AP Item on Judge's Embryonic Stem Cell Action Mostly Avoids Naming Adult Cells, Dodges Efficacy Issues

MuscleStemCellsIn a Tuesday evening report, Associated Press Writer Jesse L. Holland engaged in a great deal of word massage which appears to have been designed to mislead relative newcomers to discussions about stem cell research.

The news concerned Federal Judge Royce Lamberth's refusal of the federal government's request that he lift his August 23 order blocking federal funding for embryonic stem cell research during the appeals process.

Less-informed readers could be excused for believing, at least through first nine of the eleven tortured paragraphs in Holland's report, that stem cells can only be obtained from human embryos. In Paragraph 10, Holland finally acknowledged the existence of adult stem cells, but then dubiously implied that the litigation was brought solely because the plaintiffs don't want competition from embryonic research. The AP writer also ignored a fine piece written in early August by wire service colleague Malcolm Ritter (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), who accurately reported that "Adult stem cell research (is) far ahead of embryonic."

What follows are several paragraphs from Holland's horror, including a ridiculous title falsely implying that no federal funds are going into any kind of stem cell research (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Judge won't let stem cell money keep flowing

A federal judge on Tuesday refused to lift his order blocking federal funding for some stem cell research, saying that a "parade of horribles" predicted by federal officials would not happen.

Medical researchers value stem cells because they are master cells that can turn into any tissue of the body. Research eventually could lead to cures for spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and other ailments.

The Justice Department argued in court papers last week that stopping the research could cause "irrevocable harm to the millions of extremely sick or injured people who stand to benefit ... as well as to the defendants, the scientific community and the taxpayers who have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on such research through public funding of projects which will now be forced to shut down and, in many cases, scrapped altogether."

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth rejected that argument in refusing to lift the restraining order he signed after ruling that the argument in a pending lawsuit - that the research violates the intent of a 1996 law prohibiting use of taxpayer dollars in work that destroys a human embryo - was likely to succeed.

... The scientists suing to stop the research "agree that this court's order does not even address the Bush administration guidelines, or whether NIH could return to those guidelines," Lamberth wrote in his latest order. "The prior guidelines, of course, allowed research only on existing stem cell lines, foreclosing additional destruction of embryos. Plaintiffs also agree that projects previously awarded and funded are not affected by this court's order."

(Paragraph 10 -- Ed.)

... The lawsuit was filed by two scientists who argued that Obama's expansion jeopardized their ability to win government funding for research using adult stem cells - ones that have already matured to create specific types of tissues - because it will mean extra competition.

Here are a few paragraphs from the report by Malcolm Ritter that Holland ignored:

For all the emotional debate that began about a decade ago on allowing the use of embryonic stem cells, it’s adult stem cells that are in human testing today. An extensive review of stem cell projects and interviews with two dozen experts reveal a wide range of potential treatments.

… Adult stem cells are being studied in people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, heart attacks and diabetes. Some early results suggest stem cells can help some patients avoid leg amputation. Recently, researchers reported that they restored vision to patients whose eyes were damaged by chemicals.

Apart from these efforts, transplants of adult stem cells have become a standard lifesaving therapy for perhaps hundreds of thousands of people with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases.

... in the near term, embryonic stem cells are more likely to pay off as lab tools, for learning about the roots of disease and screening potential drugs.

The fact that so much is being accomplished with adult stem cells further buttresses the correctness of Lamberth's ruling. It's reasonable to contend that anything embryonic cells may someday in theory be able to do, adult cells are doing now, with the rest to follow in fairly short order. So why do researchthat involves killing embryos at all?

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.