. I’m still happy to throw them a line.

Adult Stem Cells Treat End-Stage Liver Disease

by David Prentice

January 26, 2011

A team of researchers in California and in Egypt report therapeutic benefit treating end-stage liver disease patients with adult stem cells A total of 48 patients were treated with their own adult stem cells—36 patients with chronic, end-stage hepatitis C-induced liver disease, and 12 patients with end-stage autoimmune liver disease. Researchers used the factor G-CSF, commonly used to mobilize bone marrow adult stem cells into the circulation, to obtain the cells from each patient. The CD34+ stem cells were then isolated, amplified to increase numbers of cells, partially differentiated in culture, then re-injected into each patient via their hepatic artery or portal vein. The results were published in Cell Transplantation

According to co-author Dr. Mark A. Zern of University of California-Davis Medical Center:

This enabled us to transplant as many as one billion of these cells per patient. For all patients there was a statistically significant decrease in peritoneal cavity fluid, or ‘ascites’. There was also clinical and biochemical improvement in a large percentage of patients who received the transplantation. The finding of improvement in ascites in a significant number of patients is impressive and somewhat surprising, suggesting that cell transplantation might be clinically significant beyond the improvement in laboratory parameters.”

The mechanism by which the infusion of CD34+ adult stem cells improves liver function is still unclear. As to whether any partial differentiation into liver cells was needed for the therapeutic results, Dr. Stephen Strom at the University of Pittsburgh and section editor for Cell Transplantation, noted:

Other research groups are now showing similar results with cells without any hepatic characteristics, including fractionated and unfractionated bone marrow and mesenchymal stem cells. Taken together, these data suggest that the positive effects these researchers find may be the result of paracrine effects from factors secreted by the donor cells.

Published data in 1999 suggested that some bone marrow adult stem cells could form liver hepatocytes. Others reported similar results in 2000 using mice, by observing liver cells of human bone marrow adult stem cell transplant patients, and in experiments showing regeneration of liver in mice. However, some published evidence also indicates that the regenerative capacity of bone marrow adult stem cells is due to paracrine effects, i.e., secreted factors.

No matter what the mechanism, various clinical trials are investigating use of adult stem cells for liver diseases. Published results from earlier trials show therapeutic benefit of adult stem cells for liver repair and regeneration.

In a published 2010 report, a Korean group found some improvement in liver cirrhosis patients using their own adult stem cells.

In 2006 a U.K. group reported improvement in patients with liver insufficiency treated with their own adult stem cells, and the same group reported in 2008 the long-term improvement of chronic liver disease patients, using the patients’ own adult stem cells in a trial similar to the current Egyptian trial.

Also in 2006, a German group reported increased liver regeneration in liver cancer patients using adult stem cells, and a Japanese team found improved liver function in cirrhosis patients after using the patients’ own bone marrow adult stem cells.

Adult stem cells continue to provide ethical and successful results for patients.

President Obama’s State of the Union Address Leaves the Family Behind

by JP Duffy

January 26, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 26, 2011

CONTACT: J.P. Duffy or Darin Miller, (866) FRC-NEWS or (866)-372-6397

Washington, D.C.- Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement in response to President Obama’s second State of the Union Address:

Tonight President Obama recognized the important role of parents in the educational achievement of their children. President Obama himself has set an example as a father and husband. However, the agenda he has pursued and articulated tonight does not strengthen the kind of family children need: one with a Mom and Dad.

The intact married family is the core strength of the United States, and public policy should encourage formation of such families. Social science clearly demonstrates that children do best when raised by their own mother and father who are committed to one another in a lifelong marriage, and that adults also thrive when in such a marriage. Sadly, only 45 percent of American children grow up in an intact family.

Broken homes often result in such social ills as crime, a higher school dropout rate, and drug abuse, themselves leading to enormous costs for state, local and our federal governments. Cutting government spending is imperative, but policies that foster healthy families are even more important - and, interestingly, there is no question that intact families are the most economically productive.

Unfortunately, many of the Administration’s policies have undermined strong families by affirming sexual behavior that is unhealthy and destructive to individuals, families , the military, and society.

