DAVID GRANOVSKY

Stem cell pioneer does a reality check – Cloning and stem cells- msnbc.com

In ALL ARTICLES, STEM CELLS FROM THE PAST, STEM CELLS IN THE NEWS on March 11, 2009 at 7:04 am

One of my favorite scientists and articles. Dr Thomson, father of embryonic stem cells, tells the real story! – dg

“…embryonic stem cells are not being used in any clinical applications yet, while alternatives such as adult stem cells figure in scores of therapies.”

“Ten or 20 years from now…there will be transplantation-based therapies, , but even if there was none, and it was a complete failure, this technology is extraordinarily important” Dr T.

James Thomson reflects on science and morality – Stem cell pioneer does a reality check

By Alan Boyle

Science editor – msnbc.com – updated 6:29 p.m. ET, Sat., June. 25, 2005

MADISON, Wis. — Seven years ago, when James Thomson became the first scientist to isolate and culture human embryonic stem cells, he knew he was stepping into a whirlwind of controversy.

He just didn’t expect the whirlwind to last this long.

In fact, the moral, ethical and political controversy is still revving up — in Washington, where federal lawmakers are considering a bill to provide more federal support for embryonic stem cell research; and in Madison, Thomson’s base of operations, where Wisconsin legislators are considering new limits on stem cell research.

Thomson, a developmental biologist and veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, made history in 1998 when he and fellow researchers derived the first embryonic stem cell lines from frozen human embryos. The breakthrough came after the news that a sheep named Dolly was born as the first cloned mammal — and together, the two announcements hinted at a brave new world of medical possibilities and moral debates.

Some of Thomson’s other pronouncements might seem more surprising: that supporters of stem cell research are overestimating the prospects for transplantation cures, that the current stem cell lines aren’t well-suited for such applications anyway, and that there’s no need to resort to therapeutic cloning right now — or perhaps ever.

Critics point out that embryonic stem cells are not being used in any clinical applications yet, while alternatives such as adult stem cells figure in scores of therapies. Thomson acknowledged that the field was still in its formative stage: “There have been companies that have gone into stem cells, but nobody’s made any money.”

But he recently helped found a biotech start-up called Cellular Dynamics International that takes a different approach, aiming eventually to turn embryonic stem cells into human heart cells suitable for drug testing. “Nobody’s been able to test heart drugs on heart cells [outside the human body] before,” he said. “That will change medicine a lot quicker than actually transplanting those heart cells.”

Thomson predicted that in the long run, embryonic stem cells would play a more important role in fundamental research than in transplantation therapies — a view that doesn’t sit well with the critics.

“You have to ask the question, why would you destroy living human embryos just to study them?” said Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life.

In last week’s wide-ranging interview, Thompson explained the reasons behind the research, and touched on many other scientific and moral issues as well. Here is an edited transcript:

MSNBC: How do see this research developing in the next few years?

Thomson: I want to make a basic statement first — which almost never gets in the press, but I keep trying — on what I see as the legacy of these cells.

One is the basic science, and simply having better access to the human body. That’s the most important legacy. I’m very hopeful that there will be some transplantation applications for this technology, but they’re going to be very challenging. And it’s been so hyped in the press that people expect it to come the day after tomorrow. …

Ten or 20 years from now, I’m actually currently optimistic that there will be transplantation-based therapies, but even if there was none, and it was a complete failure, this technology is extraordinarily important.

via Stem cell pioneer does a reality check – Cloning and stem cells- msnbc.com.

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