Purchase the book Right to Recover

Right to Recover ~ Winning the Political and Religious Wars Over Stem Cell Research in America presents scientific facts that challenge readers to think for themselves rather than accept political or religious views on stem cell research.


This book is available by request in bookstores nationwide.

RIGHT TO RECOVER is an Award-Winning Finalist in the Current Events: Political/Social of the National Best Books 2007 Awards. Amazon Best-selling book in biomedical category.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tour Stop For Right To Recover

Yvonne Perry, the author of RIGHT TO RECOVER, was interview by Familyfunandfaith on Wed, 09/05/2007 as part of a blog tour for the book. Here is a re-post of that interview.

You may or may not know that one of my degrees is in biology. I have found the field fascinating since I was a kid. I still am drawn to read of discoveries and advances in biology, focusing a lot over the past few years on stem cell research.

About a month ago I was not aware of an opportunity to host a discussion here regarding a book by Yvonne Perry. The book is called Right To Recover. It addresses some issues in the field of stem cell research that I had not heard before.

Ms. Perry invited me to submit some questions that she would answer and allow me to post here for your consideration and discussion. I'm very pleased to host the book tour stop today. I invite your comments, and would like to let you know that anyone who comments today will have their name submitted for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Below are the questions I submitted along with the unedited answers provided by Ms. Perry:

Q - I have seen the trailer for your book, Right to Recover on You Tube. That makes a distinction between an embryo and a blastocyst. Will you describe the differences here?

One point I would like addressed is whether a blastocyst contains the complete genetic code that distinguishes it from all others, making it an individual.

A blastocyst, just like a skin cell or any other cell in the body, carries the DNA of its donor.
Different terms are used to describe developmental stages of reproduction. When a sperm and ovum are united (whether in-vitro or inside the female body) fertilization occurs, and the two parts become a single totipotent cell known as a zygote. Within hours after fertilization this cell divides into two identical cells, which also divide thus forming pluripotent stem cells. By the fourth day the cell cluster has divided to reach approximately 16 cells, and it is called a morula. The division/multiplication process continues for about five days until a hollow sphere of about 32 cells is formed along with a fluid-filled cavity. This sphere or cluster of primordial cells is then called a blastocyst. If the blastocyst cells are inside the womb, development continues as these stem cells begin to differentiate and form all the cells needed to make an entire human being. However, in an artificial environment outside the body (in vitro), the pluripotent stem cells from a fertilized egg will only reproduce more undifferentiated cells. They cannot produce a fully developed embryo. After the first two months of development inside the womb, the term embryo is replaced by the word fetus, which applies until birth.

The in vitro process shows us that conception and fertilization are two distinct and separate events. While fertilization can occur either in a lab or inside a woman's body, conception can only take place in the womb. Conception occurs when a blastocyst becomes implanted in the lining of the uterus and begins to receive nourishment for continued development. This process takes several days and can be confirmed by testing the levels of progesterone and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) present in the mothers blood.

Q - In the You Tube trailer for the book, and in bullet points on some of the web pages associated with the book, the claim is made that a blastocyst can be examined without damaging it. What is meant by examination in that claim? Doesn't the research and associated procedures ultimately alter or destroy the original?

In 2006, Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, neural stem cell researcher and director of the UCSF Institute for Regeneration Medicine, affirmed that the removal of a single cell from a blastocyst can be done without harming the rest of the blastocyst. The claim is supported by the fact that thousands of healthy children who began as in-vitro clusters had pre-implantation genetic diagnosis performed prior to implantation. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is done to assure parents that a diseased gene (known to be carried by one parent) is not reproduced in their offspring.

In pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, one cell is removed from an 8- to 16-cell blastocyst for testing purposes. It is allowed to multiply/divide overnight. One of the three new cells is examined the next morning. If it is free of the diseased gene, the rest of the blastocyst is introduced to the uterus where it can begin to successfully produce a healthy embryo and subsequently, a full term baby.The remaining two cells that were cultured can then be used to create new stem cell lines by simply allowing them to continue growing. However, these new lines would not be eligible for the NIH registry for federal funding since they were created after the August 2001 cut off imposed by the Bush administration.

Dr. Ronald Green, Professor for the Study of Ethics and Human Value at Dartmouth College and Chair for the Ethic Advisory Board for Advanced Cell Technology, revealed in 2006 that a way had been found to grow new lines of stem cells from a single cell of a blastocyst. The report was confirmed in Nature journal by researchers from a biotechnology firm in Alameda, California.

Q - The book also will address the issue of In Vitro Fertilization, including the matter of the leftover embryos, or blastocysts, in recent months Snowflake Babies have come to the public’s attention. Would you here briefly address the issues of those eggs that are fertilized and viable but unused by the parents once they have successfully had IVF children?

A couple utilizing IVF procedures presently has four choices about what to do with their leftover blastocysts:

1. Pay to have the cells preserved for another attempt at pregnancy later on down the road (although the shelf life of a frozen blastocyst is not eternal).

2. Simply throw them away if they do not plan to have any more children. Many couples actually abandon their leftover blastocysts and leave them at the fertility clinic. In such cases the clinic has no choice but to discard the leftovers.

