Saturday, October 16, 2010

Some sound reporting on the Geron experiment

Deborah Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald is a specimen of that rare species: a well-researched science reporter. It says a lot about general reporting on stem cell science that an article like today’s, below, should come as a pleasant surprise for its sober and careful presentation - and not only because this association gets to put its case.

An informed reader could quibble re no mention of the published ASC alternatives for spinal treatment, and re inadequate explanation that ANY experiment conducted with Geron’s ESC derivatives could be more profitably conducted with iPS derivatives, and likewise fall about laughing at the Prof from another planet who calls this Geron-come-lately non-event "the dawn of the Stem Cell age" - but overall it meets the requirements for intelligent scientific/bioethical reporting.

A race from lab to patient
Date: October 16 2010
Deborah Smith

The first test of an embryonic stem cell therapy in humans has left even the fiercest advocates nervous, writes Deborah Smith.

''IT'S been a long time coming,'' says Joanna Knott, chairwoman of SpinalCure Australia, about the ''exciting'' news that the world's first clinical trial in people of a human embryonic stem cell therapy has finally begun in the US.

Professor Andrew Elefanty, a stem cell researcher at Monash University, disagrees. ''I think history will judge it has been very fast.''

It is only 12 years since human embryonic stem cells - the immortal, master cells that can be converted into 200 different types of tissue - were first extracted from donated IVF embryos. Now cells derived from them have been injected into a person with severe spinal injuries in Atlanta. From lab to patient in just over a decade is ''truly rapid progress'', Elefanty says.

Dr David van Gend, an opponent of embryo research, however, says the trial by US company Geron Corporation is unnecessary and dangerous. ''It is an uncertain experiment, which has got even proponents of embryonic stem cell research worried.''