Thursday, December 31, 2009

The noughties – nought to show for ESCs

Here is an amusing bit of spin from an ESC advocate "reflecting on a decade of stem cell research" – an end-of-decade review broadcast on the US National Public Radio yesterday.


Note the usual distortion of the science. Because ASCs (adult stem cells) are kicking such great goals in the treatment of actual patients, they do not even get a mention! That would be impolite – a bit like avoiding praising the top student in the class, because it might harm the self-esteem of the idlers.


And although you and I know that ESCs are inherently unusable in humans – thanks to their inherent tumour tendency – Dr Zon of the Boston Children's Hospital merely says that such treatments are "still a ways off". Chuckle. See "Geron and on and on" for an adult version of the end of the rainbow being "still a ways off". However, when the pot of research gold can be gained simply by showing politicians how pretty that rainbow is, never needing to find rainbow's end, you can understand Dr Zon's ever-hopeful fantasy.


The happy moment in this piece comes with Dr Zon's enthusiasm for iPS, which is proving so powerful that the stem cell spin machine is having trouble containing it. So, after consigning ESC therapies to the never never of "a couple of decades" we read:

More immediate, Zon says, is finding new drug therapies using a technique made possible by Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka. He found a way to take ordinary skin cells and turn them into cells that behave just like embryonic stem cells, but without destroying an embryo.

When the new technique was announced in 1997 (sic – it was 2007, DvG), stem cell researcher Jose Cibelli of Michigan State University predicted it would revolutionize the field of stem cell research, and not just because it removed the moral quandary of destroying embryos.

"Anybody can do this procedure," Cibelli said. "It's a very simple recipe. It's a combination of three or four genes, and in a couple of weeks you go from a skin cell to an embryonic stem cell. It's remarkable."

The new technique allows scientists to take cells from a patient with a disease, then convert them into these embryonic stem cell-like cells that can grow indefinitely in the lab.


A refreshing bit of truth in a sea of stale platitudes.


As to the closing claptrap about ESC research still being needed to provide the 'gold standard' against iPS – see earlier post. This is fool's gold, and how debased the ESC / cloning currency has become, that instead of being the saviour of little diabetics and old parkinson's patients, it is now merely a 'standard' to measure the real achievers against!


A Happy New Year – and may 2010 see scientific truthfulness and political integrity prevail in Australia. With the review of our cloning laws, the time has come to accept that (post the iPS revolution of November 2007) the scientific justification for cloning no longer exists. The unmitigated abomination of creating embryonic humans solely for research must cease.