Have you noticed that there’s not much news about embryonic stem cell research these days?
Oh, yes, we all remember the fanfare of publicity around the Superman-inspired hype of a decade ago. Skeptics who questioned the ethics and impracticality of therapeutic cloning were bullied and humiliated as leading medical journals held out the prospect of “universal healing” and even of “eternal regeneration.” Hans Keirstead, of the University of California, said, ”I have never seen in my career a biological tool as powerful as the stem cells. It addresses every single human disease.”
Even some of those who agreed that embryos were human beings, argued that the greater good of relieving so much human suffering would justify experimentation upon them. Ethical alternatives, such as working with adult stem cells, were ruthlessly dismissed.
Ten years on, where are the cures?
There are none. Not one person has been cured. Instead, as Michael Cook reports over at Mercator, there is grossly under-reported failure and fraud:
In the past ten years the single most memorable event in embryonic stem cell research has been setting a world record for scientific fraud. In 2004 and 2005 Science published two papers by Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean scientist. He claimed that he had successfully isolated human embryonic stem cells. Korea printed stamps in his honour and he was feted as an international celebrity. But he was a charlatan, his results were bogus and he had obtained human eggs unethically.
The recent announcement in Cell, that researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University had cloned human embryos and successfully extracted embryonic stem cells was also quickly mired in scandal when the journal announced that it was investigating allegations of image manipulation in the article.
There is one bright spot. Japanese researcher, Shinya Yamanaka, who had rejected embryonic stem cell research as unethical, and who won last year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine, has pioneered the creation of stem cell lines from skin cells without destroying embryos. Consequently, with hardly a whisper and certainly no apologies, most stem cell scientists have now turned their backs on embryonic stem cell research to follow Shinya’s lead.
Ten years on.
Thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of lives killed under microscopes.
Not one cure.
Not one apology.
Read more at Not with a bang but a whimper.