Regenerative Medicine

Get the Facts Right on Stem Cells (11/04)

As a physician, National Institutes of Health-funded researcher and biotech company owner, I would like to address the [newspaper] recent editorial advocating lifting the state ban on embryonic stem cell research (“State must lift stem cell research ban,” Oct. 12).

This research has been distorted by offering unrealistic hope, such as remarks by Sen. John Edwards that patients like Christopher Reeve will get out of their wheelchair and walk during John Kerry’s administration if elected.

 

Putting aside the moral and ethical issues, use of adult stem cells is more attractive from the standpoint of logistics and business economics. Adult-derived stem cells have produced the same types of specialized cells as embryonic stem cells. It would be preferable to use a patient’s own stem cells because it eliminates the risk of tissue rejection.

Embryonic stem cell research may lead to cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. This premise is based on science fiction and not scientific principles. Alzheimer’s is a diffuse brain injury, and, at best, stem cell regenerative medicine will be directed toward diseases that reflect local or focal injuries.

There is a naivete among the public and scientists that stem cell regenerative treatments are as simple as injecting or transplanting stem cells into damaged organs. The scientific community has a very primitive understanding of how cells prepared in a laboratory will behave in diseased tissue, and it likely could take a lifetime before we can make any conclusions about this type of research. In the meantime, there are more realistic research advances for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases that may lead to treatments sooner in the short-term than embryonic stem cell therapy.

Americans hear nothing but propaganda and are left with the impression that treatment for degenerative disorders cannot be treated without embryonic stem cell research. History has shown that politicizing federal research funding actually has a negative impact, which leads to underfunding more innovative research or leads to a low disproportionate amount of funding for diseases with high prevalence like autism, sickle cell anemia and prostate cancer.

It’s time for the media, a select group of scientists, and politicians to stop politicizing and hyping this research and trying to capitalize on the suffering of patients… The fact is that embryonic stem cells cannot be achieved without destroying embryos, and we cannot escape making a value judgment about whether embryos have rights in human subject research.

Some ethicists and scientists claim you can perform this in an ethical way. However, you can’t get a little pregnant.

Dr. Alan Moy, a University of Iowa associate professor of medicine and biomedical engineering and president of Cellular Engineering Technologies Inc., at [email protected].
[http://www.press-citizen.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041118/OPINION02/411180306/1018, Guest Opinion, 18November04]