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The Promise of Stem Cells


Are stem cells really as promising as some scientists, media and politicians claim to cure diseases?



Answer: The claims for stem cell research have been greatly overblown. Stem cell research is very much at its infancy. The public perception is that patients will receive stem cells, and their diseases will be cured so that that they will no longer have to take medications. This notion is completely erroneous. The scientific community knows very little about stem cell biology. Adult and cord stem cell research has translated into some clinical therapies while embryonic stem cell research have not. Adult and cord stem cell research has been successfully conducted in several animal models and in small clinical studies, particularly for the treatment of blood disorders and blood-related cancers. Cord blood is currently an alternative to bone marrow stem cell transplantation when a bone marrow match is not available. Yet, it is important to note that there are few controlled clinical trials using adult and cord stem cells that have shown proven efficacy and safety outside the use of blood related diseases.


Though embryonic stem cells have theoretical potential, there is little supportive data in animal models that embryonic stem cells conclusively works, and there is no clinical data that embryonic stem cell is safe and efficacious in patients. Clinical treatments with embryonic stem cells will not occur until there’s conclusive efficacy and safety data. Even under the best scenario, most well respected embryonic stem cell experts do not anticipate treatment for patients in the near future, and more likely would not occur for several more years to decades or not at all. More importantly, for patient currently suffering with chronic conditions like Parkinson disease, diabetes, heart disease and spinal cord injuries, there is no evidence that stem cell treatments will be any better than conventional treatments.

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