Mar 10

Embryonic Stem Cells: A Bum Deal

New Technique Devised For Human Stem Cells
Scientists in Massachusetts reported yesterday that they have developed a new means of growing human embryonic stem cells, the versatile cells that show promise as treatments for various diseases.

Interesting, as this bears on how many of the nominally-approved hESC lines in 2001 turned out to be corrupted by the mouse cells in those lines. However, while the ESCR people fiddle around with parameters for *in vitro* work , we are seeing the real deal with adult stem cells. I know this is something of a broken record on this issue, but so is the media. At least I’m a broken record on the facts. 😉

Take a hypothetical situation: If you were a real estate developer, and the contractor building your homes came to you and bragged about a big breakthrough–they dug a whole foundation that day!–while the other developer had people *moving into* his subdivision, wouldn’t it be time to fire your contractor?

People invoke progress and the inevitable march of scientific knowledge when they try to sucker the public into supporting ESCR. But if it’s so inevitable, why are the ESCR advocates spending their time kicking and screaming for state and federal money in lieu of getting FDA approval for human trials, as their adult stem cell counterparts are doing? If this field is so robust, why does it always need legislative life support and tender loving care and protection from those evil Christian luddites? And always, more money. We’ve seen several advanced countries dive into this research head-first (e.g., the U.K., South Korea and Singapore), so even in countries where the opprobium against government funding for this research doesn’t exist, we don’t see magic happening.

This does not mean that ESCR won’t deliver significant results in the future–I’d be surprised if it didn’t, though I doubt it’ll do anything clinically that we will not be able to do better with other methods–but perhaps some of its advocates should tone down their rhetoric about its tremendous benefits, and the huge disservice its opponents are doing by blocking funding for it. The evidence does not seem to justify such inflammatory means.

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