Tonight President Obama appropriately paid tribute to the victims of the Tucson shooting. However, he did not mention the recent indictment of abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia for the murder of a mother and seven live-born infants. The Philadelphia tragedy serves as a ghastly reminder of the moral toll abortion has taken on America’s sense of justice. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), in his official Republican response, deserves praise for reminding the President it is the role of the government ‘to protect innocent life,’ not to encourage the taking of it.

The President’s policies that promote abortion also undermine family formation. Abortion does this by contributing to infant mortality, victimizing women, and encouraging the abdication of responsibility by men. He is even opposed to commonsense parental notification laws. These laws reaffirm the unique role that a mother and father have in the life of a child.

Regrettably, Mr. Obama’s health care law allows our hard earned dollars to pay for abortion coverage. The American people should not be forced to pay for abortion, which is why it’s necessary for this Congress to pass the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’ and restore neutrality on government funding of abortion,” concluded Perkins.

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The Internal Contradictions of the Obama Abortion Argument

by Rob Schwarzwalder

January 25, 2011

A few days ago, the President who refuses to acknowledge when personhood begins (“that’s above my paygrade”) issued a statement celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This is not unsurprising for a man who, while a state senator, argued copiously against a law that would protect children who, having survived an attempted abortion, could be left to die.

What is intriguing is the internal inconsistency contained within the statement. On the one hand, Mr. Obama uses the traditional mordant euphemisms about abortion - Roe “protects women’s health” and ensures “reproductive freedom;” it also guarantees that “our daughters have the same rights … as our sons to fulfill their dreams.” Ah, those babies - wreckers of so many dreams. How dare they intrude on personal self-fulfillment …

On the other hand, Mr. Obama says he remains “committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.”

My question: Why? If abortion is a morally neutral and even beneficial choice (gotta fulfill those dreams, right?), why promote alternatives to it? The rhetorical landscape of the President’s statement is replete with the presupposition that personal choice is the supreme good, meaning that abortion and adoption are merely achromatic options on the palette of ethical choices.

Additionally, if choice is the summum bonum, why be “committed” to alternatives to one of those choices whose exercise involves an activity —- the destruction of a life —- fundamentally contrary to all the others? The self-contradiction is transparent, startlingly so.

James Q. Wilson, in his classic work The Moral Sense, writes that “most people rely on (the conscience) even if intellectuals deny it, but it is not always and in every aspect of life strong enough to withstand a pervasive and sustained attack.” The President is now leading this attack, and the national soul suffers for it —- as do the 3,000 unborn children aborted daily.

Yet in appealing to alternatives, does not Mr. Obama tacitly acknowledge the echo of his own conscience? Of the memory of holding a tiny, wriggling infant in his own arms? The champions of abortion rights cannot deal logically with the basis or implications of that for which they contend. To do so would be too painful, and involve a choice to defend the unborn they find an unpalatable alternative.

Whats in a Name?

by Julia Kiewit

January 25, 2011

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban announced the birth of their second child, Faith Margaret, this past Monday, thanking everyone for their support, especially Faiths gestational carrier. While Nicole and Keith were simply using the vernacular of the fertility industry, referring to their childs birth mother as a gestational carrier betrays an underlying cultural attitude fostered by technological developments in this field.

With advances in the field of assisted reproductive technologies [ART], a surrogate mother can carry a baby conceived with her egg and a donors sperm. Now there are also gestational carriers: a woman who carries a couples fertilized embryo to term, but is not herself the babys genetic mother.

Ethics within the field of ART are, admittedly, complex, but the shift from surrogate mothers to gestational carriers, while subtle, is significant. In the past, the words birth mother or surrogate mother and adoptive mother have been used to describe the situation in which a baby born biologically to one mother was given to another family. But as technology evolves, so does its vocabulary.

Regardless of the technical intent behind gestational carrier, the term is, at its root, dehumanizing. The phrase reduces a woman to a function, instead of a person in a relationship. No longer does her title represent who she is a woman, a mother bearing a child in her body she is her function, a gestational carrier.

