The Baltimore Sun

Adult stem cells provide real cures

Adult stem cell research has produced treatments for 73 different conditions, while embryonic stem cell research has not produced a single therapy or helped a single patient. But those facts were conveniently omitted from a recent column advocating increased taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research ("Stem cell opportunity," Commentary, Feb. 20).

The column also neglected to mention the biggest advance in stem cell research in the last decade - the creation of induced pluripotent stem cells.

That development allows researchers to reprogram adult stem cells to behave like embryonic stem cells without destroying human embryos. It was hailed by the journal Science as the scientific breakthrough of 2008 and trumpeted on a recent Time magazine cover.

Maryland taxpayers have dedicated $36 million to stem cell research in the last two years. But only projects involving adult stem cell research have produced therapies that are actually treating patients.

Maybe there's a reason venture capitalists are wary to invest private dollars in embryonic stem cell research: It doesn't work.

Our elected officials should follow their lead, and use shrinking state taxpayer dollars prudently by funding proven, ethical research that is now treating patients: adult stem cell research, including work with induced pluripotent stem cells.

Nancy E. Paltell, Baltimore

The writer is associate director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

Destroying life is no way to save it

The authors of the column "Stem cell opportunity" (Commentary, Feb. 20) argue that embryonic stem cell research "would allow us to create more high-paying, sustainable jobs ... as well as economic opportunities for businesses."

But economic gain is insufficient justification for killing or using human beings as commodities. And in embryonic stem cell research, distinct human individuals' lives are ended for the potential benefit of their elders.

Parents used to sacrifice themselves so their children could have a better life. Now we sacrifice our children so that we may have a better life.

The doctors' plan evokes Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," which satirically suggests the ghoulish use of the youngest in society for the betterment of the whole.

Alas, it's not satire anymore.

Lisa Basarab, Baltimore

Why limit fertility only for females?

While I am not denying the "grave problems" involving multiple births and late-age pregnancies that Adam Pertman and Naomi Cahn cite in "Limiting reproduction" (Commentary, Feb. 25), I wonder how we could equitably apply the rules they recommend.

Will we also regulate the number of women a man may impregnate and the age he may do so?

I think Mr. Pertman and Ms. Cahn's suggestions would be highly inequitable for women.

Ann Loar Brooks, Baltimore

Let Social Security redevelop city site

So the Social Security Administration wants a large parcel of land to build a new data center on ("Social Security looking for site for data center," Feb. 19).

Fine, but first let's make its officials read Tom Horton's timely column on green infrastructure, specifically the part that notes that we are losing 100 acres of trees every day and about how this impacts the watershed for the Chesapeake Bay ("Invest in green infrastructure," Commentary, Feb. 19).

The SSA should take a cue from the Johns Hopkins University. It is expanding its hospital by killing concrete, not greenery.

Let SSA search downtown Baltimore for some land that is now an eyesore, and build there.

Ellen Rhudy, Marriottsville

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