Thursday, November 17, 2011

Philip Gunn authored legislation to stop medical research that could cure Parkinson's and Alzheimer's

This will be the first in a series of posts looking at Rep. Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), who will presumably become Speaker of the House on January 3, 2012.

Rep. Philip Gunn seems to have taken the 2009 sci-fi movie "Splice" a bit too literally.  This past legislative session, Gunn introduced a bill entitled "An Act to Prohibit the Creation of Human-Animal Hybrids," which aims to prevent scientists from inserting non-human DNA into human embryos, and vice-versa.

At first, I thought this was a really good idea.  After all, who wants real life Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wandering around? Then I did a bit of research, and determined that the experiments Gunn is looking to prohibit would allow us to be able to do things like solve our ceaseless need for blood donors, grow organs for people needing a transplant, and cure freaking Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.  I suggest you take a look at this slideshow from Discovery News that fills you in on things that Gunn is trying to make illegal.  Certainly, there's a weird quality to it, but it's not like scientists are creating sheeple.  (Some would argue that's what Fox News is for.)

Here's what a July 2011 article in the L.A. Times had to say about the reality of the situation:
The reality of chimeras is much less dramatic: Picture instead a pig that produces human insulin or a mouse getting chemotherapy for its human cancer cells. But inter-species blends still raise concerns, even among scientists. The British Academy of Medical Sciences just released a report calling for new rules to avoid ethical missteps. The report expressed particular concern over several types of research, including anything that would implant human brain cells into animals. During a comment period, some members of the public worried that such experiments could give animals human memories.

That sounds like a great premise for a science fiction short story: The mouse who remembers growing up in a dysfunctional family in the suburbs. But even the academy acknowledges that an animal with human thoughts or consciousness is pretty far-fetched. Indeed, many of the fears surrounding chimeras are based on a misunderstanding of the real-world applications.

Human-animal chimeras are especially useful for studying medical applications of stem cells, an approach that, inconveniently for the scientists involved, combines two controversial, emotionally charged practices. For example, studies have found that stem cells from human embryos can strengthen the limbs of rats plagued by strokes. There's no chance that these rats will wax philosophically about the fickle nature of fate, but there's a good chance that such research could lead to new treatments for human stroke victims.
So, why not go ahead and let legislators determine what doctors and scientists should and shouldn't be able to do to find new ways to cure disease.  Nothing like substituting a lawyer's judgment for a doctor's, right Philip?


Leslie said...

This has been ongoing for years! I am a scientist researcher, and this kind of thing has been blocked in the state of MS, and not just because of Gunn. Dan Jones, while at UMC, blocked any and all stem cell research. What the vast majority of people, including Jones who is an MD, don't realize is that stem cell research is not killing babies or making "sheeples" (love that word, thanks). It can lead to so many cures, not just long term treatments. Imagine being able to CURE Parkinsons, or CURE kidney disease by simply growing a new kidney from cells that person already makes. But people hear "stem cell" and think of dead babies, and in this modern age of science, that's simply not true.

C J Garrett said...

How sadly ironic that today's legislators want to stymie the perpetuation of one of Mississippi's richest legacies - medical research. "....the first open heart operation performed in the State of Mississippi on January 27, 1959, the world's first lung transplantation on June 11, 1963, and the world's first human heart transplant on January 23, 1964." Fifty years after these pioneering discoveries, the younger generation has no respect nor appreciation for finding new cures and treatments for devastating illnesses.