Stem cell dam broken?

Stem cell dam broken?

Summary: Are approvals of stem cells now just benefitting our global competitors? Will President Obama formally change course? And do these therapies work?

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TOPICS: Health
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From Geron video

  News that Geron Corp. can move to human trials of its paralysis treatment based on embryonic stem cells sent the stock skyrocketing today and led some to believe the war over stem cells is over.

Some analysts are quick to note that President Obama has not yet lifted the Bush Administration bans on most stem cell research.  But stock touts are now bullish on the sector.

Geron's work was actually ready for trial in 2005, and CEO Thomas Okarma has stated in a video that a lot of efforts have been stopped over the years. But that's only in the U.S. -- many patents have already been issued for use of stem cells in East Asia.

The actual impact of the therapy on the body is unknown. Its goal is to have the body produce myelin, the "insulation" around nerves that allows them to become useful. But all the company has said that in rats it worked better than a placebo.

But opponents are not going away. And the Geron approval doesn't directly address the Bush bans on use of stem cells, since the work was done with cells created before the ban took effect.

So advocates still have hurdles to cross. Are approvals of stem cells now just benefitting our global competitors? Will President Obama formally change course? And do these therapies work?

Topic: Health

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27 comments
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  • They delayed progress for 8 years and in 5 we will have cures

    I hope every single person who was against stem cell reasearch for religious reasons is in a car wreck and is severly disabled.

    Those who are scientifically opposed, i disagree with you. I realize there should be ethics involved but as long as those ethics were not violated during the process of obtaining the stem cells by the researchers themselves, there should be no issue.

    As for those who dont think it will work. They said the same thing about many things that now work. Let the method work.
    Been_Done_Before
    • hope things go well for you ...

      First of all, I hope that things go well for you, and you can find some real
      happiness.

      Second, it's about the <em>embryonic</aem> stem cell research, not
      stem cell research that avoids killing an innocent individual.
      boblozano
    • There has been no delay in progress.

      There has been no delay in progress. Adult (and other non-embryonic sources) stem cell research has been successful in advancing treatments for many diseases.

      http://www.stemcellresearch.org/facts/asc-refs.pdf
      CobraA1
      • Point of Fact

        Point of fact, it's my understanding that the only treatments available from stem cell research center on adult stem cells.
        doting.daddy
    • WWII Nazi, barbaric, science led to many advances in modern Medicine.

      Do the lives saved everyday from thier research, makes it right to have tortured and murdered all those innocents? Children ripped from thier parents arms, traumatized, tortured, and murdered so I may live, just a little bit longer?

      Every person reading this is going to die some day.

      Either there will, or won't, some kind of higher power. If none exists, and we just blink out to nothingness. Then nothing we do matters. And the 80%+ of the human beings who oppose terminating "Human" embryos for personal gain, are just kooks.
      BTW(That's a lot of "severly disabled" people.)

      But what if the religious nutz are right, and life/soul does begin at fertilization?

      What will we say in our defense?

      PS: If the kooks are right, you probably don't stand much of a chance anyway. So go ahead "severly disable" and kill as many as it takes to make you happy. In the grand scheme, it's a small matter.
      invmgr
    • WOW!

      What a jag!

      For your information, people aren't opposed to "stem cell research". What people are opposed to is 'embryonic' stem cell research.

      That's where babies are killed and used for science.

      And for the record, there's been 60+ or 70+ different successes with non-embryonic stem cells and ZERO with embryonic stem cells.
      t0mmyt
  • How about a little intellectual honesty here?

    I don't know anyone who is against stem cell research -
    literally no one, including researchers, politicos, and yes,
    even those dreaded *religious people* ...

    Yet I know plenty who are against dehumanizing a unique
    person via name-calling, poorly reasoned rhetoric, and
    (often) simply volume.

    Of course, as we have proven zillions of times throughout
    history, dehumanizing a group is the most effective way to
    gain mass acquiescence towards treating that same group
    as we wish - be it abusing, exploiting, or even killing
    them.

    So pick your term - slave, non-Aryan of some sort, or now
    the more current "embryo" or "fetus"- then do as you
    please.

    What people who understand object to with EMBRYONIC
    stem cell research is the killing of a unique, innocent
    individual for the benefit of another.

    Can that really be so hard to understand?
    boblozano
    • Eggs are not chickens

      I don't think I can put it any more clearly than
      that. Given the nature of this blog I won't.

      We're supposed to be discussing technology.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Genetically, they are.

        They're not monkeys, they're not rabbits, they're not cows. Genetically, they are chickens.

        I don't think I can put it any more clearly than
        that. Given the nature of this blog I won't.
        CobraA1
        • Ironic...

          ...that you are using science as the basis for a religious belief. A chicken must LEARN to be a chicken-- it doesn't come pre-programmed with teh knowledge of what to eat for sustinance-- it must learn these things by a number of methods. Same with humans-- an embryo doesn't have a heartbeat nor a brain, and is therefore equivalent to a person who has been placed in a vegetative state.

          If you think that's living, try caring for one and you'll see really quick how one wouldn't consider that "alive."
          kckn4fun
          • Did I mention religion?

            "Ironic...
            ...that you are using science as the basis for a religious belief."

            Interesting that you are attempting to insert religion into this discussion.

