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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Republican Wishful Thinking on Science

posted by on June 26 at 13:33 PM

I came across this choice quote while reading up on the presidential veto of the embryonic stem cell funding bill:

“Given the tremendous results that have come from adult and umbilical cord stem cell therapy in the areas of oncology and orthopedics — and, more recently, in cardiology and neurology — I am further encouraged by the possibilities these non-controversial, adult stem cells have to offer,” said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio.

What the scientific literature has to say on the potential of adult stem cells to replace embryonic stem cells:

The late 1990s and first few years of this decade were marked by dramatic reports of transdifferentiation in multiple organ systems. Examples included marrow -> skeletal muscle, marrow/blood -> endothelium, neural stem cells -> blood, skeletal muscle -> blood, marrow -> lung, marrow -> brain, marrow -> liver, and marrow -> heart. Indeed, it seemed for a while that the rules of development did not apply to adult stem cells and that simply placing these cells into new environments was sufficient to induce them to acquire the phenotype of their surrounding tissue.

After a few years, however, several of these conclusions were shown to result not from transdifferentiation but from novel processes not known to occur at the time of the initial report. For example, formation of blood from skeletal muscle turned out to result from “ectopic” hematopoietic stem cells that unexpectedly resided in skeletal muscle, rather than conversion of muscle-specific stem cells into blood. Formation of liver from marrow resulted from the fusion of blood cells with hepatocytes, and subsequent reprogramming of the leukocyte nucleus to a hepatic phenotype. Other observations were not reproducible when subsequently attempted or are suspected to result from experimental artifact.

In other words, the “tremendous results” Senator Voinovich cites have largely been debunked.

I don’t work with embryonic stem cells for pleasure. They remain the only reliable source for many crucial replacement cell types. Like beating human heart cells:

Most embryonic stem cell research has nothing to do with destroying embryos to create new lines. Rather, we spend most of our hours getting the embryonic stem cells to do useful things, like replacing the billion or so beating cells lost in a heart attack.

So, thank you Senator Voinovich for your thoughtful evaluation of the scientific literature. Now let me get back to work.

RSS icon Comments



Posted by schoolgirl crush | June 26, 2007 1:52 PM

Not to mention downright falsification of lab results in two recent prominent papers proporting to demonstrate omnipotency in differentiated somatic tissue cells.

There would be no contention between the two lines of research were it not for the religiotards. Embryonic stems cells are promising but the need to clone to the host is a huge hurdle. Pluripotent somatic cells don't require host-cloning but they are only limitedly pluripotent at best. The one line of research complements the other, for everyone who's not a religiotard.

Posted by kinaidos | June 26, 2007 2:07 PM

Okay so adult stem cells suck at stuff as probably all except idiots know by now but the ones found in the umbilical cord are pretty much as good as embryonic ones. And the dude mentioned those too in his speech.

Posted by Missed a word | June 26, 2007 2:21 PM

I understood like 2 sentences of what kinaidos said. Chill dude, we're not all Biology majors here.
Also we really don't need to be inventing new words to insult people. C'mon you're better than that, right?

Posted by maw | June 26, 2007 2:27 PM

If you had actually read the scientific papers the articles were based on, you'd see the actual yields are more like one or two proto-stem cells for millions of skin cells.

Time to face reality, children - and I do call neocons children, since they act like it - and fund science fully.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 26, 2007 2:30 PM

@3. I'm working on a future column about umbilical cord stem cells.

The short of it: They are little different than adult blood stem cells. Great if you have leukemia or aplastic anemia, but not close to being as "good" as embryonic stem cells.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | June 26, 2007 2:44 PM

Well, of course your citation of Chuck Murray and the quoted block indicate data from the 90's and early part of this decade. Whereas many of the promising adult stem cell results are more recent in the past year or two. I fail to see where the 'gotcha' is on George Voinovich's quote, other than standard R-bashing. There's some selective representation going on here.

From Chuck's own paper you link, he mentions what is one of the greatest problems for ESCs, namely:

As appealing as this approach might be, subsequent studies, including our own, have shown that this method leads to the formation of teratomas (a tumor type composed of cells derived from all three embryonic germ layers) (80 and 81). Teratomas are arguably the greatest risk associated with ESC-based therapy. In fact, recent studies have shown that the formation of teratomas can counteract the benefit provided by the intended cellular therapy (82 and 83).

I think it is more responsible to approach these complicated issues in an even-handed and methodical way. I know this is slog, and you're probably contractually required to throw some red meat out there, but adult stem cells do not 'suck' for everything as another poster said. Similarly, ESCs are not the cure-all panacea that politicians would have you believe.

Posted by chunkstyle | June 26, 2007 3:12 PM

But the point is, the only possible reason for objecting to the use of embryonic stem cells is religiotardation. Opposition to embryonic stem cell research should be a criteria for not being allowed to discuss it. The grownups have work to do. It's like creationism.

Posted by Fnarf | June 26, 2007 4:42 PM

just got the call -- they want to start a stem cell transplant on me, next month.

i haven't researched the current state of my disease or my diagnosis, percentages of this or that, and the scheduler actually called before the doctor called so i didn't even know we were going to be at that stage. i am not up on whether this stem cell stuff actually relates to the discussion in this thread. but i now know this:

this republican b.s. hurts real people.

maybe someone you know.

Posted by Chuck | June 26, 2007 5:02 PM

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