Government-Propogated Stem Cell Obfuscation

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

You know, I generally like the HealthFinder.gov web site as a decent roundup of recent studies and information. I don't, however, like it when this government-maintained web site propogates the unnecessary and agenda-driven obfuscation of the stem-cell issue:

TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- What had once seemed a giant leap for science has turned out to be not even the smallest of steps -- for now.

Seoul National University's announcement Tuesday that all of Dr. Hwang Woo-suk's apparently groundbreaking research in human stem cells was faked closes a bitter chapter in the quest to find more and better remedies for human illnesses.

Hwang's only legitimate claim is having cloned the world's first dog, Snuppy.

For those who have pinned their professional and personal hopes on stem cells, the shocking disclosure means this area of research is headed back to square one.

"We're back to the beginning in terms of trying to achieve somatic cell nuclear transfer," said Dr. Susan Okie, a contributing editor with the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the uninitiated, "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT) is the technical term otherwise known as "therapeutic cloning" - in other words, embryonic stem cell research. The article, however, makes no mention of the differentiation of types of stem cells, nor that adult stem cell research has already delievered many bona fide treatments and therapies (as of July 2005, the stem-cell scorecard reads: Adult 65, Embryonic 0).

The article's out-of-context doom-and-gloom continues:

Research is being reset to "where we were before, where using somatic cell nuclear transfer to derive stem cells is only a theoretical possibility," added David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethnics. "We're hopeful, but whether it's possible and how long it's going to take is something that is now a complete unknown. This really is a setback in a lot of ways."

The setback is not a death knell for the field, however, experts predicted.

"I think these kinds of experiments will succeed," said Dr. Darwin Prockop, director of the Center for Gene Therapy at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. "They will eventually succeed, and perhaps sometime soon."

While SCNT researchers remain "hopeful" that "these kinds of experiments... will eventually succeed", adult and cord-blood stem-cell therapies already succeed, and without the ethical implications or thus-far false hope of embryonic stem cell research:

Leading proponents of research on embryonic stem cells are themselves lowering expectations that dramatic cures to diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s are just around the corner. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that Lord Winston, the most prominent embryonic-stem-cell researcher in the United Kingdom, said that hopes for cures had been distorted by arrogance and spin.

“I view the current wave of optimism about embryonic stem cells with growing suspicion,” Winston told the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Similarly, South Korean cloning expert Curie Ahn now warns that scientists won’t be able to develop cures from embryonic stem cells for three to five more decades. In experiment after experiment, scientists are learning that embryonic stem cells are too carcinogenic or “wild” for therapeutic purposes.

Back to the article, more mis-information:

The damage to the public's perception of stem cell research is likely to linger, Prokop added: "Every time you say stem cell for a while, people will think 'fraud.'"

Nevertheless, stem cell research with the potential for real breakthroughs continues...

The article's one "more information" source link is to the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), hardly an unbiased source, as ISSCR are ardent supporters of embryonic stem cell research, and their FAQ discounts adult stem cell research as well as the already proven therapies from adult stem cell research.

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