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Is Genetic Research, Stem-Cell Therapy and Understanding DNA "Playing God"?

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PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - November 17, 2010) - James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA in 1953, was once asked whether this understanding leads to playing God. His infamous answer, "If we don't play God, who will?" cuts to the core of the ethics of medical research, including the development of stem cell-based therapies: How far should we go in seeking to alleviate human suffering?

In the article In the Zone, Vision's Dan Cloer writes, "In whatever light one views human beings -- whether our creative consciousness is the byproduct of evolution or of being created 'in the image of God' -- we must take responsibility for what we know. The hidden powers we have wrested from the natural world are now our powers. It is an unfortunate foible of human nature to lean toward expediency, so the need to walk with care is often neglected, irrespective of underlying belief." Read the full article.

Drawing from the 2003 report by the President's Council on Bioethics, Cloer challenges readers to take a closer look at the stem cell issue: "Because the choices made by some can, in their consequences, alter the shared life lived by all, it behooves all of us to consider the meaning of these developments, whether we are privately tempted by them or not" ("Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness").

In an accompanying interview, "Just Getting on with Business," Cloer speaks with stem cell researcher Clive Svendsen about research ethics, scientific curiosity, and reprogramming stem cells from adult body cells. "You have to be pragmatic in your approach, as well as apply the best and most rigorous science that you can," says Svendsen, director of the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute in Los Angeles. "There is one group of people that says, 'We need to know everything about this before we can possibly touch a patient.' And another that says, 'I don't care about anything; put the cells in, because the patient is dying.' I say, let's have a rational plan backed up by statistical evidence that something has an effect; but once we get to a certain point, let's proceed with that 'something' to a clinical trial."

Vision's "In the Zone" brings the reader up to date on current directions in stem cell research and the ultimate goals of regenerative medicine.