Monday, June 7, 2010

California stem cell research: Were voters duped? -

Today, the LA Times ran the story California stem cell research: Were voters duped?  It points out the intense criticism that has developed against all the hype surrounding the $3 billion proposition but also acknowledges that science moves slow and the huge challenges that encompass stem cell research. For once the author even calls out the media for hyping the ever caution but optimistic researcher statements.
...the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, created by that 2004 ballot initiative, has handed out more than $1 billion in research funding. But there have been no "miracles" — no paralyzed people abandoning their wheelchairs or diabetics throwing away their needles. There hasn't even been a human trial of embryonic stem cells, those amazing shape-shifters that can grow into any cell in the body.
So were Californians duped?

Some would say yes. "There have been no cures, no therapies and little progress," Investors Business Daily complained in an editorial earlier this year. Rush Limbaugh went further, declaring embryonic stem cell research "fraudulent, fake."
It's no surprise that the initiative's proponents made big promises: They had something to sell. But instant miracles are uncommon in science, and journalists should do a better job making that clear. We need to highlight the uncertainties in science and, in medical quests such as stem cell therapies, emphasize the baby steps involved that in fact are big leaps: reproducing and growing these flexible cells, understanding how they work, using them to learn about disease, designing treatments and then testing the safety of any resulting therapy.
It will take many more years before we see the fruits of the California endeavor in our clinics, hospital labs, and pharmacies.  There is no question though that this science is some of the most exciting technology that humans have developed.  So, keep in mind, did computers revolutionize our lives overnight?

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