Friday, December 16, 2005

Has the Stem Cell Bubble Burst?

Questions continue to percolate about the science and the ethics of the South Korean stem cell research conducted by Hwang Woo-suk. Earlier this week I wrote that these charges, if proven, would be a blow for the field of stem cell research, especially the cloning of human embryos.

But a blow in what way? Predictably, moral opponents of this research have pounced on the trouble in South Korea, arguing that the entire field is corrupt, overblown, and ripe for abandonment. Not so. One (as yet unproven) setback does not an entire discipline undo.
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No, the moral of this story is that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself. Governmental (particularly presidential) feet-dragging on the issue of stem cell research has driven research in the area to the private sector and/or overseas. In the absence of federal funding, as well as agreed upon research and ethical guidelines, stem cells are sought in laboratories that are largely obscured from our view. The surest way to reverse this trend is to create a favorable research climate here in our own country, to help stop the exodus of scientific talent and research dollars overseas, and to ensure that an admittedly delicate field of scientific research is pursued with all reasonable care.

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