From the Westchester Institute of Ethics and the Human Person
For the better part of the past two years, scientific attention has focused on comparing the traits and capabilities of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) with the putative “gold standard” human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Unlike hESCs, which are obtained by destroying live embryos, iPSCs are made directly from adult cells—such as skin cells—by adding a small number of factors to these cells in the laboratory. These factors remodel the mature cells and convert them into stem cells that are functionally identical to stem cells obtained from embryos. No human eggs are required and no human embryos are generated or destroyed in the process.
... stem cell fervor has waned and public frustration over the lack of tangible progress in stem cell science is growing.
To be sure, criticism of the lack of progress in the translation of stem cell research to therapies has arisen from surprising sources. In March of 2009 Dr. Bernadine Healy, director of the National Institutes of Health under the first Bush adminstration, wrote in her U.S. News & World Report column that "embryonic stem cells, once thought to hold the cure for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes, are obsolete." An editorial last January in Investor’s Business Daily angrily criticized California’s Proposition 71. This was the 2004 State law which allotted $6 billion of California taxpayer money to primarily embryo-destructive stem cell research over the next decade, an initiative that rode a tremendous wave of hyped advocacy for embryonic stem cell research. “Five years after a budget-busting $3 billion was allocated to embryonic stem cell research,” wrote the editors, “there have been no cures, no therapies and little progress.” Writing earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times, one science reporter felt it was time to offer her own mea culpa: don’t blame the scientists for hyping the potential of hESC research; blame us, the reporters.