Skip to comments.CBS's Stem Cell Shenanigans
Posted on 03/05/2006 11:48:59 PM PST by neverdem
A year ago I wrote an article titled: “Why the Media Miss the Stem Cell Story.” It discussed the almost total disregard of adult stem cells (ASCs) and the glorification of “miraculous” human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) -- notwithstanding that the adult ones treat over 80 human diseases while embryonics haven’t even made it to human testing.
For a wonderful example of this triumph of hype and politics over reality, look no further than two CBS News 60 Minutes segments that aired towards the end of February. One was “Scientist Hopes for Stem Cell Success” hosted by Ed Bradley (who also hosted the 1989 show that began the Alar “poison apple” scare). The other was a “Surplus of Embryos” hosted by Leslie Stahl. Both presented ESCs as potentially curing every disease known; both omitted any reference to ASCs.
Bradley, in his opening words, informed viewers that ESCs comprise “a field that shows enormous promise, but has been restricted by a ban on federal funding for research because it involves the destruction of human embryos.”
Sorry Mr. Ed, but there is no ban on federal funding for ESC research, as even your colleague Stahl pointed out a week before. The ban covers only cell lines developed after August 2001. Further, if ESC research were so “enormously promising,” why is progress so agonizingly slow?
Apologists say it’s because the first human line of ESCs wasn’t established until 1998. What they don’t say is that this is because, while ESCs were discovered in the 1950s at the same time as ASCs, ESCs are so terribly complicated to work with it that took almost half a century to establish that line. Further, they remain terribly hard to work with.
That’s why despite all the cures and treatments we have with ASCs and the nearly 1000 clinical trials currently using them, there have been no ESC clinical trials. Nor will there be until, ESC researchers work out “minor” difficulties with their alleged miracle workers.
For one, they tend to be rejected by the recipient. ASCs are rarely rejected and naturally are never so when culled from the recipient himself. ESCs also have a nasty tendency to form cancerous teratomas (“monster tumors”) in recipients.
Until these problems are solved, ESCs are going nowhere fast. Yet neither Bradley nor Stahl mentioned them.
Instead, Bradley focused on an experiment in which ESCs allowed paralyzed rats to walk again. Forget that scientists using ASCs had the same success almost a decade ago, or that recently South Korean scientists used ASCs to enable a paraplegic woman (not a female rat) to walk again.
Stahl told viewers, “The reason embryonic stem cells are so prized is because they have the unique ability to grow into all different kinds of cells in the body, like kidney cells, brain cells and even heart cells.”
Unique? Do tell!
Less than a minute on the online medical journal database PubMed would have told Stahl she was wrong about all three of these. Regarding kidneys, she’d find observations like this from last June’s issue of Nephrology: “There has been considerable focus on the ability of bone marrow-derived cells to differentiate into [other types of] cells of various tissue lineages, including cells of the kidney.”
Since 2002 it’s been known that stem cells repair damaged human brains. These stem cells can be plucked from the brain itself, but also a much more easily accessed source – bone marrow. Repaired cells include both neurons and glial cells.
As to fixing broken hearts, that’s old hat with adult stem cells. Marrow cells are now easily and painlessly extracted from the blood, cultivated, and injected back into the bloodstream where they zero in on the damage and repair it. They also grow new blood vessels, bypassing the need for heart bypass surgery.
CBS either knew or should have known about all of these developments, yet it mentioned none. Like most of the media, it remains obsessed with promoting a will o’ the wisp science while ignoring an alternative that’s been saving lives for decades and also avoids ethical concerns.
The network needs to have somebody in charge who can restore a higher level of honesty. You know, like Dan Rather.
stem cell ping
Well, in the opinion of a few cell biologists I know (MS and PhD levels, below the professoriate - lab bench workers, "bench rats"), embryonic cells are more robust and versatile than adult cells, and have broader spectrum of possible uses. Not being a cell biologist myself, I take their opinion on the subject.
