NSF Accused of Misrepresenting Information on Stem Cell Research

June 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

What's the truth about stem cells?

The Family Research Council (FRC) last week criticized the National Science Foundation (NSF) for publishing incorrect information about stem cells. In touting NSF funding of a publication about stem cell comparisons, the science organization put out a press release titled “Social scientists study impact of human adult stem cell research.” The FRC argues that the the paper NSF references, and which the science agency funded, does not discuss adult stem cells at all.

The paper promoted by NSF, published in the journal Cell on Friday, compares embryonic stem (ES) cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. iPS cells are embryonic-like stem cells made directly from adult tissues by adding a few genes to normal cells, without using embryos.  The iPS cells are not adult stem cells.

Dr. David Prentice, Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for Life Sciences reacted with the following statement:

“I am appalled that the National Science Foundation would publish an ideological paper that promotes embryo-destructive research by attempting to link such research to advances in iPS cell research. While even this possible linkage is questionable based on the limits of the data presented, NSF in its headlong rush to promote ES cell research goes over the edge in confusing and prejudicing the public… Isolating embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of a young human embryo, and has yet to show published evidence of any success in humans. While iPS cells provide an ethical method to form pluripotent stem cells almost identical to ES cells, from any person, but without embryo destruction, iPS cells are not adult stem cells.”

“The NSF should retract their press release and issue a full correction. Open debate on public policy and law regarding stem cell research cannot abide such scientific ignorance and willful misrepresentation,” concluded Prentice.

The press release and article the FRC is criticizing discusses the results of a study regarding the impact of human stem cell research.

New research says studying both adult and embryonic stem cells can benefit medical science, but banning the study of either type could harm studies of the other. Researchers from the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. investigated whether the increased number of studies with a certain type of adult stem cell has changed the overall course of research in the field.

In analyzing more than 2,000 scientific papers, the researchers found adult stem cells are not replacing human embryonic stems cells in the laboratory. Instead, the two cell types have proven to be complementary and any disruption of federal funding, they say, would negatively impact stem cell research overall.

If federal funding stops for human embryonic stem cell research, it would have a serious negative impact on adult stem cell research, says Stanford University bioethicist Christopher Scott, one of the paper’s co-authors. “We may never be able to choose between iPS and ES cell research because we don’t know which type of cell will be best for eventual therapies.”

Adult stem cells come from tissues such as bone marrow, blood, brain, heart and umbilical cord blood, and can be isolated without harm to the stem cell donor from birth onward. More than 50,000 people annually receive adult stem cell transplants around the globe, and published science shows adult stem cells are successful at treating dozens of diseases and injuries, including heart damage, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes and sickle cell anemia.

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