Politics and Science: the stem cell wars

If you get a chance please read the ‘News in Focus’ piece in the 22nd Sept. Nature; ‘Texas prepares to fight for stem cells‘, by David Cyranoski.

Some quotes from the article to wet your appetite:

Paul Knoepfler: ‘Any procedure involving removing cells from the body and manipulating them — even if it’s something as simple as centrifuging them or putting them in a plastic tube — and then putting them elsewhere in the body poses risks.’

Paul Knoepfler:  ‘Patient testimonials cited by the people selling the treatments have little if any meaning.’

Kirstin Matthews: ‘I do believe governor Perry is pushing research to the clinic too quickly.’

Bettie Sue Masters: ‘I feel that we must protect patients from risky treatments advanced by overzealous, even greedy, entrepreneurs.’

“What is unbelievable is that, Texas governor Rick Perry, and Presidential candidate, had treatment with his own stem cells to treat a back complaint. The procedure was carried out by Stanley Jones, a surgeon based in Houston, Texas, who specialises in cosmetic procedures and who is a friend of Rick Perry.”

“Politicians, like neurologists, have social responsibilities and need to realise that their actions may have unexpected consequences. I would be interested to meet Rick Perry’s scientific adviser or advisers.” 

“We really need an open debate about stem cell therapies so that we can try and prevent MS’ers from taking unnecessary risks and being exploited by Charlatans.” 

“At present, no MS’ers should be receiving stem cell therapy outside of a clinical trial and they should definitely not be having to pay for it. At the moment stem cell therapy is experimental.”

7 thoughts on “Politics and Science: the stem cell wars”

  1. Stem cell breakthrough discovery for multiple sclerosis Researchers have discovered a way to produce huge amounts of myelinating cells in short periods of time – paving the way for revolutionary treatment in neurodegenerative diseases.How we use our senses and the ways that we respond to them is a common part of what makes us human. More specifically, the communication between special nerve cells called neurons in our nervous system is especially important if we expect to sense, think, and move.A part of what makes neurons work so efficiently is the protein myelin – a smooth layer of protein that helps speed up nerve impulses between neurons. Losing this myelin causes significant nerve damage; and is the hallmark of debilitating diseases like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.But scientists at Case Western Reserve University of School of Medicine have discovered a way to produce copious amounts of myelinating cells in a short period of time using stem cells.“The mouse cells that we utilized, which are pluripotent epiblast stem calls, can make any cell type in the body,” Paul Tesar explains, an assistant professor of genetics at Case Western Reserve University and senior author of the study.So Tesar’s team set out to transform these stem cells into myelinating cells. In the past, scientists have failed to change these stem cells into cells that will create myelin; resulting only in an unwanted mix of other cell types.But Tesar’s team was able to produce more than one trillion myelinating cells in only 10 days using special signaling proteins, growth factors, and thyroid hormone.The resulting oligodendrocytes – cells that produce myelin – were tested in cells outside the body and in animal models. Tesar and his fellow colleagues found that these cells restored normal myelin in a matter of days.The Case Western researchers believe that this could be replicated in human cells.“The ability of these methods to produce functional cells that restore myelin in diseased mice provides a solid framework for the ability to produce analogous human cells for use in the clinic,” said Robert H Miller, vice dean for research at the school of medicine and one author of the paper.Perhaps in the future, individuals with demyelinated diseases may be able to treat themselves using their very own cells.Rapid and robust generation of functional oligodendrocyte progenitor cells from epiblast stem cells. Najm et al. Published online: 25 Steptember 2011/ doi.: 10.1038/nmeth.1712

  2. I'm so sick of articles like the one above.Every bleeding day some scientist discovers a novel way to re-activate oligodendrocyte cells yet we're ages away from seeing these treatments because they're largely hot air.Try telling Debie Purdy her oligodendrocyte cells will be made to work again. She will laugh in your face because ever since the days of 'Dolly the Sheep' she's been reading about how stem cells are on their way but 16 years later there is nothing. Now she actively campains for the right to end her life because progressive MS is a killer. It's the most cruel disease from which there is no coming back.The above article is wastig everyones time.

  3. A reply to the above rebuke:1) Your point of view is purely emotional and subjective: I do not care for it and you can keep it for yourself and you psychoanalyst.2) This blog is powered by real science and knowledgeable professionals. The above was posted to hear their vue on the methodology of the study and the likelihood of a clinical trial in the Barts London.3) I am sorry for you if you are disappointed, anxious and desperate. I am afraid that no news will make you happy.I am not, so steer away from my posts.Thanks

  4. Have some nerve, pun intended, and publish your proper name next time 'Anonymous' (unless that is your real name).Re: "This blog is powered by real science and knowledgeable professionals"Can I ask what are your professional qualifications 'Anonymous'?If you are a pro then you ought to be managing expectations, not commenting as an anonymous person and copying and pasting something you've just come across.I'd rather read the posts published on this blog by pros who disclose their actual identity.

  5. I hope everyone can calm down- it's getting surreal, anonymous aguing with anonymous. The article on epiblasts was published on the MSRC website and might be interesting to those who haven't seen it,although frustrating to those who feel stem cell reseach is not producing concrete treatments

  6. I assume experimental treatments are registered and regulated to protect patients. Who pays is a separate issue.If patients are willing to pay, why is it wrong? Isn't it a way around the problem of how to get funding?

  7. Thanks for the posts, I will read the paper and make a post. In terms of frustration about the pace of stem cell results. This has largely been created by media hype (OK and scientists hyping the significance of their work so that they can get more funding to study this aspect) and unrealistic expectations. There is no clear message of what is science fact, science fiction and in the most cases science fantasy. However, the lack of clarity allows some rogue doctors (Fraudsters in my opinion) to pedal their wears for profit, without any realistic chance of success, bar the placebo effect.I am sure Prof G will answer the question or regulation and registration (of some of the Quack practises) but it is often not about getting funding, it is about lining pockets and exploitation of people's situation. Yes some of you will turn on the pharmaceutical industry but it is not the same… because the latter has an evidence base for activity that is sold by science rather than the media

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