It is important to remember always that the mission of the dying, dinosaur "mainstream" liberal newsrooms (CBS, New York Times, etc.) is to promote the Democrat Party. Since the Democrat Party has hung its hat on abortion, the "mainstream" liberal newsrooms have coolly decided to carefully meld "abortion" with "stem cell miracle cures" in the public's mind. Their hope is that the great big inattentive chattering class will subliminally conclude that "abortions" equals "stem cells" equals "stem cell miracle cures". Add to that the liberal newsrooms' already successful strategy of melding in the public's mind the lie that "overturning Roe" = "making abortion illegal".
The general lie that the liberal newsrooms are trying to promote is: "Republicans want to overturn Roe v. Wade, thereby making abortion illegal and causing people to die needlessly because they are deprived of the miracle cures promised by stem cell research. On the other hand, Democrats want to preserve Roe, keep abortion legal, and fund stem cell research so that everybody can live to be 110."
What would truly be surprising to me would be to see one of these dying, dinosaur "mainstream" Democrat newsrooms make the distinction between adult and embryonic stem cells in one of their stories. It won't happen, of course, because that would contradict the whole scheme described above.
But anyway, it is easy to understand exactly WHY the scumbag liberal newsrooms will never tell the truth about adult vs. embryonic stem cell research. It's all about promoting their party.
That is the problem with most of us, we have to accept others' opinions. We also have to get our information from sources that have proved unreliable in the past, the MSM. What's a body to do?
Well, at least you heard it from some you know and trust. Yet, where is the proof of the pudding? Lot's of talk, no action.
Also, why is the left pushing this so hard? I have my opinion but it labels me so I'll keep it.
To work with stem cells I need a PhD, unless I'd be working as a lab assistant to another PhD. To understand that work I most surely need a PhD. To blowiate on the topic I do not need it - mere googling would do nicely.
ping to above article
It amazes me still, the power the media has to frame a debate by virtue of what it does or does not tell.
There should be a stem-cell debate, but it's being prevented.
Embryonic cells are indeed pluripotent, but they get rejected (they are foreign tissue). Rejection can be supressed with expensive drug regimes, which is a large potential revenue stream.
Whereas non-rejecting Adult stem therapies - that use your own stem cells to heal you - won't need massive drug support to supress rejection.
This is just my theory, but there is a great deal of money to be made in Embryonic cell therapies SIMPLY BECAUSE they are imperfect and so allow a way of selling expensive drugs on the side.
Pharmaceutical companies are pushing Embryonic "cures" in the same way that they pushed IVF rather than GIFT (Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer) as an infertility treatment. GIFT had a better success rate and fewer complications - and moreover didn't involve culling babies - but IVF allows the sale of expensive hyperfertility drugs.
"Bench rats" are not the pharmaceutical companies - they have nothing to push. But as to what works on the bench, and how frequently - I see no reason not to trust them on that.
This would not be an issue for most scientists if it weren't for the religious right's other assaults on science, principally its aggressive promotion of Young-Earth Creationism. Stem-cell research is messy, and regardless of what Fumento says, use of any kind of stem cells in therapy is barely beyond the voodoo stage; we just don't know enough about human cells and cell-cell interactions to make this area of medicine scientific. However, since the battle lines have been drawn, with embryonic stem cells on the side of science, you have 90% of scientists, most of whom know little about stem cells and care less, opposed to you.
On the other hand, since I'm opposed to most of what the RR stands for (though I happen to be in agreement on embryonic stem cells), I'm happy you don't know how to pick your battles.
This is paranoid rubbish. What percentage of scientists do you think work on embryonic stem cells. 0.01%?
Do you support the suppression of info about successes with adult stem cells?
What good can a suppressed debate do?
Also, there is nothing preventing other funding of embryonic stem cells by business. If it's a treasure trove just waiting to happen, then the big bio corporations are just salivating at the chance to rake off those easy bucks.
To a large extent, it appears that working with ESCs to do what ASCs do, is like cooking dinner by assembling the components with a nuclear probe pushing all the of the atoms into place one at a time. In theory, it is far more versatile, as you can make anything, and yes, it may well work, but it's way more effort than required.
Interesting article. Wonder why I didn't see it until today.