Re: SOC/BIO: Reason Magazine article on "Petri Dish Politics"

Robert J. Bradbury (
Wed, 24 Nov 1999 00:27:53 -0800 (PST)

On Tue, 23 Nov 1999 wrote:

> I cannot recommend strongly enough the article you'll find at:
> REASON * December 1999
> By Ronald Bailey
> "Death to death," declares Gregory Stock, director of UCLA's Program on
> Medicine, Technology, and Society, at a conference on life extension.

Sigh... This is misattributed. "Death to Death" was the second slide of my Targeting the Nemesis talk that Max asked me to prepare at Extro4.

At any rate, you want to read the article closely. The opponents have already lost the battle:
"The opponents argue that biotechnologists should concentrate on isolating and using stem cells known to exist in adults instead. Such adult stem cells are the precursor cells that renew tissues like skin and the linings of the intestines, and they likely could be used to regenerate these tissues. But many researchers believe that adult stem cells won't be as protean as embryonic cells--that they won't be able to turn into as many different types of cells."

By allowing that scientists should work with "stem cells known to exist in adults instead" they have already let the horse out of the barn. All you do by constraining the federal funding of embryonic work is force them to focus on the non-embryonic approaches. This is probably a *good* thing from our perspective. Why? Private industry will focus on the embryonic approches, but ultimately for ideal organ transplants for oneself, you want them to start with your own personal stem cells. If the government researchers focus on this longer term basic research problem, then by the time private industry has perfected the organ growth methods, public researchers may have refined the processes of stem cell isolation from adults. It is far better to have industry working on the short term problems and government working on the long term problems instead of both groups focusing on the short term problems. [As extropians, we should be clever about seeing if we can use the strategies of our "opponents" to our advantage. :-)]

Because of Dolly, we *know* it is possible to harvest cells from adults and generate stem cells from them. What we want to do is move this from a messy cell manipulation process to a cleaner molecular signal manipulation process. Then scrape the inside of your cheek with a toothpick, send it off to OrgansRUs and get your FedEx Styrofoam container with Vitrified Organs on Dry Ice back in a month or two.

The article does make a very nice background piece and does a good job explaining the technologies and hair-splitting points.