New DVD seeks to clear up stem cell confusion


WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new six-minute DVD produced by the Family Research Council seeks to clear up confusion about stem cell research, explaining the differences between embryonic stem cell and adult stem cell research and showing how therapeutic cloning is being deceptively promoted.

"Stem Cells: Beyond Hype, Real Hope" interviews experts on the topic and is available for free on DVD by contacting the Family Research Council. It also can be viewed online at the organization's Web site.

The video was released just weeks before voters in Missouri approved a constitutional amendment that allows both embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. 

Stem cells, a narrator on the video says, are "building blocks of the body" that "have a remarkable capacity to replace or heal damaged tissues and cells." They can be found in human embryos, although harvesting them requires the embryos' destruction, she says. But stem cells also are found throughout the human body in skin cells, nose cells, bone marrow and even in umbilical cord blood, she adds.

"After 25 years of research with embryonic stem cells—mouse and human—there's very little evidence that embryonic stem cells are effective in treating disease and repairing tissue," David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences at FRC, says on the video. "In the meantime, there are thousands of patients who have been successfully treated with their own adult stem cells."

The video interviews Jacki Rabon, a young woman who was paralyzed after an automobile accident but is walking with braces now following a surgery that transferred her own adult stem cells into her spine.

"(Adult stem cells are) from your own body," she says. "You're not harming anybody. You're healing yourself.... With the embryonic (stem cells), you're using somebody else's life to heal yourself, and I think that that's wrong."

The process known as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer also is explained. SCNT, the narrator says, is "another name for cloning—the same technique that created Dolly the sheep." It is often referred to as "therapeutic cloning" because the cloned embryo is killed to harvest the stem cells. (The other type of cloning, reproductive cloning, theoretically would produce a cloned human baby.)

Supporters of the constitutional amendment in Missouri have used the SCNT term and claimed the amendment bans cloning, even though it doesn't. In fact, the text of the amendment refers to "Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer" three times.

The video narrator explains that during cloning, "the nucleus or DNA of a cell is removed and then transferred into a human egg." A spark of electricity begins embryo development.

"Now some scientists want to create thousands, even millions of cloned human embryos for the sole purpose of destroying them for their cells," the narrator says.

Recently, a publicly funded California research institute released a draft report stating that any cures from embryonic stem cell research are years away—disappointing many voters who had supported the initiative that created the institute. In fact, the institute—which is set to receive $3 billion in funds over a decade—said that at the end of the 10 years, its goal simply was to have "therapies in clinical development." Before any cures using embryonic stem cells are developed, the report said, basic studies on the "fundamental biology" of embryonic stem cells must be done. As of now, scientists' understanding of embryonic stem cells is "incomplete," the report said.

"Stem Cells: Beyond Hype, Real Hope" can be viewed online at frc.org or by calling 1-800-225-4008.