Letter to the Editor: Why stem-cell research?
With the recent death of former president Ronald Reagan, attention has once again focused on the stem-cell debate.
Stem cells are considered to be the "master cells" that can turn into any tissue of the body. By appropriate coaxing, these cells might be used to facilitate a cure for any number of human maladies like Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, spinal cord injuries and others.
According to The Times (July 14), the National Institutes of Health plans to spend $18 million over the next four years to establish three "centers of excellence" to speed research on the available cell lines, although that number has been criticized as being insufficient.
In addition to the federally approved, available stem-cell lines, which have resulted primarily from aborted fetuses and discarded embryos from in vitro fertilization, another abundant source of stem cells is the placenta/umbilical cord blood that remains after a baby is delivered.
In 2001, there were more than 4 million live births in the United States. Thus, it seems reasonable that each year there exists enormous potential for obtaining large amounts of stem cells that can be used for research and that does not involve the destruction of human embryos.
Therefore, appropriate funding and technology should be made available to selected hospitals in the United States to save the placenta/umbilical cord blood. Then, perhaps, this additional source of stem cells can supplement cell lines and lead to new discoveries and betterment of the human condition.
Robert M. Wilson, Huntsville, TN
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