Ho's story is anecdotal, but it's but one of many apparent and real successes of late to come from adult and umbilical cord stem cell research -- the kind that is free of the heavy and culture-redefining ethical baggage that comes with embryonic stem cell research and cloning.
At London's Imperial College, scientists have taken stem cells from the bone marrow of patients to repair their livers. And although a postage stamp in South Korea honors Dr. Hwang with an image of a paraplegic getting out of his wheelchair, a South Korean doctor at Chosun University is credited with actually getting a 19-year paraplegic out of her wheelchair through the use of an umbilical cord blood stem cell therapy. Again, the success of this procedure is anecdotal, but the successes pile up. According to New York Blood Center's National Cord Blood Program, more than 65 diseases have been helped with stem cells from umbilical cord blood. Why aren't these the subjects of extensive media stories and congressional hearings and big-name celebrity endorsements?
When former President Ronald Reagan died in 2004, it was a rare reporter who questioned the Alzheimer's embryonic stem cell research hype that accompanied his passing. Ron Reagan, the late president's son, claimed at the Democratic convention that a mere change in administrations in the White House could usher in the "future of medicine" -- and with it cures for a myriad of diseases within 10 years or so.
Sound too could to be true? Well, maybe. He has no idea. It's all prospective when it comes to embryonic stem cell research and cloning. In The Washington Post, one of the few honest reporters on the stem cell beat noted: "the infrequently voiced reality, stem cell experts confess, is that, of all the diseases that may someday be cured by embryonic stem cell treatments, Alzheimer's is among the least likely to benefit." But instead of more scientific reality checks, the rest of the election year brought more hype than real help.
The same media that, not long ago, hailed Hwang Woo-suk for what has now proved to be science fiction should take this post-Hwang period as a second chance at reporting on stem cell research and cloning. Reporters ought to try this time really reporting the lay of the land, including the working, ethical research out there just waiting for a little deserved hype.