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morticia
18-02-2011, 04:37 PM
Well, folks, thought it might be worth my while starting a thread on this issue; as a scientist, I'd be very interested to see what the general opinion is on human embryonic stem (hES) cells and their use (or not) here in Ireland.

Obviously, research using umbilical cord stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS, derived from skin cells or other adult tissue), adult stem cells etc could be considered to have far fewer legal and ethical implications, and therefore to be more attractive.

The scientific problem is that 1) iPS cells mimic hES, but have a much less ethically fraught origin. However, they don't always behave exactly as hES and may have issues relating to the DNA inserts used to "deprogramme" them such that they behave like embryonic stem cells. Their use in research is often recommended WITH hES controls. 2) hES cells have a much wider degree of pluripotency than adult stem cells (they can turn into more tissues, in other words).

Bottom line: argument for their use is that they present a therapeutic avenue for currently incurable health problems, the argument against their use is that it involves the destruction of human embryos (however, IVF clinics often discard excess embryos anyway). But I'd agree with the pro-lifers at least that the ethics is fraught.

I have tried to research the positions of the parties here on this issue.

Fianna Fail: have left us with a legacy of no legislation at all. The ethics committee of UCC has allowed limited use of lines available in the NIH (also legal under Bush). The other unis have yet to move on this issue as far as I am aware.

Fine Gael: http://9thlevelireland.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/fine-gaels-stance-on-stem-cell-research/

Labour: promise to legislate http://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/letters/lack-of-stem-cell-laws-puts-patients-at-risk-145613.html
They have also promised to legislate on the X case.

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/letters/labours-abortion-stance-is-not-liberal-2537146.html

Also, last but not least, an interesting article by Peter Mooney
http://petermooney.eu/2010/10/embryonic-stem-cell-research-in-ireland/

geo
18-02-2011, 08:42 PM
I'm glad you started this thread. Stem cell research isn't being brought up almost enough in the lead up to voting day.

Here are 2 interesting articles on how legislation was due to brought in for hES cells, and an article about some of the issues with iPS cells.

Reprogrammed skin cells loaded with errors, scientists cant forgo embryonic stem cells
http://bit.ly/eXUlht

Ireland to regulate embryonic stem cells
http://ff.im/-d4xtf

morticia
18-02-2011, 09:52 PM
Yes, iPS cells have their issues (however, ES cells are not 100% genetically stable either).

Isn't it interesting that Harney was promising to legislate in 2009, and precisely zip has happened since then?

Everything concerning reproductive ethics here tends to get binned immediately; the courts will make some controversial judgement or other, the pols will promise legislation, and two weeks later when the fuss dies down, it's all quiet on the Western front. Again.

My prediction is that until someone takes a case to the European court of Justice (like Norris did over the legalization of homosexuality), nothing will happen.

Even Norris' first case didn't get anywhere; the ECJ suggested legalisation, but then nothing at all happened until they actually threatened to whip the structural funds away. The defence; "ah, yer Honner, we haven't enforced it since 1946".......

I mean, I wouldn't mind, but given the righteous walloping the Church has had over the Ryan report etc, is it really likely that the population will automatically side with the clerics at this point??? Hard to say. The so called "pro life" groups seem to be the last to roll over and admit defeat, but they don't seem to object to the Pope accepting the likes of Blair as a convert, despite the million odd people killed in the middle east as a result of his warmongering. 'Tis only fetuses that have a right to life, it seems, not Iraqis and definitely not altar boys.

Starfire
21-02-2011, 08:27 PM
Problem is that people think they have a divine right to make other people do what they think is right and can't leave the world alone.

morticia
22-02-2011, 08:37 PM
There seems to be quite an undertone to this election, coming from the pro-life movement. One of the FFers was in the IT today, stating support for the 1983 referendum (which was cleverly worded by CJH to mean anything a clever lawyer chose to interpret it as) and saying suicidal intent wasn't enough for an abortion.

So are they planning on plopping the suicidally pregnant in padded cells for 9 months until delivery??

