For various reasons some scientists continue to champion the cause of hESCs. Earlier this month researchers at Oregon Health and Science University announced that they had cloned human embryos and successfully extracted embryonic stem cells. The study was published in the journal Cell after a lightning peer review. It was a “tour de force” and “an unparalleled achievement”, said George Daly of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
His jubilation was short-lived.
The main effect of this paper was to evoke the nightmare of the Hwang scandal. Sharp-eyed readers noticed that some images had been duplicated. Clouds began to gather over the results. “It’s a degree of sloppiness that you wouldn’t expect in a paper that was going to have this high profile,” an expert told Nature. “One worries if there is more than meets the eye and whether there are other issues with the work that are not as apparent.”
So this is the sputtering end of the greatest bioethical battle of the 21st century: just another blip of embarrassment in the 24/7 news cycle. As the Boston Globehas pointed out, “The emergence of reprogrammed stem cells, the difficulty of the involved method, and the obstacles to obtaining donor eggs for the procedure all make the advance more an important technical feat than a game-changer for stem cell scientists or a platform for new therapies.”
Isn’t it about time to establish a Stem Cell Truth and Reconciliation Commission? To get government funding so that they could play God with human embryos, scientists and bioethicists barnstormed, fibbed, exaggerated, hyped, and caricatured. It was a brutal battle in which truth came second. "People need a fairy tale," said Ronald D.G. McKay, another leading stem cell scientist.
Foes of embryo research were called troglodytes and religious fundamentalists. Their scientific credentials were questioned. They were accused of being callous and indifferent to the suffering of patients with chronic illness.
And yet they were right.
Not one person has been cured with embryonic stem cells. Not one. There is still a long way to go before Yamanaka’s cells can be used to treat patients. But the solution, when comes, will not require the destruction of embryos.
Isn’t anyone prepared to say, “Sorry”?
Embryonic Stem Cells Haven’t Cured Anyone, So Where’s the Apology?
Michael Cook - published on 06/05/13
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