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.