Got yet another leaflet thru' the door today from some crowd calling themselves Phobal Chriostai or similar..... apparently modern political correctness is a threat to civil society and "all the major parties are in favour of abortion"

Hello, what planet are these guys from?? I hadn't noticed anyone running on a repeal 1983 platform, and the probable plans of Labour to legislate on stem cells are to seriously restrict use of same, I would say. Which may turn out to be a pity if they ever DO manage to cure anything with them.

morticia
02-03-2011, 09:27 PM
Latest salvo in the stem cells debate:

http://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/letters/lack-of-stem-cell-laws-puts-patients-at-risk-145613.html

Response to this from William Reville in today's Examiner, putting the pro-life point of view.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/letters/failing-to-give-full-picture-on-stem-cell-research-146843.html

However, while Reville is technically correct in saying that it is likely that most Irish people wouldn't support use of hES cells here (this research isn't being funded by SFI or the HRB anyway), he is also apparently on record (elsewhere) as suggesting that there is broad equivalence between 200 odd types of stem cell.

This will probably prove not to be the case, technically speaking.

morticia
03-03-2011, 03:25 PM
Nature, (along with Science), the best general science journal in the world, is now on to our politicians and their ostriching behaviour wrt sensitive matters.

Unfortunately, while we are all worrying about the economy, the place's scientific rep is also at stake.

http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2011/02/irish_election_raises_question.html

A few choice phrases:


"The Fianna Fail party, in power in Ireland since 1997, had supported science well enough over the last decade or so to allow the small country to dramatically raise its international profile. This year it even scraped into the top twenty science-producing countries in terms of citations per research paper.......Irish scientists now have to worry about whether this progress will be maintained under Fine Gael, the party that swept to victory in last Friday’s election and is likely to form a coalition government with the Labour party. But stem cell researchers have most to worry about, since Fine Gael is opposed to research using human embryonic stem (hES) cells.

The human embryo issue is very sensitive in Ireland, a very Catholic country where abortion is only permitted if there is a risk to the mother’s life. The Fianna Fail government had encouraged the development of a strong biomedical research community and provided attractive tax breaks for international pharmaceutical companies – 13 of the world’s 15 largest now have plants in Ireland and employ 24,500 people. But it had remained nervous of regulating use of human embryonic stem cells in research.

It had promised to do so in December 2009 as part of planned legislation governing assisted human reproduction. But that same month it disbanded the Irish Council for Bioethics (which might have provided independent advice on legislation) to save money, and the legislation never emerged"

Isn't that just typical?? Close down the organization you need just after promising legislation that will actually never happen.


I'd like to bet the legislative vacuum will continue; I don't see Labour and FG agreeing on this issue.

morticia
07-03-2011, 01:46 PM
http://www.thepost.ie/archives/2011/0306/warning-over-stem-cell-research-in-ireland-54953.html

Sunday Business Post gets in on the act, suggesting that FG stance may not be best placed to gain advantage for the economy in an up-and-coming research area. Not much discussion of the caveats, though.

Buddha
07-03-2011, 04:26 PM
I'm no scientist. Have no right really to take part in this discussion except to ts say that imo, if we are to say that stem cell research is "wrong" then also are the thousands of babies born through IVF. We have the people who can cure the living, hopefully of awful, painful, dibilitating diseases if they are given the go-ahead to use embryos. I know it's emotive to some people, but in my opinion it is more "sinful" not to use the intelligence that those who do this research are blessed with. We have embryos that are not used. We have abortions, and we have always had abortions. In fact it was considered a heroic deed to abort your child during times of famine and hardship in tribes throughout the world.

I know what will happen here if this matter is left up to politicians. They will pass the buck. Best not to tell them anything. They prefer it that way anyway.

morticia
07-03-2011, 08:48 PM
I'm no scientist. Have no right really to take part in this discussion except to ts say that imo, if we are to say that stem cell research is "wrong" then also are the thousands of babies born through IVF.

Everyone should take part in scientific debates; I'm afraid us scientists can get a bit ahead of ourselves the odd time, and anyway, the resulting technology gets used by everyone.

Your point about IVF is an extremely strong one; there are a few of the very religious who do feel it is wrong, but most are happy to take the gift of life where it is offered. And few of us would like to live without IVF, now that people can't afford to have babies until later in life anyway.

If we are to take the Catholic church's line that contraception is meddling with God's ability to create life, should we not also think that modern medicine is interfering with His ability to take it away??

