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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Uncovering Deceitful Reporting on Stem-Cell Research Breakthrough

The headline from the UK Times Online simply reads Diabetics cured by stem-cell treatment. Most who read that headline are probably thinking embryonic stem-cells because that's the kind the media talks about 99% of the time. Those who know that there are other kinds of stem-cells besides the embryonic kind are wondering whether the stem-cells used in this treatment are the embryonic kind or the adult kind.

The first line in David Rose's article reads "Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again." Still, no mention of whether these are embryonic or adult stem-cells.

When we keep reading, we find that the stem-cells used in this treatment were drawn from the patient's own blood. The article never actually uses the term "adult stem-cells," but that's what they are.

It's not surprising that this breakthrough has come from adult stem-cells. Adult stem-cells have shown great promise in the treatment of many diseases. The only consistent results from embryonic stem-cell research have been dead embryos and cancerous tumors in laboratory animals. Again, none of this is mentioned in the article.

In fact, what the article implies is that this breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes is the result of embryonic stem-cell research. In what is supposedly a news article on this particular study, Rose states, "The findings were released to reporters yesterday as the future of US stem-cell research was being debated in Washington."

The fact is that no one is debating adult stem-cell research; the only stem-cell research being debated in Washington is embryonic stem-cell research, and that has nothing to do with this study.

Rose goes on to talk about the promise that stem-cell research has shown in the treatment of various other diseases, then suggests that the debate over stem-cell research is preventing major breakthroughs in these areas.

Previous studies have suggested that stem-cell therapies offer huge potential to treat a variety of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neuron disease. A study by British scientists in November also reported that stem-cell injections could repair organ damage in heart attack victims.

But research using the most versatile kind of stem cells — those acquired from human embryos — is currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush.


The implication here is obvious: President Bush and other conservatives oppose using stem-cells to cure awful diseases.

The deceit here is contemptible: we are led to believe that the research "currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush" is the kind of research that is showing the most promise.

The fact is that only adult stem-cell research has shown any real promise in treating any of these diseases. As a case in point, the same study that Rose mentions, in which British scientists "reported that stem-cell injections could repair organ damage in heart attack victims," is a study that uses stem-cells extracted from the patient's own bone marrow - adult stem-cells. Once again, no one is opposing adult stem-cell research.

It's great that research using stem-cells is showing promise in curing terrible diseases. The research needs to continue. However, we need to make clear exactly what kind of stem-cell research we're talking about.

We're talking about the kind that has not produced cancerous tumors, the kind that does not destroy human embryos, and the kind that has actually been used to treat real-life patients in clinical trials. We're talking about adult stem-cell research.

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