Another Stem Cell Disinformation Alert

June 26, 2008

The promoters of embryonic stem cell enterprises continue to tout soon to come “breakthroughs” accompanied by supine media coverage and inaccurate statements by “the scientists” who twist and distort scientific definitions to win a political debate. Such spin in the name of science, actually corrupts science.

Latest example: Another company is claiming that “next year” it will start human ESC trials. From a column by Orange County Register “biomedical innovation” columnist Colin Stewart, who has apparently drunk the Kool-Aid. First there is his cruelly hyped headline: “ALS patients could get help from stem cells next year:” From his column:

A tiny start-up company in Irvine has a shot at becoming the first to gain federal approval to test an embryonic stem cell treatment in humans. Two degenerative nerve diseases are the first targets for California Stem Cell Inc.’s therapies. They are ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which kills adults, and SMA, a fatal disease affecting newborns. The company hopes to win Food and Drug Administration approval to begin clinical trials next year for both sets of patients.

Geron has been making the same “next year, human trials” claim for years. Yet, the FDA does not appear close to approving human trials.

And here comes the usual junk biology:

Those stem cells originated from newly fertilized eggs that were discarded by a fertility clinic after the egg donors no longer needed or wanted them, said Chris N. Airriess, the company’s chief operating officer.

Sigh. They aren’t fertilized eggs, they are embryos, and the “egg donors” may not even be the embryo donors since they–embryos–are donated by those who paid to have them created, not the woman whose eggs may have been used.

Of course, the real point of this story is to garner investments. Which is why it was touted by a business columnist. And only time will tell whether the touted trials will actually begin. But after all the years of such “next year” announcements, count me as dubious.

Oh yes, it is worth noting that early human trials have already begun using adult stem cells to treat ALS.

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