An anonymous reader has noted that when I complained about CBS’ touting of destructive stem cell research, the example that I gave involved the use of patient’s own stem cells. These cells would not treat Batten disease, which is a inborn error of metabolism. This type of disease is a genetic defect in the metabolism of those born with the disease. The children either do not have or have a defective gene that guides the formation of a certain protein, enzyme or groups of proteins and enzymes. In these cases, it’s true that the patient’s own cells would have the same problem and could not correct the defect.
However, the point was not the particular disease, but the fact that CBS had run two programs promoting destructive, embryonic stem cells in a very short time. There had been no balance in reporting the treatments we already have from non-destructive umbilical cord and autologous stem cells. I was suggesting that their audience would be interested in some of the ethical stem cell trials. (Actually, I was suggesting that the reporters were showing disregard or bias against the non-destructive, adult and embryonic stem cell treatments in their zeal for the results of the intentional and interventional destruction of very young human life.)
On the subject of Batten disease, there is a Phase III (three) trial ongoing under government funding which is recruiting children with Batten disease. The grant protocol states the intention to treat with a hemopoietic – or bone marrow or, most probably, cord blood – stem cells. There are other genetic metabolic defects which have been treated with cord blood stem cells, including Krabbe’s disease and Hurler’s syndrome. And yet, CBS has not done a show with Paul Orchard, M.D. or any of the other doctors and scientists doing research on ethical stem cells. A great story could cover Walter Low, Ph.D., who has announced that his team has found a new type of stem cell in umbilical cord blood that has promise for treating nerve diseases.
In contrast, the particular program I was discussing reported on a study utilizing “fetal” stem cells, which can only be harvested from aborted children or, possibly, miscarriages. The company doing the study is not telling us exactly where they got their cells, just noting that they do not come from embryos. These aren’t the cells derived from umbilical cord or placental tissue like those above, which are correctly designated “fetal tissues.” The University of Oregon press release announcing the government’s okay for the trial describes how they are obtained:
Neural stem cells, a rare subset of brain cells, are isolated from the human fetal brain, purified, propagated, and tested; they are then frozen in cell banks from which HuCNS-SC doses can be prepared.