Thanks in part to technology, our society makes distinctions between function and identity. Men can be sperm donors without being known as the father of the baby. We have children who are biologically one mans, but socially anothers. This calls into question the very nature of relationships. Not all fathers always act like fathers, and children may look up to another man as a father figure, but for most of human history, fatherhood was tied to biology, except in cases of adoption. This is no longer the case. Technology is changing what it means to be a parent: the creation and raising of a child can involve a sperm donor, an egg donor, a gestational carrier, or surrogate mother, and the couple that the child eventually lives with and calls Mommy and Daddy. And this technology defines people by what they do, instead of who they are. While calling someone a mother certainly does not describe the totality of who that woman is, at least the title of mother is defining her relationally, humanizing her, for the ability to have relationships is uniquely human.

Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, notes that the use of ART is turning baby-making into a consumerist activity. Pregnancy has been reduced to a bits and pieces brokered industry: sperm from a handsome Scandinavian stud, eggs from a beautiful Ivy League graduate, a womb-for-rent from a poor woman in India trying to provide food and education for her children, and brokers in the middle setting up the legal transactions to build a better baby the 21st-century way. Individuals are applying their bodies to bringing new life into the world through a segmented, fractured process,turning children into things to be designed and purchased. The Scandinavian man and the Ivy League woman are now means to an end. Lahl argues that children are not products to be made, but with the rise of medical tourism, that is what they are becoming.

Technology brings with it as many questions as answers. In the process of advancing our physical capabilities, it (in this case) blurs the bright line of relationships. I will not make a moral judgment on all blurry lines; not all things unclear must be rejected as wrong. But how we speak about things matters for words frame how we see the world. In this case, it is important to remember that people are fundamentally ends, not means thereto. Before helping ourselves to the vast array of opportunities technology offers, it is imperative that we ask hard questions and consider the ethical implications of each. When people are defined by their functions and not their relationships, are we seeing an age in which technology helps the body while harming the soul?

Union Membership Continues to Decline

by Chris Gacek

January 24, 2011

The Washington Times carried an interesting story by Sam Hananel of the Associated Press (Monday, January 24, 2011, p. A3) describing the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on union membership.

Here were some important facts that will have an impact on politics in the years to come:

  • Unions lost 612,000 members in 2010 bringing the unionized percentage of the work force down to 11.9%. This continues a steady decline from the 1950s when more than a third of American workers belonged to unions.
  • In the private sector, union membership is down to 6.9%. This level is described as a low point not seen since the infancy of the labor movement in the 1930s.
  • Even public sector unions saw a 1.2% decline with more possible as government budgets are cut to make up for massive budget deficits in some states.
  • An illustrative point that shows the economic vitality of the New South versus the industrial north: New York had the highest union membership rate at 24.2 percent and North Carolina had the lowest at 3.2 percent.

Also, related to political analysis as union membership decreases, total dues that can be used for political purposes will also decline. This will help the GOP in the long run.

Doesnt Everyone Deserve a Birth Day?

by Robert Morrison

January 24, 2011

I managed to find my hardy group of Lutherans for Life. They were late to our noon rendezvous at 7th St. and Independence Ave. NW. How un-Lutheran of them not to be punctual for the annual March for Life! There, we assembled under the big blue-and-white banner of LFL.

I spoke with Clark, who had come in from nearby Baltimore. His home congregation, he told me, was Martini Lutheran Church. Martini? I was surprised. I thought Lutherans were supposed to like something else. You know: Bibel, Bach, und Bier. Well, no, Clark said, Martini Lutheran congregation is 143 years old, founded in what was then a largely German-speaking city. It was named after St. Martin of Toursfor whom Martin Luther himself had been named. It was a strong reminder that the roots of these Lutherans go way back and are, in many senses, joined with their Catholic antecedents.

This little flock braved the cold17 F. this morning, but rising to the balmy 20s by the time of the March. A Lutheran pastor told me he had come with his congregation from the Upper Peninsula of Michiganby bus. Tens of thousands of the largely Catholic crowd had been on the road since last night for this annual event on the nations Mall.

Rev. Jim Lamb, the Executive Director of the national Lutherans for Life organization, hailed me. It was hard to recognize each other, swathed as we were in hats, gloves, and scarves. Pastor Lamb had come in from Iowa for the March for Life. A number of staffers came from the International Center of The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod, all the way from St. Louis.

