Adult Stem Cells > Embryonic - Media and Scientific Journals have Misled Public
By Gailon Totheroh, CBN News, March 28, 2007
Passing a bill to allocate more money for stem cell research is again on the table at the U.S. Congress. But itís not about just any sort of stem cells; itís about stem cells from human embryos
Embryonic stem cells have yet to provide proven human benefit, so many critics doubt the research needs fewer restrictions or more funding.
But many people think a bill that is pro embryonic stem cell research could help to provide a cure for your uncleís diabetes, sisterís Parkinsonís disease, or your motherís Alzheimerís disease.
Nigel Cameron, an expert on emerging medical technologies, said, "They have the idea that stem cells are miracle cures and if only we were able to work on them, we would cure incredible diseases in the next year or two's time."
Cameron says that people think the answer can be found with stem cells derived from destroyed human embryos.
But more and more evidence is proving that the only human success stories involving stem cells come from the ďadult stem cellĒ category; from sources such as umbilical cord blood.
Umbilical cord stem cells have been turned into pancreas cells for possible diabetic treatments by Colin McGuckin and his team at the University of Newcastle in England.
"Twenty years ago," said McGuckin, "the first umbilical cord blood transplant took place -- and was actually treating people with serious diseases like leukemia. Today, we've actually got over 75 diseases and conditions which are treatable using cord blood stem cells."
McGuckin and his team are also leading the way in making cord blood cells into other specific human cells.
He said, "We can make liver from cord blood stem cells, but it's not really large enough to transplant into real people. But what we can do is produce small blocks of liver tissue on which we can test drugs."
Side effects can be apparent in humans even after a treatment works without incident in mice, so the tissue for drug testing is a great benefit.
Another benefit: just a small amount of liver tissue can possibly save a life if for instance, you child gets into the medicine cabinet and overdoses on drugs like Tylenol which can cause liver damage.
"The second main advance we're trying to make is developing a sort of mini-liver that we could dialyze the blood of children who've taken an overdose of household drugs," said McGuckin, "and it would instantly double the size of their liver in removing those toxins from their blood."
Blood would flow through an external human liver and provide a sort of organic kidney dialysis since it wouldnít require a machine.
But using a childís own saved cord blood is now delivering results. Last summer, cerebral palsy was reversed in a young boy named Ryan. With his brain affliction now remedied, he can now talk, eat, and play like other children his age.
How about heart failure? In the case of a woman named Mary, her cardiac health improved dramatically when stem cells from her blood, as opposed to umbilical cord cells, were processed and injected into her heart.
Results like this are becoming more common says policy analyst and scientist David Prentice.
Prentice said, "One way to measure it is -- how many different diseases have you already seen some results with, in human patients? And if you look at it, the score is at least 72 to zero -- adult has 72, embryonic has zero."
But the most versatile and best treatment may eventually come from embryonic stem cells someday argue some scientists.
To that Cameron says, "I certainly wouldn't say embryo stem cells will never cure anybody. Certainly what seems to be the case is that it will take a long time before we know whether they will cure people. And the question, of course -- which is the ethical question -- is how you get the embryo stem cells?"
Billions of tax dollars are being invested in embryonic stem cell technology by states like Missouri and California despite all the doubts.
Money is such great amounts can lure scientists towards the research despite any issues or beliefs they may have.
"There's unfortunately an economic factor involved -- the embryonic stem cell lines -- the dishes of cells -- can be and even have been patented," Prentice said. "That there's licensing and royalty fees -- there's a competition for limited research dollars."
Scientific journal editors provide another hurdle says McGuckin. Many have recent adult stem cell focused research because they favor embryonic research.
"Some journals have really started to polarize themselves towards promoting one aspect of medical research rather than others," McGuckin said. "I think this is a sad direction of peer review in scientific and medical research."
Cameron says that the media has misled the public and skewed reality, giving embryonic stem cells some sort of pseudo-glamorous image. The underlying problem is the public confusion.
"Whenever you see a report of stem cells curing anybody, you can be absolutely 100-percent certain that these are so-called adult stem cells; they're not stem cells from embryos," Cameron explained.
Prentice said, "What becomes very clear, though, is that hope is distant, at best, with embryonic stem cells."