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Surprising Science

Stem Cell Debate Provides Lens into Waning American Influence

The contrast is sharp. There are two important stories about stem cells today. The first, from FoxNews is entitled “States Consider Harder Line on Stem Cell Research.” It’s about how state legislators are moving to block expanded stem cell research following Obama’s move to loosen restrictions. Smart!

The second, from GlobalPost‘s Patrick Winn, highlights Thailand as “the future home of stem cell research.”

“Worlds away from the political din surrounding stem cells in America, more and more parents are choosing to bank the cord blood of their newborns to use, perhaps, in future medical treatments,” writes Winn. “Thailand could be well-positioned to cash in on the trend, as the business of storing stem cells relies on two factors: high birth rates and a class of moneyed parents. Thailand, already a regional healthcare mecca, has both.” In response, “a handful of start-ups — Thai StemLife, Cyroviva Thailand, Cordlife and others — are now vying to store stem cells from the roughly 800,000 babies born each year in Thailand.”

Compare that with the progressive minds coming out of Georgia and Oklahoma who “are considering bills that would limit, if not outright prohibit, scientists from working with human embryonic stem cells in their research to cure or reverse medical conditions, including diabetes, paralysis and Parkinson’s disease,” according to James Osborne at FoxNews. And, “in Texas and Mississippi, lawmakers are considering blocking state funding for that research, mirroring existing laws in other states.”

If the United States is going to thrive in a global economy, everyone–even lawmakers in the American South–are going to have to embrace technology and medical innovation. Let’s hope that if any of these legislators, or their families, are struck with any of the fatal diseases potentially cured by stem cells, they are able to afford the trip to Thailand. It is becoming increasingly difficult in a nation that punishes innovation.


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