Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Irv Weissman is Mad

Professor Irv Weissman is mad. No he isn't mad because the Daily News didn't mention his various stem cell enterprises in the page one story--that's none of your business. He's mad because, "We are in an era now where funding of science and the practice of medicine has political, religious and ethical issues that do get in the way." I'm sure professor Weissman is seriously committed to developing cures for a host of afflictions, but to say that it is unique to this time that we have political, religious and ethical issues is absurd. The Hippocratic oath is an ethical statement. AIDS research was pushed to the foreground precisely due to political calculations.

What sets Weissman off isn't the lack of funds for stem cell research--his company Cellerant, has access to unlimited public and governmental funds because it engages in adult stem cell research. Weissman would like you to think that President Bush mandated a restriction on embryonic stem cell research out of religious conviction--at heart he engages in religious demogogery.

What Weissman and President Bush need to confront is the restrictions placed on the government by the Dickey Amendment. The amendment, passed in the 7os and continuously reauthorized, says that government funds cannot be spent to destroy life. President Bush was the first president to authorize federal stem cell funding of any kind. In order to do so he had to negotiate around the provisions of the Dickey Amendment.

There are no restrictions on Weissman's businesses except that portion of federal funds that are restricted. He is free to seek any venture capital funding. To that, expect some of California's three billion dollar windfall to end up in Weissman's ventures. Weissman does not like restrictions--financial or ethical.


Anonymous KLI said...

Uhm...How do we define a life? I don't know exactly. It seems life starts when the sperm and egg unite - one gives 23 chromosomes and the other gives 23 chromosomes totaling 46 chromosomes. If I still remember my biology, Eureka! It is alive. There is life. There are stem cells too.

Then, there is another way done in the LAB. If I understand correctly from a KQED documentary, the egg is first extracted into a dish. Its 23 chromosomes (aka life force) are sucked out. Yikes! Then, it is replaced with the whole 46 chromosomes from someone else's skin cell. The egg now has 46 chromosomes. Eureka! It is alive. There is life, though a clone of someone. There are stem cells. Austin Powers' Mini-me? Can I have my mini-me too?

So, once we define life and all agree on it, the ethics will seem so much easier, right? I am paralyzed on the issue and maybe we stop for deep contemplation. Did the professor ponder deeply over a long period first before engaging in stem cell research? Uhm...

7:06 PM  

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