Sunday, November 12, 2006

Why Not Adult Stem Cells?

In a recent article, an anonymous poster responded to a comment made by one of our users who asked, "Why not just use adult stem cells?" as opposed to using embryonic stem cells. The anonymous poster who responded to this comment did a very good job summarizing this important issue and this will hopefully clear things up for those asking the same question.

Adult stem cells are not a substitute for embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells have the ability to become any other kind of cell; adult stem cells do not. If you want to study how the entire body develops and differentiates into different kinds of tissue, you need to study embryonic stem cells; there is no substitute.

Stem cells offer at least four avenues for new medical therapies:
  1. They could be used to grow tissue for transplant. This is very attractive since there aren't enough organ donors to meet current needs.
  2. Stem cells could be used for much more effective drug testing. Drugs can be tested on tissues grown from human stem cells rather than tested through animal trials (where results can be misleading) or through human trials (which are expensive and time consuming).
  3. Stem cells could be used to study diseases as [they] develop much more quickly and certainly much more repeatably than by observing the disease develop in a person.
  4. Stem cells could be used to tailor therapies to individuals.

1 comment:

anomalous4 said...

Well said, whoever you are.

Two Fridays ago, Scott Adams departed from his usual "off-the-wall on weekdays, serious on Sundays" MO on his Dilbert blog to respond to an uninformed reader's illiterate anti-embryonic-stem-cell rant he'd received via e-mail.

Needless to say, his post touched off a lot of back-and-forth (359 replies at last count, and still going) of highly variable intelligence and sense (much of it consisting of a lack thereof, as commonly happens on nonscientific forums), but it got me thinking about how a workable embryonic-stem-cell program could be set up.

Having already spewed plenty of verbiage today on another thread, I won't repeat my musings here, but on the off chance that anyone wants to read them, they can be found here.