Issue Date: April 2, 2007
Stem Cell Research
I'd like to comment on the cover story about stem cells, which also drew attention to the limitations on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (C&EN, Jan. 15, page 19). President Bush's policy was actually an expansion of federal funding for such work; in fact, there was no federal funding under President Clinton. If this technology is so promising, one would expect that industry would eagerly invest in its development, and its progress would not be completely dependent on the government.
Perhaps the limited interest from industry and venture capitalists is because stem cells are not as promising as the media would have us believe. The media hypes embryonic stem cell research as if it is guaranteed to cure disease as soon as the government steps up its funding; this only gives unfounded hopes to those living with chronic conditions. No clinical trials have even been attempted with embryonic stem cells, while adult and umbilical cord stem cells have been used successfully for the treatment of more than 70 diseases and are currently being used in 1,100 FDA-approved clinical trials. Let's build on those successes and make these treatments more widely available and applicable to people in need.
As scientists, we should be outraged about the lack of attention given to technology that is saving lives. Let's request that money and attention be diverted to work with adult stem cells rather than research that is fraught with ethical concerns and that has no outlook for implementation. How will future generations regard us when they see we ignored life-saving scientific data to make a political statement on how to define a human life?
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