Human Exceptionalism

Wall Street Journal Reports ACT Hyped Research

Now the Wall Street Journal has reported that the ACT big stem cell breakthrough was nothing of the kind. There is no link, so here is an abridged version, with a few of my comments in bold:

“Controversy continues to build over a claim that biotechnology researchers produced stem cells without harming embryos, as outside scientists question whether a fundamental element of the reported experiment undercuts the central contention of the research.” (Not just “scientists,” but never mind.)

“Almost two weeks ago, Advanced Cell Technology Inc., of Alameda, Calif.,announced that its scientists had produced stem cells “using an approach that does not harm embryos.” ACT is actually based in Massachusetts, but opened a California office, I believe, to try and grab some of that Proposition 71 money, which requires that the recipients–whether private industry or university, be from California.

“Advanced Cell’s share price soared the day its research was published in the journal Nature, as media outlets around the world reported that the company’s scientists had derived new stem-cell lines in an embryo-safe way. Nature itself erroneously hyped the report with an embargoed press release inaccurately describing the researchers as using single cells extracted from embryos that remained intact. The publication issued subsequent press releases correcting the first.”

Advanced Cell officials say they haven’t misled investors or anyone else about their research.” Then how do they explain their own misleading press release and the head of their bioethics advisory board telling the Washington Post, “You can honestly say this cell line is from an embryo that was in no way harmed or destroyed.”

“Responding to the first round of doubts, Robert Lanza, Advanced Cell’s vice president for research and the lead author of the Nature paper,” said that he “continues to maintain that the results–they successfully derived two new stem-cell lines from multiple individual cells extracted from early stage embryos–prove it is possible to produce stem cells without harming embryos.” Ah, but saying something is possible, is not the same thing as actually doing it, which is what ACT and Nature first claimed had been done.

“Some outside researchers say that method, requiring scientists to extract more than one cell from embryos that consist of so few cells to begin with, could undermine Advanced Cell’s conclusions that embryos wouldn’t be harmed and a single-cell extraction would suffice. ‘One of the flaws in this paper is that it draws conclusions that they don’t really have the data to prove,’ said Barry Behr, a Stanford University embryologist and director of the university’s IVF laboratories. ‘The sort of leaps of faith here are a little too big to leap.'” This is precisely what critics like Richard Doerflinger and I said almost two weeks ago.

“But many stem-cell scientists remain skeptical of Advanced Cell’s claims. ‘The really unfortunate thing about that paper is that they really didn’t do the experiment’ that garnered all the media attention, says Jeanne Loring, a stem-cell researcher at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Calif. ‘There are going to be questions at every step of the process until they do the experiment or someone else does'”

So, this is the bottom line. The ACT “breakthrough” has been thoroughly discredited, not just by cloning and ESCR critics, but by scientists who support the stem cell agenda. This should be, as they say, case closed. But you watch: It won’t be. Many in the media will still report the breakthrough as if it happened, perhaps throwing in the term “controversial,” making it all seem as if the critical analysis of the paper is merely a matter of opinion.


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