The Stem Cell Debate is Over

Now that scientists have discovered a way to emulate embryonic stem cells with adult stem cells, the need to use embryonic stem cells is over. But don't let that fool you into thinking that people will stop using them.

James A. Thomson was the scientist who, about ten years ago, isolated and discovered embryonic stem cells. Shortly thereafter, many scientists and politicians held embryonic stem cells as a panacea for all ills. It hasn't turned out that way. As I recently wrote here, embryonic stem cells have been the cure for exactly ZERO diseases. On the other hand, adult stem cells have been beneficial in about 60 therapies.

Mr. Thomson, co-discoverer of the new adult-to-embryonic stem cell method, was always a little bit squeamish about the result of his discovery. He said:
"If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough."
He's now made a discovery that means we don't have to use embryonic stem cells in stem cell research. Despite the fact that they haven't cured anything, embryonic stem cells have been all the political rage. But it turns out that George W. Bush was right. Charles Krauthammer puts it this way:
Because the moral disquiet that James Thomson always felt — and that George Bush forced the country to confront — helped lead him and others to find some ethically neutral way to produce stem cells. Providence then saw to it that the technique be so elegant and beautiful that scientific reasons alone will now incline even the most willful researchers to leave the human embryo alone.
I hope that happens. But I'm not confident that it will. For an issue that is so politically charged, I suspect that embryonic stem cell research will continue to be championed as it has been for the last decade. For no good reason.


  1. Just like global warming and ethanol, this is an example of politics driving science. You are right that politicians will not let this stop them from pushing government funding for research on embryonic stem cells.

    OTOH, I'm not going to accept right now the idea that this technique is the panacea it is promised to be. Media and government hyping of bad science has taught me to reserve judgment.

  2. If you're referring to the new technique, I agree. I've always been of the mind anyway that adult stems cells are where its at, because embryonic have cured nothing.

  3. It's worth noting two very important facts before claiming this debate is nicely wrapped up.

    1. The recent discovery was achieved only through stem cell research prior to Bush's short-sighted, and reactionary assault on the research.

    2. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning that they have the ability to develop into any type of human tissue. The possible uses are (obviously) endless.

    This debate has always been the possibilities of research in medical science pitted against anti-abortion activism. This recent development does little to end the debate, but rather brings it (again) to the forefront.

  4. Bush did not assault the research. He said that there could be no federal funding for new embryonic stem cell lines. The research can continue (it's not illegal), and the research that led to this marvelous discovery did not need any new embryonic stem cell lines for it to succeed.

    The point of the entire article is that adult stem cells now have the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells.

    You mischaracterize what the debate is about. The possibilities are still there (I'll put my wager on the probabilities of adult stem cells providing the cures as they have exclusively heretofore done). The government should not support policies that are unnecessary.

    It brings to the forefront that no further debate is necessary, because the only reason now for people to advocate the use of embryonic stem cells is to indicate that it's okay to needlessly take human life.


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