Ceci Connolly Gives Stem Cell Breakthrough a Bronx Cheer

August 23rd, 2005 2:26 PM

The day after her paper reported on a potential stem cell breakthrough which doesn't require destroying human embryos, the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly today wrote a piece focusing on liberal politicians and scientists receiving the news unenthusiastically, concerned that the promise of stem cell therapies that don't require the destruction of human embryos would undercut their pet research project, creating stem cells by destroying unborn human beings.

Headlined, "Stem Cell Advance Muddles Debate: Work May Stall Efforts To Lift Research Limits," Connolly warns in the second paragraph that the "news that Harvard scientists have successfully converted human skin cells into embryonic stem cells --without using a human egg or new embryo --is likely to muddle the already complex debate over federal stem cell research policy."

Connolly goes on to present arguments from scientists and politicians who argue the recent advance should not stop the push to overturn President Bush's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The only critic of embryonic stem cell research she cites is Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, a pro-life obstetrician. The bulk of the sources she cites gripe that conservatives in Congress will successfully use the skin cell breakthrough to trade "patient interests for political symbolism" by defeating an attempt to overturn the funding ban, which would of course be a "colossal mistake."

Connolly's angle stands in stark contrast to reporting earlier this summer in June, when the Post's Rick Weiss---who also wrote Monday's front page piece---reported in "Stem Cell Advances May Make Moral Issue Moot":

In recent months, a number of researchers have begun to assemble intriguing evidence that it is possible to generate embryonic stem cells without having to create or destroy new human embryos.

The research is still young and largely unpublished, and in some cases it is limited to animal cells. Scientists doing the work also emphasize their desire to have continued access to human embryos for now. It is largely by analyzing how nature makes stem cells, deep inside days-old embryos, that these researchers are learning how to make the cells themselves.

Yet the gathering consensus among biologists is that embryonic stem cells are made, not born -- and that embryos are not an essential ingredient. That means that today's heated debates over embryo rights could fade in the aftermath of technical advances allowing scientists to convert ordinary cells into embryonic stem cells.

A similar piece which I haven't seen covered in the Post or elsewhere in the MSM was also reported last week by CNSNews.com's Patrick Goodenough, on the non-controversial promising potential of harvesting stem cells from umbilical cords.