Human Exceptionalism

Stem Cell Hype Being Reported–Finally

For the last ten years, “the scientists,” in order to win the political debates over ESCR and SCNT, often wildly hyped the potential for CURES! CURES! CURES! In the process, they convinced Californians–now facing a $16 billion budget deficit and tens of billions in bond debt–to borrow $300 million every year to pay for human cloning and ESC research. States vied with each other in an Oklahoma land race type scramble to throw money at Big Biotech. The focus of the media became obsessed with overturning President Bush’s ESCR funding policy, to the point that it committed serial journalistic malpractice with biased reporting and a news blockade on non embryonic stem cell successes.

Well, those CURES! have not even appeared as distant silhouettes on the horizon yet, and finally, a few in the media are beginning to notice. From a story in The Scotsman:

STEM cell research, we have long been told, should pave the way for revolutionary new treatments to help millions of patients around the world. Yet despite the years of study and debate about the potential, therapies have been slow to materialise.

Even the head of the UK National Stem Cell Network has now conceded that stem cell research may never deliver new treatments. Given the ethical controversy about the research–particularly the use of animal-human hybrid embryos–some have questioned whether it is worth pursuing the research any further without proof that it will actually benefit human health…
Lord Patel of Dunkeld, chairman of the UK National Stem Cell Network and chancellor of Dundee University, said the current signs were that research involving stem cells would lead to therapies for patients. But he said there was also a chance such treatments could prove too risky for human use.

Speaking to The Scotsman, Lord Patel said it could be five to ten years before stem cell treatments were widely available, with trials starting shortly in the UK and US. “But we have to be cautious,” he said. “It may not deliver therapy for anything. We may find that stem therapy is quite a risky business.

“We had a lot of hype about gene therapy, and while we still use it in some cases it did not deliver the great promise we thought it would because of the side-effects. But the promise just now is great and we must continue with the stem cell science.”

Whether actual human trials with ESCs will happen remains to be seen–Geron has been claiming trials will come next year for at least the last four. But this much is clear: By hyping the potential, the politicized science sector mislead people to win a political debate, and in the process reduced science to just another special interest spinning and obfuscating to get a greater share of gruel in the public trough.