By David Prentice
This year the World Stem Cell Summit was held in West Palm Beach, Florida. It’s an annual event originally intended to hype the “potential” of embryonic stem cells to cure all known maladies. It was started years ago and continues to be promoted by some of the leading cheerleaders for embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, including Bernie Siegel of the Genetics Policy Institute and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
But despite continuing celebration of activism supporting embryonic stem cell and human cloning research, and continued whining about state and federal policies that “restrict” those unethical practices, the real science as well as all the successes for patients are all from adult stem cells and ethically-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells).
The iPS cells have virtually identical properties as embryonic stem cells, yet can be created ethically, without use of embryos, eggs, or cloning technology. They can also be created directly from samples of skin, blood, or other tissues of a patient, creating the same genetically-matched stem cells as those only dreamed about through cloning.
In the meantime, to date the only stem cells to successfully treat patients remain the adult stem cells, obtained from bone marrow, blood, fat tissue, umbilical cord blood, and other tissues after birth. Obtained from tissues after birth, adult stem cells are derived without harm to the patient or donor, unlike embryonic stem cells that require the destruction of a young human being.
Proponents of embryonic stem cells even cite the successes of adult stem cell treatments, though always neglecting to point out the difference in stem cells, leading to confusion among the public and policymakers.
Over 60,000 people a year receive adult stem cell transplants around the globe. Besides treatments associated with cancers and anemias, adult stem cells are now showing success at treating heart damage, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, and dozens of other diseases.
Stem cells are indeed one of the great biomedical advances of our time, but the advances are not due to unethical embryonic stem cells, but rather to ethical and successful adult stem cells. To see some examples of patients telling their story of success with adult stem cell treatments, see the videos at stemcellresearchfacts.org.