Personally, I'd like to think that if there is a God, he'd encourage us to reduce suffering. That means contraceptives, medicine...and IVF. And possibly, stem cells.

C. Flower
07-03-2011, 08:53 PM
Thanks morticia, for keeping going with this, in the face of apparent indifference.

What is FG's position on this and what do you think the coalition will do? Sit on the fence and have another report commissioned ?

This is not something I know much about. I do think that it needs legislation and regulation though. It's disgraceful the way we pretend things don't exist until one way or another they blow up in our faces.

morticia
07-03-2011, 09:00 PM
FG position (link in post 1) is similar to FF's, which can be translated as "take this poisoned chalice away from us, we need the right wing religious vote".

The link is to a P.ie thread, in which someone called Hooch got this response from campaign HQ:

"Fine Gael is opposed to research on human embryos. Instead we support those forms of stem cell research that do not harm human embryos, such as umbilical cord research.

Secondly, Fine Gael is opposed to abortion and has no plans to extend the law on abortion any further than the people agreed by referendum in 1983.
Thirdly, while Fine Gael supported the civil partnership process, we have no plans to legalise same sex marriage.
I hope this allays your concerns and thank you for your communication.

Fine Gael Campaign 2011"

C. Flower
07-03-2011, 09:56 PM
FG position (link in post 1) is similar to FF's, which can be translated as "take this poisoned chalice away from us, we need the right wing religious vote".

The link is to a P.ie thread, in which someone called Hooch got this response from campaign HQ:

"Fine Gael is opposed to research on human embryos. Instead we support those forms of stem cell research that do not harm human embryos, such as umbilical cord research.

Secondly, Fine Gael is opposed to abortion and has no plans to extend the law on abortion any further than the people agreed by referendum in 1983.
Thirdly, while Fine Gael supported the civil partnership process, we have no plans to legalise same sex marriage.
I hope this allays your concerns and thank you for your communication.

Fine Gael Campaign 2011"

Thanks. My IP is blocked from Politics.ie :p so it is invisible to me.

So, FG thinks the judiciary was wrong on abortion.

Nothing at all on this in the Programme for Government.

morticia
06-04-2011, 09:49 PM
http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/biobugs/article/13576/

Interesting article on the future of stem cell biology in Ireland, written by the head of the Irish Stem Cell foundation.

Text can be accessed easily by hitting the pdf icon on the right of the page.

Captain Con O'Sullivan
06-04-2011, 10:36 PM
FG position (link in post 1) is similar to FF's, which can be translated as "take this poisoned chalice away from us, we need the right wing religious vote".

The link is to a P.ie thread, in which someone called Hooch got this response from campaign HQ:

"Fine Gael is opposed to research on human embryos. Instead we support those forms of stem cell research that do not harm human embryos, such as umbilical cord research.

Secondly, Fine Gael is opposed to abortion and has no plans to extend the law on abortion any further than the people agreed by referendum in 1983.
Thirdly, while Fine Gael supported the civil partnership process, we have no plans to legalise same sex marriage.
I hope this allays your concerns and thank you for your communication.

Fine Gael Campaign 2011"

So the decision to abort 4,000 foetuses in Ireland is fine but Michael O'Leary and Aer Lingus shareholders get to profit out of it as women fly to Manchester or London.

An Irish solution to an Irish problem- pretend it doesn't arise as an issue in Ireland because it isn't officially visible until it pops up beyond the departure gates at an Irish airport.

Classic.

morticia
08-04-2011, 10:54 AM
http://petermooney.eu/issues/science-and-technology/

Gets interesting. A senate candidate (NUIG), promoting the use of stem cells and legislation here. More power to his elbow.

Yes Captain, agree entirely. However, every nation has its blind spot. The Brits are utterly calm on the abortion front but have massive issues with animal research, which is now so over-regulated that most big pharma are exporting animal ops to the US, ourselves, and outside the first world.... which of course, given the way people are treated in some places, does not bode well for humane treatment of research critters

Meanwhile, the US and Canada have abortion, and animal research, but evolution is a massive, massive issue.

morticia
13-05-2011, 09:03 PM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/may/13/stem-cell-transplants-rejected-ips

Seems like induced pluripotent stem cells may not be the miracle they were once thought to be.

