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Age of Unreason, redux

Double Pfui 

Readers of yesterday's Curmudgeonly rant will recall that Mr. Walker, intellectual giant of the age and someone who actually thinks for free, wailed about how those "theists" were blocking Really Truly Science by, among so many other sins, opposing stem cell research. 

Now, the fascinating thing is that it is not true. 

1. Non-embryonic stem cell research was not restricted in any way, so when he says "stem cell research" we know he means only a certain kind of stem cell research.  Non-ESCR had actually been encouraged by the prior administration through an executive order that was among the first rescinded by the new admin.  One wonders why. 

2. Embryonic stem cell research was not restricted on animal models.  One would think that this would be the prudent first step prior to trying the full monte. 

3. Embryonic stem cell research on human models was federally funded for the first time by the prior admin.  (The admin before that had put off a decision until it lapped over to the new admin.) 

State funding was not affected and private funding was not affected.  Oddly, very little private funding materialized despite eschatological prophecies of the miracles [and hence, profits] to be obtained when the lame would walk, etc.  In fact, very little has ever resulted from embryonic stem cell research beside runaway cancers and two notable instances of scientific fraud, so private firms were not wild about throwing more money at it.  Last week there was a BBC story about the last three ESCR grants in UK being cancelled primarily for lack of results.  One of the researchers declared he was off to Australia, where he could get Aussie taxpayers to fund his paycheck. 

All of which brings us to the latest news tidbit: 

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Adult Strem Cell Research: The Lame Walk!
Sunday, October 18, 2009, 9:24 PM
Wesley J. Smith

Adult stem cells have restored feeling in the bodies of people paralyzed with spinal cord injury–indeed, even permitting some to walk with assistance. From the story:

The injuries in the study patients were 18 months to 15 years old. The patients, ages 19 to 37, had no use of their legs before the treatment. One paraplegic treated almost three years after the injury now ambulates with two crutches and knee braces. Ten other patients ambulate with physical assistance and walkers (with and without braces). One 31-year-old male tetriplegic patient uses a walker without the help of knee braces or physical assistance. When the stem cell transplant and scar removal process was combined with an advanced form of rehabilitative training that employs brain-initiated weight-bearing movement, 13 patients improved in the standard measures used to assess functional independence and walking capabilities.

Remember, these are still early studies and much terrain needs to be covered.  But can you imagine the headlines if this were an Embryonic Stem Cell Research study?  Alas: Just as Dr. Carlos Lima’s earlier similar success was utterly ignored by the media, this advance appears to be  another case of “not the right kind of stem cell success to make news.” Indeed, paralyzed rat ESCR experiments get more press than these amazing human advances.
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Perhaps Smith is being a bit sarcastic in that closing paragraph.  Undoubtedly, this was all over the news wires. 


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