As Kathryn noted below, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a promising study today about a treatment for Type I diabetes that involved, among other innovative techniques, the use of adult stem cells. It’s a very small study, but the results are quite impressive, and they come just as the Senate debates a bill to eliminate some of the ethical bounds on embryonic stem cell research funding—a bill advanced in part on the notion that only embryonic stem cells could hold out hope for diabetics and others. Embryonic cells have not so far shown any actual clinical value for diabetes (or any other disease), but the ideology of “only embryonic cells could work” has taken deep hold. The juxtaposition of that ideology with today’s news was too much for even the Washington Post to resist, and in reporting on the Senate debate this morning the paper notes:
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who introduced the act with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), drew particular attention to a 12-year-old diabetic girl he recently met, who he said must inject herself with insulin 120 times a month. “If adult stem cells could provide a cure for juvenile diabetes, she’d gladly take it,” Harkin said, suggesting that only embryonic stem cells have the capacity to cure diabetes. In research to be published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists from Brazil and the United States showed that adult stem cells may indeed help cure diabetes.
The Post story also says of Harkin’s bill that “supporters say they have at least 66 votes” in the Senate. That would be just enough to override a Presidential veto (in the continuing absence of the ailing Senator Tim Johnson, 66 is two-thirds of a 99-member Senate). They may well have that many votes. But if I were a betting man, I’d bet on 65.