Adult Stem Cell Therapy Blog

Stem Cells — A Changed Personal Course

Thursday, June 08, 2006 - Stem Cell Guru

The Seoul Times today carries an article written by James Kelly, Director of the Cures 1st Foundation, Inc. in the US. As a paralyzed American research advocate, Director Kelly promotes practical research for the sake of treatments and cures. Mr. Kelly has testified on cloning before committees in America's Congress, in debate with actor Christopher Reeve, and most recently on CNN International.

The article covers the arguments for and against adult stem cell research and 'advantages' of embryonic stem cells over adult stem cells. Are these advantages real or merely perceived to be real by the media?

"Do adult stem cells have advantages over human embryonic stem cells?" Michael Cook of MercatorNet asked James Sherley, an associate professor of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"The main advantage is that adult stem cells are already programmed to function in adult tissues and organs." Sherley answered. "In addition, they do not form tumors when transplanted from one person to another."

By "programmed" Sherley refers to the turning "on" or "off" of genes within cells – how the genetic code is "expressed." Humans keep the same genetic code throughout life, but the way that code is expressed in the embryo differs sharply from the fetus, which in turn differs from adult (postnatal) genetic expression. This little-known point has immense relevance to stem cell basic research and clinical applications, but such details seldom reach the public.

In a talk entitled "Hype, Hope and Hair-raising: How the British press saw it," former Science Editor Tim Radford of the UK's The Guardian recently acknowledged that he and his fellow science journalists hype stem cell research to sell more newspapers.

One Washington-based science reporter, an avowed atheist, often writes that embryonic stem (ES) cells "can become every cell in the body." But he fails to mention that nine months of fetal development in the fetus are needed to do this. Nor does he report that ES cells matured in vitro (in a petri dish) tend to be genetically unstable and often function abnormally.

ES cell research is promoted primarily for two uses – to provide replacement cells for cell-based medicine, and to act as research tools for studying disease. It would be foolish to claim that embryonic stem cells cannot have medical or research uses. However, for the sake of those whose hopes for health depend on science, these issues are not about possibility, they're about clinical practicality.

In 2002 Kelly's support for ES cell research changed to opposition when he considered its practical worth. To read about why he had a dramatic change of heart, read the full article here.


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