Produced by expressing embryonic/developmental genes artificially in skin cells (fibroblasts), causing them to revert to an embryonic stem cell like state, it was thought they could be derived from patients themselves, meaning that they would be better tolerated by the immune system

However, apparently at least some can elicit strong immune responses; we don't know why.

The path of science never runs smooth....3 steps forward, two steps back.

It's the 're' in research that gets to me sometimes.......Re-peat, re-iterate, re-cap, re-think

morticia
10-06-2011, 03:34 PM
http://sciencechat.podomatic.com/

http://www.bioethics.ie/uploads/docs/Research_Integrity_Document.pdf

Interesting developments; item one discusses possible unethical assessment of some stem cell research....open peer review suggested as a solution? Ireland's Science Chat investigates. Note to non scientists; published papers are used as a metric to measure success; papers are reviewed secretly by others in the field in order to decide whether such research is worthy of publication or not. There are advantages to secret peer review, but one disadvantage may be that it is easy to scupper a competitor without them knowing

The second link leads to 'Recommendations for Promoting Research Integrity' - A report sponsored by, but as yet not adopted by, Irish Government. Well, at least it looks like they're trying to do their homework!!

morticia
31-08-2011, 04:44 PM
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v476/n7361/full/476399b.html#/

On the political policy front, two presumably ex-SFI funded scientists writing a not-very-happy letter to Nature on the flaws of Irish science funding (or rather, now, the lack of it and its unfair distribution).

I would suspect from professional experience here that they may have a point.

fluffybiscuits
01-09-2011, 11:04 AM
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v476/n7361/full/476399b.html#/

On the political policy front, two presumably ex-SFI funded scientists writing a not-very-happy letter to Nature on the flaws of Irish science funding (or rather, now, the lack of it and its unfair distribution).

I would suspect from professional experience here that they may have a point.

I have a friend who is an astrophysicist in one of the large NUI's and funding has all but dried up for research. The ESA which funds his research has stopped giving grants out apparently and is tightening the purse strings. I suppose in the fact of it its a sign of the times. In saying that we should be throwing more money into pharma companies and be at the fore front of developing drugs. The patents could then be sold and the money used to aid economic developement and recovery.

morticia
01-09-2011, 09:19 PM
In saying that we should be throwing more money into pharma companies and be at the fore front of developing drugs. The patents could then be sold and the money used to aid economic developement and recovery.

I have no doubt that is what the government thinks too. The problem is that Big Pharma tends to let the basic research be done by the academics, then they piggy back on it at the final stages and provide big money for clinical trials etc.

Less research now = less marketable stuff in 10 years time. Oh, and a drop in the universities' ratings, meaning less foreign students and cash

Vicious circle....

fluffybiscuits
01-09-2011, 10:53 PM
I have no doubt that is what the government thinks too. The problem is that Big Pharma tends to let the basic research be done by the academics, then they piggy back on it at the final stages and provide big money for clinical trials etc.

Less research now = less marketable stuff in 10 years time. Oh, and a drop in the universities' ratings, meaning less foreign students and cash

Vicious circle....

Maybe we should be throwing money into it as a long term asset. Starve the Gaeltachts of a few million and divert it into something more useful ...

morticia
02-09-2011, 09:24 PM
Maybe we should be throwing money into it as a long term asset. Starve the Gaeltachts of a few million and divert it into something more useful ...

+1....especially antibiotic research

fluffybiscuits
03-09-2011, 03:47 AM
+1....especially antibiotic research


Agreed there is more out there that could save a few lives. Even if we threw some money into fighting MRSA we could earn a fortune,not that its about money mind. I think the govt has its priorities wrong at the moment. Surprised we dont have some Gaeolgori whinging at me!

Count Bobulescu
06-09-2011, 05:37 AM
Not exactly on point but related.

Here’s a frightening story about a largely unregulated market in the US. The UK, France, and Sweden have addressed the issue. But what about Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland etc.? To say nothing of India and China. I had no idea that US law was so far behind UK and other law in this area. One sperm donor produces 150 offspring. Scary!

The next headline potentially could read 100 donors each produce 15,000 offspring, and then they might start to wonder why US students are failing in math and science. (Simplistic? Yes.) But shows what can happen when an issue is off the radar.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/health/06donor.html?_r=1

morticia
06-09-2011, 09:54 PM
We're just beginning to find out that zero regulation is really not the brightest ever idea, aren't we?

