I was able to attend the “Understanding Stem Cells: Science and Policy” lecture at the Koshland Science Museum, the museum of the National Academies of Sciences, in Washington, DC last week where I heard Jonathan Moreno, PhD, – the ethicist who works for and advances the American Center for Progress and Dr. John Gearhart, Director of Stem Cell Biology at Johns Hopkins University.
The focus of the talk was the need for US tax money for embryonic stem cell research and the downfall of the Bush policy – with just enough mocking of the President himself to make everyone feel at home with the two men.
While Dr. Gearhart takes some of the responsibility for the publishing of the papers on cloning written by the veterinarian from South Korea, Hwang Wu Suk, he was very disparaging of his colleague, Dr. Anthony Atala.
He told the audience that Atala’s work on amniotic fluid cells was published in a “Secondary journal.” that he couldn’t recall. That journal was Nature Biotechnology, last January, 2007. Read Nature Biotechnology’s press release on the article, here. The abstract is here. (the article itself is behind a pay wall.)
He also questioned the “rigor” with which the research was done, saying that the technique was poor and that no one could tell where those cells had originated from.
Gearhart and Moreno were vocal about the timing of the publication, since it coincided with the last vote on embryonic stem cells and cloning in the US Congress. Nevermind that the lead time on published articles is months.
However, Gearhart’s most worrisome comment came in front of a small group, when he was answering questions after the talk. In order to support his contention that the publication of the article on “embryo-like” cells lacked “rigor,” Gearhart said, “We put pressure on him to write Pelosi,” to say that all stem cell research needs to be followed.
We heard rumors that this had happened, but this is the first time I’ve heard or read one of the major players in the politics of destructive embryonic stem cell research confirm his part.