Human Exceptionalism

Embryonic Stem Cell News and Inaccuracies

This story on Fox News, about the discussions at a stem cell conference is interesting–and typically, mostly inaccurate. First, the Japanese scientist who reverted skin cells to embryonic stem cells–a perfectly ethical procedure–also reported that they cause tumors in mice, just as do embryonic stem cells derived from embryos. Could it be that the immaturity of these cells, mixed with their potential pluripotency, means that they have an intrinsic propensity to cause tumors except in their “normal” environment, that is, in the developing embryo? And is this problem intractable? Only time will tell.

Robert Lanza apparently repeated his lie that he can take a single cell from an early embryo and transform it into an ES cell. It has been proven that he hasn’t done that yet, and still the media treat him as a credible source. (See also this story in the Washington Post, in which a non embryonic stem cell advance is treated as a potential embryonic stem cell advance, about which I also posted.) This can only be because they desperately want him to be credible.

Finally, the discussion of the “embryo” that can’t implant, is a botched description of the Altered Nuclear Transfer (ANT) procedure. But the point of ANT is not to make an embryo that can’t implant, it is to create a cell system that is never an embryo in the first place. Indeed, Bill Hurlbut, my friend who is the primary proponent of ANT, does not and would not support the creation of such “disabled” embryos.

I never cease to be amazed at how bad most media reporting is about the stem cell debate.

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