Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lead into Gold: ESCR Hype Continues

"The scientists" were thrown a bit by the iPSC breakthrough, but they are in a full counter attack mode with the help of a compliant media. Here is an example. A researcher named Hans Keirstead, gave a speech and somehow got a full story out of it that is exclusively about his views in the Arizona Star. From the story:

But scientists deeply involved in human embryonic stem-cell research are unlikely to scrap years of work, however controversial, to start over with the new skin-cell technology, said one noted for cutting-edge achievements in this field. "I do think a great deal of this work could be done with the skin-cell-derived stem cells. But we'd have to start completely over, from scratch, and we are not going to slow down to do that, not at this point," said Hans Keirstead, a neurobiologist and stem-cell researcher at the University of California-Irvine.
Really? From scratch, meaning as if no knowledge has been obtained from previous work on ES cells? Really?

And of course, we get some inaccurate reporting:
Speaking at University Medical Center, Keirstead outlined his progress, which has taken off in the past three years--after California sidestepped President Bush's ban on federal funding for research using human embryos.
Sigh. There is no ban on federal funding of ESCR, indeed there has been about $160 million spent in human ESCR since 2001-2007. Second, California's decision wasn't a sidestep at all. Bush never tried to prevent states or private sources from funding the research, and moreover, California funds cloning research. Don't get me started again on bad stem cell reporting!
Since then, Keirstead and his team at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center (named for the late actor Christopher Reeve, who suffered a devastating spinal-cord injury) have used these new stem-cell lines to restore full mobility to rats paralyzed by spinal cord injuries...Keirstead's work is expected to set the stage for the first human clinical trial in the world using embryonic stem cells, possibly as early as next year.
Ah, the Geron research which, we have been told for the last four years, will lead to human studies "next year." (Maybe this time it will be true.) And, of course, adult stem cells are already in human trials having restored feeling and some limited mobility to paralyzed spinal cord injury patients using their own olfactory stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells--taken from 5-day-old embryos discarded by fertility clinics--"have the potential to address every single human disorder," Keirstead said. "They are the greatest single scientific advance in human history, with the potential to develop into any kind of cell in the human body."
In human history? Really? Plus, using embryos still leaves the problem of tissue rejection for most conditions and the problem of tumors. The iPS cells would not have the rejection issue, coming, in theory, from a patient's own body. The teratoma issue might still be a problem, but then, adult stem cells will also continue to progress. And in any case, pluripotency in the Petri dish remains theoretical since it hasn't actually been done.

iPSC research is not going to end ESCR. Indeed, studies on ES cells may well be required to improve the technique, but this can probably be done with the Bush approved lines. What iPSC research has the distinct possibility of doing is to make human cloning for stem cell research superfluous. And that is to be celebrated.

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