Michael Fumento
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 Pres. 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.

In the detailed attachment to their letter, the Science magazine writers aren’t just at odds with Prentice but the medical community as a whole. For example, regarding sickle cell anemia, they claim “adult stem cell transplants from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood can provide some benefit to sickle cell patients” and “hold the potential to treat sickle cell anemia.” “Some benefit” and “potential?”


Michael Fumento

Michael Fumento is a, journalist, and attorney specializing in science and health issues as well as author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World .

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