Even as we learn that the journal, Stem Cell, has given its annual award to a researcher who showed that umbilical cord blood cells can help repair kidneys after trauma, that scientists have induced adult stem cells to go from the skin cell line to the line producing blood cells, a group of fanatics join together in the Stem Cell Action “coalition” to push for laws “protecting” Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research:
Ed Fallone, President of Wisconsin Stem Cell Now, Inc. said: ”Stem Cell Action will provide the supporters of medical research in this country with one unified voice and one unified message. This coalition will allow our organization to collaborate more effectively with similar national and state organizations, and it will create a central focal point for communicating with our elected representatives.
The Boston Globe, without even a nod to the earlier (November 11,2010) announcement, features an opinion piece in the Sunday (November 14, 2010) paper, “Uncertain future,” (free registration required) by a scientist that works at Harvard, David Scadden, MD. Dr. Scadden has successfully carried out work in adult stem cells, he outlines other successes, but he cries for the continuation of destructive research on human embryos in order to harvest embryonic stem cells.
Should we care? Does human ES cell research really matter, particularly now that we have the ability to make ES-like cells from any one of us by cellular re-programming? (Cellular reprogramming is a process by which mature cells can erase their mature status and revert to something like ES cells.)
Personally, I’ve invested my career in adult stem cells. Yet I regard embryonic stem cells as essential. They are a very distinct cell state, and studying them has unleashed a treasure trove of important information. If embryonic cells were not available for study, no one would have known how to begin to assess the possibility of cellular reprogramming, much less how to accomplish it. The notion that cells can be reprogrammed has rocked the firmament. It opens the door on thinking about cells as units that can be redirected in their function, not unlike components in microelectronics: highly adaptable to applications we can only begin to now imagine.
I’m sorry, but this is the party line: seemingly the mandatory talking points to be broadcast by those who are “unified” in favor in the stem cell/ bioethics community.