Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hope vs Hype [Serge]

The score for embryonic vs adult stem cell treatments remains at 73 to zero. There has not been one human trial for ESCR. However, this does not prevent supporters from making non-scientific claims about the future. It is important to take a look at their track records.

Marcia Baum, executive director of the Michigan Citizens for false information Stem Cell Research and Cures [sic] is arguing that the recent news that we have produced pluripotent cells from mouse fibroblasts should not stop us from killing human embryos. Lets take a look at this claim she makes from an editorial in the Lansing State Journal a few months ago:

We have taken many steps already with human embryonic stem cells - in fact tests aimed at overcoming spinal injuries and treating some forms of diabetes are slated to start soon. It is senseless to delay this research while waiting to see if the mouse stem cell discovery is really the breakthrough some are now predicting.
Sounds promising, until someone actually checks out the claims.

First, the most promising ESCR treatments for juvenile diabetes were promoted by a company caled ES Cell international from Singapore. In fact, their latest info for potential investors lists February 2008 as a goal for human trials. Once again, this sounds good, as long as you overlook this bit of news:

EMBRYONIC stem cell research has suffered a major blow with a major Singaporean-Australian company abandoning work on therapies due to lack of success and soaring costs.
But the current issue of the leading international journal Science reports ESI is "halting work on human embryonic stem cell therapies" as investors had lost interest because "the likelihood of having products in the clinic in the short term was vanishingly small", according to stem cell pioneer Alan Colman, who until last month was ESI's chief executive.
So much for those trials. Do you think ESI was overhyping the potential for human trials for the sake of new investment?

Well, there is still her claim that human trials will begin soon for spinal cord repair. In fact, it is true that Geron corporation has announced that they should begin human trials by 2008.

However, if the story of ESI doesn't make you a bit skeptical, this information from Wesley Smith should. Geron has made the same claim in 2005, 2006, and 2007. In fact, the book Liberation Biology by Ronald Bailey states that trials should begin in 2005.

It seems that the media remains content to publish the unsubstantiated dreams of ESCR researchers. Eventually they are going to have to come up with some real evidence to support their claims. Until that time, there is always next year.

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