Scientists in Stem Cell Cover-Up (5/04)

Researchers are engaged in a “stem-cell war,” a deliberate effort to downplay the proven value of adult stem cells to attract more attention to the potential of embryonic stem cells. It’s a war being fought partly over ethics, but mostly over money. Stem-cell research constitutes one of the most exciting areas in medical science. It promises to prevent, ameliorate and cure diseases for which there are now few if any treatments. Here are a few of the wonders in progress: More than 30 anticancer uses for stem cells have been tested on humans, with many already in routine therapeutical use. By some accounts, the area in which stem-cell applications are moving fastest is autoimmune disease, in which the body’s own protective system turns on itself. Diseases for which stem cells currently are being tested on humans include diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Evans syndrome, rheumatic disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [Lou Gehrig’s disease], and many others. In 2/04, two different human-autopsy studies demonstrated that stem cells transfused into the marrow work their way into the brain, where they can repair neurons and other vital cells. Other studies have shown that when injected into animals with severed spinal cords, stem cells rush to the injury site effecting repairs. “I think the stem cells may act as a repair squad,” says the leader of one of the two studies, Helen Blau of the Stanford University Brain Research Institute. “They travel through the bloodstream, respond to stress, and contribute to brain cells. They clearly repair damage in muscle and other tissues.” At a conference in late 2002, French researchers reported that during the...