            "A chicken must LEARN to be a chicken"

            Irrelevant.

            "Same with humans-- an embryo doesn't have a heartbeat nor a brain, and is therefore equivalent to a person who has been placed in a vegetative state."

            False.

            Assuming a human embryo:

            -An embryo is an early stage of development of a human, while a vegetative state is usually caused by extreme damage to the brain. They are not comparable.

            -If allowed to continue, an embryo has a very good chance of further development and the human is likely to live a normal life. If allowed to continue, a human in a vegetative state has slim odds of coming out of it and living a normal life. These are very different outcomes for what you are claiming to be "equivalent."

            -The circulatory system begins to develop within the first 10 days after fertilization. The heart & major blood vessels begin to form in about 17 days It would be extremely difficult for it to become very large if the circulatory system did not develop at a very early stage.

            -The central nervous system begins to develop within the first month. Most sources I'm reading say in about 2-3 weeks.

            -By the technical, scientific definition, it is considered alive.

            -Genetically, a human embryo is is human.

            "If you think that's living, try caring for one and you'll see really quick how one wouldn't consider that 'alive.'"

            What I see or do not see in a person in a vegetative state is totally irrelevant to an embryo, as they are not comparable.

            Especially since if I were to care for an embryo, it would eventually be born and very much alive by any measure!

            That is a far different outcome than caring for a person in a vegetative state!

            Considering that the outcome of an embryo is very different from the outcome of a human in a vegetative state, I find your "try caring for one" argument to be totally silly.
            CobraA1
  • I don't even see why this should be a cotroversy.

    You can get embryonic stem cells from umbilical cord fluid and other sources, and scientists have coaxed adult stem cells to differentiate.

    The truth is, this controversy shouldn't even exist. There are plenty of totally ethical ways to get stem cells. The whole idea that we need to get them from a controversial source is absurd.

    I totally support stem cell research from the non-controversial sources. Totally. This is not going to affect real, operational science at all.

    In fact, adult stem cell research offers something embryonic stem cell research does not: Treatments using the person's own stem cells have no rejection of tissue. This means treatment is much cheaper because the patients do not have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.

    Embryonic cells really have little advantage to other sources of cells. The only reason why researchers want them at all is because they don't want to go to all of the hassle of also researching how to make adult stem cells differentiate. It's a shortcut for those who are impatient.

    Controversy also makes good headline news, which is why it's covered so much in the news.
    CobraA1
    • Yup ...

      ... Well spoken - thank you.
      boblozano
    • What scientists say...

      ...is that the ability of these other types of
      stem cells to be used is unknown, while the
      ability to harvest eggs and get useful stem
      cells is known.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Not unknown.

        Advances in the field has made this unknown a lot less unknown than what the media claimed many years back. A lot can happen in a few years.

        http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/285/5/545

        If you want, go ahead and read up on all of the research that has been done recently:

        http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/search?fulltext=stem+cell&quicksearch_submit.x=0&quicksearch_submit.y=0

        The New England Journal of Medicine also appears to have many results, although it requires a paid subscription:

        http://search.nejm.org/search?w=stem+cell&search=SEARCH
        CobraA1
  • This study only hopes to catch up to adult stem cells

    ?All Geron Corp. has done is turn all their embryonic stem
    cells into mature nerve cells (which is a big ?so what??
    given that we can get such nerve cells by far simpler
    means) then inject that bunch of ordinary nerve cells, and
    hope like hell that there is not a single embryonic stem cell
    left in the mix. If there is, Geron is putting the patient at
    risk of a tumor on the spine."
    - Dr. David van Gend, national director of Australians for
    Ethical Stem Cell Research

    (Dr. van Gend also said that he sees nothing
    groundbreaking in the use of riskier, embryo-derived cells,
    when adult stem cells have already been shown effective at
    healing spinal injuries).


    boblozano
    • Dr. van Gend is a family doctor

      Dr. van Gend is not an expert on medical
      research. He's a family doctor. Here are some of
      his columns http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/author.asp?
      id=2053

      In Australia he is best known as a conservative
      political activist. http://www.stemcellresearch.org/

      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Which is far more an expert than the news anchor on TV!

        "Dr. van Gend is not an expert on medical
        research."

        Anybody graduating from college should know how to perform research. Especially anybody with a PhD. Especially in the medical field. He's no less of an "expert on medical research" than any other doctor.

        He's more of an expert on medical research than the news anchor on any news broadcast, that's for sure!

        "In Australia he is best known as a conservative
        political activist."

        Cool. What, something wrong with being a conservative activist? I'm not smelling political bias, am I?
        CobraA1
        • Smelling political bias?

          No, you're smelling the legitimate suspicion of a politically-motivated agenda from an activist. The past 8 years of wish- and agenda-based political and scientific decisions in the US are a good indicator that skepticism of anything coming from a source known to hold and act on activist beliefs is a wise decision.
          ignatz_z
          • Be careful, however.

            Be careful, however. While a politically biased source may be more suspicious, that does not immediately mean the source is wrong, incorrect, or invalid.

            It means more research should be done - it does not mean everything should be thrown out, lest one commit the genetic fallacy.

            Rather than complaining about the source, a better response is to provide more information on the topic.
            CobraA1