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Have You Heard the Good News . . .

. . . about adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells? Probably not.

12:00 AM, Sep 29, 2005 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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THE SAME STUNNING SILENCE has met other amazing adult stem cell research successes. For example, because it was shockingly underreported, most people do not know that Harvard researchers have cured mice with advanced juvenile diabetes using adult cells taken from the spleen. The experiment has been repeated and reported in Science, in one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed journals. It has proven so safe and effective that the FDA has approved moving to human trials. Unfortunately, the researchers cannot yet proceed because they don't have sufficient funds.

When confronted with these and many other astonishing advances in non-embryonic research, ESC boosters defensively complain that ESC research has been stymied by President Bush's federal funding limitations. Yet in 2003, the National Institutes of Health funded more than $20 million for ESC studies--with more funds available but not spent, due to the relative scarcity of qualified applications.

Opponents of the Bush policy counter that the Bush-approved ES cell lines aren't good enough for effective use. But now, even this flimsy excuse is collapsing. Abundant state grant money is becoming available for embryonic stem-cell research (including research using new cell lines, and even newly created cloned embryos) in New Jersey and California. And guess what: As reported by the Newark Star Ledger, of 96 applications for state-funded stem-cell research grants in New Jersey, only one involved embryonic stem cells--and that request is for training funds, not bench science. The initial grants flowing out of Proposition 71 will also be primarily for training rather than actual research. Meanwhile, private investors generally avoid funding ESC research, primarily because they don't see any chance of a return any time soon.

Talk about reality checks. For all the propaganda and hype boosting embryonic stem-cell research, ESCs are far from ready for prime time. Meanwhile, adult and umbilical cord blood stem-cell therapies keep quietly chugging along with continual advances in animal studies and the bringing of effective and safe treatments to a growing variety of suffering human patients. Maybe someday the media establishment will catch on to this real news, instead of focusing so myopically on the embryonic stem-cell story they want to tell.

Wesley J. Smith, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant for the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His current book is Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World.