Why is the mainstream media significantly downplaying exciting scientific discoveries with adult stem cells? This essay hopes to adequately answer that question.
Here's the scoop: As originally reported late last year in the medical journal Blood, Dr. Catherine M. Verfaillie and other researchers at the Stem Cell Institute, University of Minnesota, have discovered a way to coax an adult cell found in the bone marrow to exhibit many of the attributes that supposedly make embryonic stem cells irreplaceable to the development future "miracle" medical therapies(Catherine).
While there is still much research to be done, "multi-potent adult progenitor cells" (MAPCs) appear to be versatile, that is, capable of transforming into different types of tissues. (In a culture dish, the cells can be coaxed into becoming muscle, cartilage, bone, liver, or different types of neurons in the brain.) They are also malleable, meaning they can do so relatively easily. They also exhibit the "immortality" valued in embryonic cells, that is to say, they seem capable of being transformed into cell lines that can be maintained indefinitely. At the same time, these adult cells do not appear to present the acute danger associated with embryonic stem cells: the tendency to grow uncontrollably causing tumors or even cancers.
This should be a big story considering the intense controversy over embryonic-stem-cell research (ESCR) and the coming attempt in the United States Senate to outlaw human cloning (S.790). Indeed, the New York Times and Washington Post consider embryonic-stem-cell research so important - including the manufacture and use of human-clone embryos in such experiments - that both hav...
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...hat the biotech researchers say more "true" then whatever cloning/ESCR opponents may argue - regardless of the actual evidence.
Finally, clout in public-policy disputes usually boils down to money. Quite often, reporters don't find stories; stories find reporters. That is how PR firms make the big bucks; being paid quite handsomely to alert journalists to stories their clients' want covered. In this fight, Big Biotech's very deep pockets almost guarantee coverage that is skewed in favor of destroying human embryos in experiments and permitting the creation of human-research clones.
"Catherine Verfaillie" http://www1.umn.edu/stemcell/sci/page/fac-mbr/verfaillie/verfaillie.shtml
New Scientist http://www.newscientist.com/
New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/auth/login?URI=http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/science/25STEM.html
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