Evidence: ESCs are NOT the answer

Aside from the host of ethical issues involved with developing therapies from cloned embryonic stem cells (ESCs,) the greatest barrier to their use is their unwelcome tendency to form teratomas (Latin: “big a** tumors”) if introduced into living tissue before they have differentiated into one of the 210 or so varieties of mature cells found in a non-embryonic person.

News today from Israel offers a grim example: the intended cure has given rise to a would-be killer in a 17-year old Israeli boy.  His family, desperate to try anything to treat his rare neurodegenerative disease, arranged for Russian doctors to give him injections of raw stem cells — from multiple donors — starting when he was only nine.

The tumors started showing up three years ago.  Doctors were able to remove and biopsy the one on his spinal cord, confirming that it arose from the donated cells.

The tumor pressing on his brainstem is still there.

Adult stems, coupled with pre-injection GFP screening, is the way to go folks.  Minds on the leading edge of medical genetics know this to be true.  As usual, the media and the politicians are the last ones to catch on.

Sadly, it will take more than one dying teenager half a world away to wake them up.


2 Responses to “Evidence: ESCs are NOT the answer”

  1. 1 Dan
    February 18, 2009 at 1:35 am

    I blame it on the political controversy that opponents of ESCs in research have drummed up, pushing researchers to defend themselves by touting the “promise” of ESCs and pushing things like this too fast. Studies like this are simply counter-productive. This area of biomedical research simply needs more basic science before clinical testing.


    For a lot of those opponents, it’s a matter of deeply-held personal conviction — not something they have to “drum up,” though for those who don’t hold to a Judeo-Christian ethos (and others who hold to a liberal interpretation of those beliefs,) I can certainly appreciate how it would seem that they’re making volcanoes from anthills.

  2. February 18, 2009 at 10:11 am

    This is the one place where religion, science and politics collide together in an uncontrollable way. It is very easy to take the stand of each of the three sides of the argument…for and against. What a mess and how unfortunate for this teenager…I am sure he isn’t the only one.

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The random musings of a 30-something, West Texas high-school science teacher. Hoo-RAY.
February 2009
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