3. Let them be used for research in privately-funded labs.

4. Give them up for surrogate adoption. Babies born to surrogate parents who adopted them as in vitro blastocysts are sometimes called ¡§snowflake¡¨ children.

However, not all leftover blastocysts are going to be adopted and birthed by surrogate mothers. Most are going to be placed into a red biohazard bag and thrown in the trash. If the owners of cells created in-vitro are not going to use them and are willing to donate them for research purposes, scientists should be allowed to use them to further the research process.

In a recent study led by researchers at Duke University Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University, 60 percent of couples who have unused blastocysts on deposit at fertility clinics said they would be likely to donate them for stem cell research.

Q - What is the difference between stem cells that can be collected from umbilical cords and other tissues and those that are embryonic, or blastocystic?

Cells are located throughout our bodies, but they each have different functions. Just as your liver cannot perform the same tasks as your heart, adult stem cells, cord blood, and amniotic stem cells cannot do the same things as blastocyst stem cells. Days-old blastocyst stem cells allow a range of research on the very earliest stages of human development and are more versatile than adult stem cells or fetal cells extracted months later from amniotic fluid or from cord blood at birth. While cord blood, amniotic fluid, adult stem cells, and reprogramming of cells certainly deserve study, no credible expert supports using them as a replacement for IVF stem cells.

Additionally, sticking a needle into a pregnant woman¡¦s uterus can be dangerous. One in 100 amniocentesis results in harm to the developing fetus or mother. Therefore, this is not a safe method for obtaining stem cells, regardless of what kind of organs can be grown from them. Scientists are still trying to discover which set of stem cell characteristics will ultimately be needed to cure or treat certain diseases. Here are a few key features we know about blastocystic stem cells and multipotent progenitor or adult stem cells (ASC):

"X Blastocyst stem cells are indefinite, robust, and self-renewable. They can transform into virtually any type of cell of the body. Pluripotency disappears as differentiation occurs and development continues."X ASCs are limited in the number of cells they are able to transform into; in other words, they can only create more of the same type of cells as they already are. For that reason, adult cells are not able to do the same things as IV-B stem cells, which have the characteristics researchers believe are needed to cure some diseases."X Stem cells exist in relatively large numbers in blastocysts."X ASC or multipotent progenitor stem cells have not yet been found in all tissues of the body. In fact, they are scarce in the brain.

It is important to explore all types of stem cells. Regardless of whether the therapies come from adult stem cells, cord blood, amniotic fluid, or IV-B research, all of humanity stands to profit from stem cell treatment and technology. Any knowledge gained from blastocyst stem cells will complement studies of adult and all other types of stem cells, and vice versa.

Q - One of the concerns that I personally have with the push for use of embryonic stem cells is that the proponents make it seem as though we are near breakthroughs on cures for horrible diseases if we could just grow more stem cell lines. Would you give us realistic projections of how long and how it will be before we will be able to find out if cures would come only from stem cells taken from embryos?

Dr. Madan Jagasia, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, tells me that even if stem cell research were unlimited today, it would be a couple of decades before we could reach our dream of being able to make a stem cell into a liver and insure that an organized and predictable outcome will be achieved.

Michael Shelanski is a stem cell researcher and the co-director of the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's disease and the Aging Brain at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He believes that while the immediate chances of repairing damage done to the brains of Alzheimers patients is slim, there may be other therapies for Alzheimers coming a lot sooner if stem cell research is allowed to expand. Blastocystic stem cell research will at least allow for studies to help identify the molecular errors that underlie Alzheimers. This discovery would help chemists create drugs to slow, or even reverse, the disease.

Dr. Hans Keirstead believes that scientists are getting closer to moving into clinical trials using blastocyst stem cell therapies on humans, and that they are close to making viable healing therapies through the untapped potential of blastocyst stem cell research. This potential will only be discovered through research, and that research will be conducted much quicker when more funds and cell lines are available.

Q - Your overall plea seems to be that the federal government should contribute to the funding of the research on blastocysts. Many do not want to be forced to participate in what they consider immoral behavior by having tax dollars spent in such a way. Would you address that here?

We live in a give-and-take world, and it requires both sacrifice and compromise to live in harmony with one another. When our country is at war, innocent people are sacrificed to protect our citizens. Regardless of the fact that many people are opposed to the war in Iraq and cry out against it, our government still sends troops overseas to wage battle in a war that cannot be won.

Even the government agrees with the philosophy of having one person sacrifice something for the good of many. Officials may elect to take your land whether you like it or not, if it can be shown that having a new highway on your property would benefit the majority of people in the area.

I pay federal taxes to support programs that do not benefit me, and I have no choice in the matter. I have to pay Social Security taxes knowing that I may never see a dime of this money when I retire. Why? Because the law requires that I pay for government programs that are for the good of the majority of citizens. Blastocystic stem cell research is for the good of the majority of citizens. Therefore, I believe the government should pay for all types of stem cell technology to be developed, not just some of them.


Janet Grace Riehl said...

This is at one and the same time an impassioned and informed interview that gets out the information you care about most and have laid out in your book. When I taught English Composition, we named the different types of essays. It seems that your book is what we would have classed as an "argumentative/persuasive" type. Good to have your views out there and presented so cogently.

Thursday said...

You do such an amazing job of demonstrating your point. I wish more interviews about stem cell research were so rational, and so well backed up with real information.