September 28, 2002
The Stem Cell Debate Could Be More Informative I read all the reports about the limits of adult stem cells (ASC henceforth) and the moral arguments about the embryonic stem cells (ESC henceforth) and am often struck by one thing: The anti-ESC side expends a lot of effort on moral arguments combined with an argument that adult stem cells can work just as well anyhow. Meanwhile, the pro-ESC side argues that ESCs are so far from having qualities that describe humans that there is no moral issue and that, anyhow, ASCs are useless or of very limited use. What gets lost in this tiring debate is a good discussion of just what adult stem cells may be good for. Lets accept for the sake of argument that for, say, the next 5 years no kind of ASC will be found to be inducable to become many different organ types as will be achieved using ESCs. Lets assume that ASCs all have a limited amount of plasticity and that ASC types are all partially differentiated in ways that, with the knowledge we are likely to possess in the next 5 or 10 years, will effectively prevent any one ASC source to be as generally useful as ESC. Accept that limitation. There are then some questions ought to be discussed while in the middle of such arguments: A) Will adult stem cells still be useful for growing organs if the stem cells are taken from the right cell reservoirs? eg will stem cells derived from livers be able to be used just to make livers? B) If the answer to the previous question is Yes then why are embyronic stem cells still better? Possible reasons: one can may not always be able get adult stem cells of a type to make for all desired organ types. By Randall Parker at 2002 September 28 10:57 PM 
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