Jim Lamb told me that LFL had achieved an important goal under the new president of the LCMS. President Matt Harrison had extended official recognition of the LFL organization. That meant that this 2,400,000-member church body would be increasing its pro-life presence and witness.

Jim Lamb reminded me of the work of Dr. Jean Garton, the late Rev. Richard Neuhaus, and Rev. Jack Eichhorst in the 1970s. These and other Lutherans (yes, the illustrious Richard Neuhaus was a Lutheran back then) together made a strong statement that Lutherans are for Life. And they gave their biblical reasons for it.

Why was that important? After the initial shock of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, the pro-abortion forces tried to dismiss all opposition to abortion-on-demand as only a few right wingers. The adamant refusal of the Catholic Bishops of America to be put in that media box is justly famous. Millions of Catholics continued to bear faithful witness to what Pope John Paul the Great would call The Gospel of Life. Well, then, the media insinuated, its just a Catholic issue.

Lutherans for Life proved it wasnt just a Catholic issue. At this point in the struggle for life, the thousands of churches represented in the National Association of Evangelicals had not yet had a chance to weigh in for life. That would take several years and the widespread distribution of the video series called Whatever Became of the Human Race with Francis Schaeffer and Dr. C. Everett Koop. Soon, the Evangelicals would become a powerful force defending unborn children in America.

So, too, would the 15-million member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The fight to reclaim the SBC would extend into the 1980s. But when this great ships course was righted, no one gave more eloquent expression to the sanctity of human life than the Southern Baptists.

What that little flock of Lutherans did in the mid-1970s was to help in an important way the efforts of the Roman Catholic community. Catholic pro-lifers could always point to the Lutherans and say: See, were not the only ones who understand the need to protect innocent human life.

And the pro-life Lutherans could speak to the mainstream Protestants and say: We are pro-life on solely biblical grounds. Sola scriptura. Perhaps youve heard of it. It was a most happy and mutually reinforcing alliance.

I was in Washington, D.C., on January 22, 1973. I remember the Washington Posts reporting on the Roe v. Wade decision. I was miserable about it. But I thought the fight was over. As an unchurched young man, I thought when the U.S. Supreme Court spoke, you had to genuflect and obey.

It was not until I lived in the Midwest that I learned otherwise. Those common sense folkCatholic, Evangelical, and, yes, Lutheranlawfully but firmly pushed back. Their effective grassroots efforts taught me that so great a wrong could never be a right.

I didnt realize on that gray and dreary day of the infamous Roe ruling that the fight for the lives of unborn children would consume the rest of my life. Two years ago, when we saw the election of a strongly pro-abortion president and Congress, Ill admit my heart sank. It seemed that all I had worked for the past 25 years had gone up in smoke.

But a month after election day, our daughter and her beloved husband presented us with a grandson. They named him Samuel. It means God hears. And from the moment I heard that name, I felt a resurgence of strength. Now, I feel I can fight for another 25 years if I have to. GrandSam deserved that birthday. Doesnt everyone deserve a birth day?

Bone Marrow Transplant Pioneers Pass

by David Prentice

January 24, 2011

This past week, Canadian scientist Dr. Ernest McCulloch passed away. The late Dr. McCulloch and his colleague Dr. James Till were pioneers in bone marrow transplant and bone marrow adult stem cells. Their early work with mice in the 1960’s provided the first evidence for the existence of bone marrow adult stem cells and laid the theoretical groundwork for later applications of bone marrow and adult stem cell transplantation. Still, it was not until 1988 that the mouse bone marrow stem cells was isolated, and 1992 for the isolation of the human bone marrow adult stem cell. McCulloch & Till went on to win the 2005 Lasker Award.

Largely unnoticed at the time, another bone marrow transplant pioneer died in October 2010. French scientist Dr. Georges Mathe was an early pioneer and leader in the field of bone marrow transplantation. In 1958, he used donor bone marrow transplants to save several physicists accidentally exposed to high doses of radiation. He published one of the first successful donor bone marrow transplants for a patient with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, in 1963. Some felt that Mathe should have shared in the 1990 Nobel Prize for bone marrow transplantation.

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