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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Embryonic Stem Cells Cheered Better Adult Ignored



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This has been a pattern for more than a decade in the media. Success after success in adult stem cell research receives scant press attention. In humans

Then, an animal embryonic stem cell success in the same field happens and the media turn summersaults.

Latest example, in heart regenerative medicine. From the Business Insider story with hyperbolic headline, “Scientists May Have Found a Cure for Heart Failure:”

A cure for heart failure could be just a few years away after scientists successfully regenerated the damaged hearts of primates using human stem cells. The breakthrough, which was hailed as ‘very significant’ by British experts, will be tested on humans within four years. If successful it would mean that even people who are bed-bound with heart failure could be “up and about” again within a few weeks.

Elsewhere, the experiment was called a “triumph” in headlines.

Then, the story makes a highly misleading claim:

Currently heart muscle cannot be repaired and people with severe heart failure must wait for a heart transplant. Wrong! Adult stem cells are rebuilding heart muscle in human trials.

But look, such treatments are already succeeding in rebuilding heart muscle (and potentially avoiding transplants) with ethical adult stem cells in human trials–not even mentioned in the media’s swoon over the ESCR experiment. From a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2014;311(1):62-73.):

Although our study was not powered for mortality outcomes, infarct size reductions are of a magnitude that might have the potential of a mortality benefit. Efficacy findings were detected in several clinical outcome measures, but definitive demonstration of the value of TESI remains for future trials, including in the sickest patients for whom cell therapy might answer an urgent unmet need.

This is still early human work, and more needs to be done. But adult stem cells are far ahead of anything embryonic. Yet, where are the headlines?

Answer: Too often–still–adult stem cell successes are the wrong kind of stem cells.

(See embed at top of post to see the incredible impact an early adult stem cell experiment–accompanied with bypass surgery–appears to have had on one human heart patient subject.)



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