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Stem Cell Hype

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Cal

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Stem Cell Tales of Hope and Hype
Jean Swenson

July 8, 2005

We all remember the fairy tale about the Emperor swindled into believing his new clothing was the finest available. When he paraded through the streets wearing nothing but imaginary apparel, a child cried out, “But he has nothing on at all!”

As a quadriplegic who could possibly benefit from stem cell research, I fear many of us are being sold an imaginary garment of hope—a fictitious belief that embryonic stem cells will cure us.

In reality, no such cures exist now or in the near future. Like the truthful child we must cry out, “But there is nothing here at all!”

Stem cells, found in embryos, umbilical cord blood, and adults, can change into specialized cell types. Their value lies in replacing diseased or damaged tissues. However, embryonic stem (ES) cells have serious problems that currently prevent human use. Adult and cord blood cells do not, and are already being used to treat nearly sixty conditions. (See www.stemcellresearch.org )

For over twenty years scientists, using animal ES cells, have failed to solve the same roadblocks faced by researchers working on human ES cells. Problems such as tumor formation, tissue rejection, and genetic instability are enormously complex and must be overcome before ES cells can have medical applications.

The Lancet, a British medical journal that favors ES cell research, calls cure headlines “sensationalist” and “hype.” In fact, this journal reports that “no safe and effective [embryonic] stem cell therapy will be widely available for at least a decade, and possibly longer.”

According to Cornell University stem cell scientist Shahin Rafii, “Just injecting stem cells is not going to work. First, you have to be able to differentiate the cells into functional, transplantable tissues. We don’t really know how to do this yet.”

Many ES cell researchers acknowledge that ES cells are more useful for basic research than for cure applications. James Thompson, who first isolated human ES cells in 1998, states, “[Basic research] is the most important legacy [of ES cells].” He adds, “I’m very hopeful that there will be some transplantation applications for this technology, but they’re going to be very challenging. And it’s been so hyped in the press that people expect it to come the day after tomorrow.”

People who want government to fund ES cell research are expecting taxpayers to pay for science projects that knowledgeable investors will not. William Haseltine, ES cell research advocate and CEO of Human Genome Sciences said, “The routine utilization of human embryonic stem cells for medicine is 20 to 30 years hence. The timeline to commercialization is so long that I simply would not invest. You may notice that our company has not made such investments.”

Those serious about clinical trials and treatments—not just basic research—are using adult stem cells or cord blood. The Spinal Cord Society (SCS), based in Fergus Falls, MN, with 200 chapters worldwide, is on the cutting edge of spinal cord applied research, meaning they’re trying to find treatments that really work. SCS will be starting human trials using cells from patients’ own nasal cavities. SCS leadership have said they would use ES cells “if they worked for us.” But because of ES cell medical problems, SCS is currently pursuing adult stem cells and avoiding embryonic

Russian scientist Dr. Andrey Bryukhovetskiy has tried both ES cells and adult stem cells in his quest for spinal cord injury cure. He has concluded that adult cells are much more effective than ES cells in restoring function.

After President Reagan died, people were led to believe that Alzheimer’s could be cured by ES cells. Yet, according to Alzheimer researcher Michael Shelanski, “The chance of doing repairs to Alzheimer's brains by putting in stem cells is small. I personally think we're going to get other therapies for Alzheimer's a lot sooner.”

Stem cell researcher Ron McKay, in a Washington Post article, attempted to explain this distortion. He said, “To start with, people need a fairy tale. Maybe that's unfair, but they need a story line that's relatively simple to understand.”

We’re watching this fairy tale play out. Like the Emperor's swindlers, many prey on the well-intentioned and desperate with imaginary promises of ES cell cures. It’s time we face the truth about the bogus embryonic stem cell story we’ve been sold, and focus precious resources on adult stem cell and cord blood treatments that work.

Jean Swenson is a quadriplegic from a 1980 spinal cord injury. For over twenty years she has been following and supporting spinal cord injury cure research. You may contact her at jswenson -at- usfamily.net .
 

Disagreeable

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Obviously you can't expect to be taken seriously if you don't put your sources out there. But that's ok; we all know you don't have any real sources.

In the real world, the medical community is using stem cells in research and have some very exciting results. The American public thinks we should use stem cells in research. Republicans are leading the charge here in the US for government funded research on stem cells, Cal. Will Bush have the guts to veto such a bill when it lands on his desk?
 

Steve

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In the real world, the medical community is using stem cells in research and have some very exciting results.

Can you name one thing they have actually cured with this "exciting results"

it is easy to say thier is hope on the horizon, or this looks promising, but many (including disagreeable) use them as a way to back a factless claim.

hears one example;



Stem cell treatment eases Parkinson's symptoms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Researchers used embryonic stem cells to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease, demonstrating the cells can be turned into neurons that make dopamine, a key brain chemical.

but what they really are saying is that a rat treated with a poison to mimic a symtom of parkinsons were shown to have a noticable change in behavior, not a real medically noticable health improvement...They just stopped turning aimlessly in thier cage, and the tumor issue needed to be resolved. Yet the head line all but promised "Stem cell treatment eases Parkinson's symptoms". no it just stopped a rat from turning aimlessly in a cage, and some died from tumors?


In the current study, researchers first developed rats that had Parkinson's disease symptoms by injecting into their brains a toxin that killed neurons.

But she noted that five of the 19 animals used in the study also developed tumors and cautioned that this was a problem that must be solved before the technique could be used on humans.


oh yea heres you sign, I mean link,,

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2002-01-07-parkinsons.htm
 

Brad S

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Wasn't there some valuable syphilous experimentation done using stem cells (among other cells) ? You may recall the experiment as "The Tuskeege Experiment." I'm not sure how that worked out because I refuse to learn from history.
 

Sierraman

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Another thing that "they" never say is that adult stem cells (which can be taken without injury or death as embryonic ones do) cure most to all of what embryonic stem cells do anyway, and cure is used loosely here. It can grow into cells to build some bbody parts. Some scientists like the idea of embryonic stem cells because those stem cells can grow into any kind of body cell. They think they're playing creator.

Reminds me of a joke. A scientist said to God, "God, I think I have your Creation figured out. I want to prove it. I'll meet you in the garden tomorrow."
God frowned, but agreed to let the scientist demomstrate. "Okay, see you there. How are you going to prove that to me?"
"I will build man."
"Let's make it a contest."
"Okay, deal."
The next day, they both showed up at the garden.
The scientist, with a big pile of dirt in front of him and God with nothing.
As they begin, God sees that the scientist is molding the dirt, and asks, "What are you doing?"
"I'm building man."
God smiles and says," That's my dirt. Make your own."
 

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