Human Exceptionalism

Skin Cells May Become Stem Cells Says Washington Post

This piece is another of many recent research advances demonstrating the astonishing potential of adult stem cells. This story describes how skin cells have been reverted to embryonic-like stem cells. The potential consequence is that cloned embryos might not be needed to obtain the treatment benefits that the proponents of therapeutic cloning have claimed that procedure could provide. (The process would involve fusing an embryonic stem cell, like those already approved for federal funding by Pres. Bush, with the patient’s own skin cell.)

Good for the Washington Post for printing it, and for Rick Weiss, the Post science reporter for reporting it. Weiss is pro therapeutic cloning and has implied that opponents of these technologies are Taliban. But he is also a good journalist. For example, when President Ronald Reagan died, some biotech boosters used the event to push embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning as a way of helping cure people with Alzheimer’s. They still do. But Weiss was the only mainstream reporter and the Post the only major outlet of which I am aware to report that stem cells are very unlikely to be a viable treatment for Alzheimer’s. When asked why biotechnologists were permitting Alzheimer’s victims and their families to believe an untruth that ES cells offered them hope, Weiss quoted one as stating cynically that “people need a fairy tale.” So much for compassion.

Most establishment media outlets continue to underreport adult stem cell successes. And they usually continue to list Alzheimer’s as one of the diseases that may be cured by cloning or ES cell research. But these two Post stories are pleasant exceptions.