Jun 08 2005

Dollars Fleeing Embryo Research

Published by at 7:37 pm under All General Discussions,Stem Cell Debate

As I suspected in a previous post, the lack of tangible results in the embryonic stem cell research, coupled with success in various adult stem cell research, has had the effect of investment following the path of most promise. A Washington Times article covers this phenomenon and recognition in the research community embryo research may be closer to ending than I initially thought:

Despite serious ethical misgivings, some in Congress want taxpayers to spend money on it. But, at a recent panel at the Heritage Foundation, Dr. Kelly Hollowell, a molecular and cellular pharmacologist, noted that, despite widespread media hype over embryonic stem-cell research, it hasn’t attracted significant private investment.

Rep. David Weldon, Florida Republican and a physician, was on the same Heritage panel. He noted that science is rapidly moving away from emphasizing embryonic stem cells and toward study of adult stem cells. “In a few years, the embryonic people are probably going to give up,” Mr. Weldon said, “because they’re just not getting good research results.” On the other hand, “the adult stem cell work and, in particular, the cord blood work is just phenomenal.”

The National Institutes of Health notes on its Web site: “Adult stem cells such as blood?forming stem cells in bone marrow (called hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs) are currently the only type of stem cell commonly used to treat human diseases.” They’ve been used for decades to treat patients with leukemia, lymphoma and several inherited blood disorders.

Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, have yet to be successfully used to treat anything, which is why supporters want federal funding for their research effort.

This is not surprising at all. Snake oil cures sooner or later fall to true medical breakthroughs. The article also addresses a hidden agenda in the embryonic stem cell debate – greed.

Mr. Weldon said some researchers have a selfish motive for focusing on embryonic stem cells. “If you developed a highly successful intervention for treating sickle cell anemia with cord blood, that is not really a patentable intervention under our current laws,” Mr. Weldon explained. But, he noted, someone who developed the same treatment with embryonic stem cells would become a millionaire.

If people think medical researchers are doing this from only altruistic motives, they are not living in reality.

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