Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) receive tremendous media attention, with oft-repeated claims that they have the potential to cure virtually every disease known. Yet there are spoilsports, self included, who point out that they have yet to even make it into a human clinical trial. This is even as alternatives — adult stem cells (ASCs) from numerous places in the body as well as umbilical cord blood and placenta — are curing diseases here and now and have been doing so for decades. And that makes ESC advocates very, very angry.
How many diseases ASCs can treat or cure is debatable, with one website claiming almost 80 for umbilical-cord blood alone. Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council, using stricter standards of evidence, has constituted a list of 72 for all types of ASCs. But now three ESC advocates have directly challenged Prentice’s list. They’ve published a letter in Science magazine, released ahead of publication obviously to influence President Bush’s promise to veto legislation that would open wide the federal funding spigot for ESC research. The letter claims ASC “treatments fully tested in all required phases of clinical trials and approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration are available to treat only nine of the conditions” on his list.
Well! One answer to that is that it’s nine more than can be claimed for ESCs. Further, there are 1175 clinical trials for ASCs, including those no longer recruiting patients, with zero for ESCs. But a better response is that the letter authors come from the Kenneth Lay School for honesty, as do the editors at Science.
If it comes from a right-wing source, it's probably false. Here the lie's by omission, not that you couldn't smell this a mile away by the operative words, "Family Research Council."
Well, yes, there's no ESC treatments. Know why? Behold:
20. How many human embryonic stem cell lines are there?
The available number of human embryonic stem cell lines is a matter of some debate. To date, over 100 human embryonic stem cell lines have been derived worldwide. However, most of those lines are not adequately characterized yet. And only 22 cell lines are eligible for federal funding in the USA. Detailed information on those 22 cell lines can be found at the National Institutes of Health Human Stem Cell Registry at http://stemcells.nih.gov. Information on several of the other cell lines can be found at http://www.isscr.org/science/sclines.htm. - updated 09.17.04
The International Society for Stem Cell Research is doing real research, and conducting real bioethical work in this area.
Also, work on embryonic stem cells is in the very early stages of research.
Naturally, this was all left out of the "National Review" article, and it was quoted by many in the blogosphere, as well as Limbaugh.