By Eric Sanchez |Staff Writer|
Researchers and scholars from throughout the nation gathered in the Santos Manuel Student Union to discuss the benefits and ethical concerns of the use of stem cells on April 29.
The symposium-styled event was the first of its kind at CSUSB and sought to educate the campus community about stem cell therapy and to clarify misconceptions about research, a CSUSB press release stated.
Jeffrey Thompson, CSUSB associate provost for stem cell research, noted that there are different types of stem cells: embryonic cells obtained from fertilized egg cells and adult stem cells obtained from other non-reproductive cells.
Much of the controversy around stem cell research revolves around the use of the embryonic type, which requires the destruction of the embryo.
Those opposed to this type of cell use believe that the already fertilized egg has a right to life.
“I believe a zygote is life… life begins at conception,” said Tom Marino, a CSUSB student.
Tracy Grikscheit, surgeon and researcher at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, explained how adult stem cells can help save lives by aiding in the process of tissue engineering.
Grikscheit said that she is currently researching rehabilitation of intestinal linings of six-month-old piglets which are roughly the same size as newborn humans.
Marino said he believes possible medical benefits for patients do not justify the loss of another life.
“What’s done is done… let’s research on what we already have,” Marino said.
The CSUSB release also stated the event was meant to bring awareness to the $1.1 million stem cell internship grant that was awarded to CSUSB by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) last year.
CSUSB currently conducts research on non-embryonic bone marrow stem cells obtained from Loma Linda University Medical Center, Thompson said.
Positive news for stem cell researchers came in while the symposium was under way and was announced to the audience.
A two-to-one decision by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C circuit lifted a preliminary injunction that had blocked federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, The Washington Post reported.
A clinical trial treating patients with spinal cord injuries was awarded a $25 million loan from CIRM on May 5; it is the first use of human embryonic stem cells in humans it has ever funded, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Laurie Zoloth, director of the Center for Bioethics at Northwestern University, discussed ethical issues about human embryonic stem cell use and those in the medical field in general.
Zoloth reminded the audience of current and future medical researchers about the nature of medical practices.
“Medicine at its heart is a tragic enterprise,” said Zoloth.
Zoloth said that the issue of the embryonic stem cell debate is a deeply rooted religious one so it would be impossible to reconcile the two views. She also said that the only way she sees it being resolved is through a vote.
Students that attended the event acknowledged the ethical dilemmas that may arise in their careers in the medical field, but felt that they must still try to do their job.
“Sometimes you have to look at the professional aspect,” said Usmaan Arshad..
CSUSB Biology Professor Nicole Bournias-Vardiabasis expressed her excitement about the symposium in her closing remarks and said another symposium is planned for next year.