Bioethics News

Have embryonic stem cells hit the wall?

“Will Embryonic Stem Cells Ever Cure Anything?” is a sceptical headline which you would expect to read in a conservative journal like the National Review or the Weekly Standard. However, it is a bit surprising to find it in the MIT Technology Review, in a profile of Douglas Melton, a Harvard stem cell scientist.

… no field of biotechnology has promised more and delivered less in the way of treatments than embryonic stem cells. Only a handful of human studies has ever been carried out, without significant results. The cells, culled from IVF embryos, are capable of developing into any other tissue type in the body, and therefore promise an unlimited supply of replacement tissue. Sounds simple, but it hasn’t been.

Melton’s specialty is diabetes. Because this is a complex and widespread disease, governments and companies are willing to spend huge amounts of money to find a cure. They will continue to fund embryonic stem cell research – but whether it succeeds is still unknown. 

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