After my post on Friday regarding the extent to which each candidate supports the full body of stem cell research, Mark Schmitt pointed out to me that the McCain campaign has just released a radio ad called "Stem Cell." Here is the script which, notably, does not explicitly specify whether it's referring to embryonic or adult stem cells:

They are the original mavericks. Leaders. Reformers. Fighting for real change.

John McCain will lead this Congressional allies to improve America’s health.

Stem cell research to unlock the mystery of cancer, diabetes, heart disease.

Stem cell research to help free families from the fear and devastation of illness.

Stem cell research to help doctors repair spinal cord damage, knee injuries, serious burns.

Stem cell research to help stroke victims.

And, John McCain and his Congressional allies will invest millions more in new NIH medical research to prevent disease.

Medical breakthroughs to help you get better, faster.

Change is coming.

McCain-Palin and Congressional allies

The leadership and experience to really change Washington, and improve your health.

The diseases and injuries mentioned in the ad kill or debilitate millions of people. They are also conditions which have directly benefited from non-embryonic stem cell research and clinical implementation -- research the religious right has no objection to.The unipotent or multipotent stem cells used for burn victims (skin grafts), or heart disease victims, or cancer studies are already differentiated cells and are obtained from adults.

The value of embryonic stem cells -- cells harvested from miscarried or aborted fetuses and therefore opposed by some anti-abortion advocates -- is that they are pluripotent, undifferentiated cells which hold the secrets to how differentiation occurs in the first place. For example, the ad did not specifically cite the potential for embryonic stem cells to be teased into growing new organs. The value of embryonic stem cells is that they hold the answers to questions about the earliest stages of our development -- the process where we literally go from a single cell gamete to a trillions-of-cells human being. In fact, the recent IPS cell advancements would most likely never have been possible without the understanding the science community first gained working with embryonic cells.

Furthermore, embryonic cells may have special applications for pharmaceutical testing which could allow drug researchers to forgo the use of human test subjects sometime in the future. The language in McCain's ad, neglecting to mention the very point at issue with this entire debate, remains distinctly noncommittal and too vague to truly reveal any insight into his intentions for the future of this broad body of research.

--Stuart Whatley