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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 22, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Stem-cell research

Federal funding should include personalized stem cells

President Obama’s move to allow federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research doesn’t go nearly far enough [“Both sides criticize stem-cell specifics,” page one, April 18].

Personalization is the great promise of stem-cell technology: Stem cells created from a person’s DNA could be used to replace lost or damage tissues. That requires creating specialized stem cells for each individual. The new rules limit federal funding to stem cells from embryos discarded in reproductive procedures. That makes personalized medicine impossible.

Opponents claim that adult stem cells, or a new type of cell called “induced pluripotent,” could replace embryonic cells. Adult stem cells are committed to become particular types of cells and never have the complete versatility. Technology for induced pluripotency is in its infancy and still highly inefficient. In addition, it uses a type of genetic engineering that raises a serious threat to safety in medical applications.

If American scientists cannot work on personalized stem cells, then private companies and other countries will fill the gap. The research will happen without the same informed consent or patient protections applied in the United States. Only by allowing the complete range of stem-cell research can we ensure that it happens ethically, in the public domain and with appropriate government oversight.

— Scott Carlson, Seattle

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