Embryonic stem cell dreams
Last evening I was reading Hans Bricks‘s post, and came across Michael Cook’s article (a must-read) Eggs Over Easy? False Dawn for Stem Cell Cures. Cook lists four reasons why some scientists are predicting that therapeutic cloning will be obsolete:
I’d like to add another one:
When one expects that cloned embryonic stem cells would create viable cures, one expects this to not be a pie-in-the-sky premise in the first place. Up to now the Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs), present in the bone marrow and precursors to all blood cells, are currently the only type of stem cells commonly used for therapy. Other sources of stem cells are umbilical cord, placenta, bone marrow, adult and animal tissues. As you can read here it is not clear whether stem cells from adult tissues or umbilical cord blood are pluripotent, and there is no evidence that embryonic stem cells could lead to any cures.
In practical terms, when you look at the existing results so far, asking for billions of your tax dollars to be committed towards embryonic stem cell research as a way of creating cures is like asking for the goverment to commit billions of dollars towards researching time travel as a way to cure the aging process.
It all reminds me of Disneyworld’s TomorrowLand in the 1960s projecting what they thought the year 2000 would look like – flying cars and all. The year 2000 rolled in, and the cars aren’t flying (and thank G-d they aren’t!).