Human Exceptionalism

The Lame Walk! Ethical Stem Cell Research Successes Continue to Blaze

Two notable stories about ethical stem cell research. First, another announcement of how olfactory adult stem cells have aided paralyzed patients with spinal cord injury regain feeling–and even walkFrom the story:

The injuries in the study patients were 18 months to 15 years old. The patients, ages 19 to 37, had no use of their legs before the treatment. One paraplegic treated almost three years after the injury now ambulates with two crutches and knee braces. Ten other patients ambulate with physical assistance and walkers (with and without braces). One 31-year-old male tetriplegic patient uses a walker without the help of knee braces or physical assistance. When the stem cell transplant and scar removal process was combined with an advanced form of rehabilitative training that employs brain-initiated weight-bearing movement, 13 patients improved in the standard measures used to assess functional independence and walking capabilities.

Remember, these are still early studies and much terrain needs to be covered.  But can you imagine the headlines if this were an ESCR study?  Alas: Just as Dr. Carlos Lima’s earlier success was utterly ignored in this field, this advance appears to be  another case of “not the right kind of stem cell success to make news.” Indeed, paralyzed rat ESCR experiments get more press than these amazing human advances. (See my, “The Great Stem Cell Coverup,” from the Weekly Standard.)

And on the IPSC front, we find that the efficiency of the procedure is improving vastly.  From the story:

A team led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute has developed a method that dramatically improves the efficiency of creating stem cells from human adult tissue, without the use of embryonic cells. The research makes great strides in addressing a major practical challenge in the development of stem-cell-based medicine…

The new technique, which uses three small drug-like chemicals, is 200 times more efficient and twice as fast as conventional methods for transforming adult human cells into stem cells (in this case called “induced ” or “iPS cells”). “Both in terms of speed and efficiency, we achieved major improvements over conventional conditions,” said Scripps Research Associate Professor Sheng Ding, Ph.D., who led the study. “This is the first example in human cells of how reprogramming speed can be accelerated. I believe that the field will quickly adopt this method, accelerating iPS cell research significantly.”

All good news.  That’s fine, many brave new worlders will shrug. But we want to keep on cloning.

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