Limiting offspring to 25 seems sensible to me.....

Kid Ryder
07-09-2011, 03:10 AM
We're just beginning to find out that zero regulation is really not the brightest ever idea, aren't we?

Limiting offspring to 25 seems sensible to me.....

Sorry to be flippant, but the Monty Python boys were not far off the mark, and that's what satire is all about. The attitude of religious nutters on issues like this is not far removed from parody.

Every Sperm is Sacred {Monty Python's Meaning of Life} - YouTube

What worries me more is how much of this research is for corporate or private capitalist purposes. Serious advances in the treatment of many diseases could be made, yet suffering people could be denied treatment by either their own penury, or the parsimony of their country's govt. (perhaps even dressed up as 'moral concern'). That's where the public good in this issue is jeopardised IMO.

Count Bobulescu
07-09-2011, 05:32 AM
Limiting offspring to 25 seems sensible to me..... Jeez Mort, according to NYT the UK has limited it to ten. No info on France or Sweden. By comparison, you seem positively promiscuous,

fluffybiscuits
07-09-2011, 01:44 PM
Sorry to be flippant, but the Monty Python boys were not far off the mark, and that's what satire is all about. The attitude of religious nutters on issues like this is not far removed from parody.

Every Sperm is Sacred {Monty Python's Meaning of Life} - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0kJHQpvgB8)

What worries me more is how much of this research is for corporate or private capitalist purposes. Serious advances in the treatment of many diseases could be made, yet suffering people could be denied treatment by either their own penury, or the parsimony of their country's govt. (perhaps even dressed up as 'moral concern'). That's where the public good in this issue is jeopardised IMO.



The view could be taken that the religious are attributing to more deaths in the world than they are saving. One way of hanging them could be by using the following mantra "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few". Essentially they are killing people whom may be contribute to society whereby a foetus cant. (OK Im going off on a tangent but ye get my point!).

morticia
19-10-2011, 01:48 PM
http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110310/full/news.2011.152.html

ECJ has ruled that human embryonic stem cell lines are not patentable.

Scientists very worried about knock on effects on potential therapies and clinical trials

http://www.rte.ie/news/morningireland/player.html?20111019,3084937,3084937,flash,257

fluffybiscuits
19-10-2011, 08:40 PM
Interesting hypothetical question for you on this. It says Ireland has no legislation on the issue so would that mean we could work on stem cells and literally perform all sorts of expriments? Why dont we leave it with no legislation and attract major pharma companies here to work in this industry or else just have the loosest legislation in the world? We have the expertise to certainly do this .

morticia
19-10-2011, 08:51 PM
Interesting hypothetical question for you on this. It says Ireland has no legislation on the issue so would that mean we could work on stem cells and literally perform all sorts of expriments? Why dont we leave it with no legislation and attract major pharma companies here to work in this industry or else just have the loosest legislation in the world? We have the expertise to certainly do this .

Hahaha.... yes, that's certainly possible, and that is what happened in the US; Bush regulated federally funded research very tightly, but didn't regulate at all, that which was privately funded. Result; none of the publicly funded researchers were equipped to adequately peer review the research carried out by private companies.

We appear in some ways to be mimicking this; the SFI, HRB etc will not give grants for human work (these would be the main Govt. funders of biomedical research). The universities ethics boards are discussing the possible use of pre-existing cell lines; UCC has approved this in principle but I'm not sure that anyone has taken them up on this. Meanwhile, the charities are only too aware that funding controversial projects would affect already dwindling funding streams.

So that leaves Big Pharma.... who are mostly engaged in production (not R&D) in this country.

So it appears that we have a voluntarily imposed ban....and it's a hot potato no government will touch.

Now, the Europeans have effectively banjaxed the ability of any company to make a profit out of ES cell derived therapies, we might as well apply the nails to the coffin.

Mind you, there are fairly intractable problems with embryonic stem cells (aberrant epigenetics, mixed cell cultures, carcinogenic potential, issues with immuno-suppression if cells aren't identical to the patient, issues with cancer risk if they are......).

perhaps there will be time to change the law if very obvious benefits become apparent in the future, but I doubt we are about to become world leaders in this research area any time soon.