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What's Next for Stem Cells
In this photo made available by Advanced Cell Technology, a single cell is removed from a human embryo to be used in generating embryonic stem cells for scientific research.(AP)

In this photo made available by Advanced Cell Technology, a single cell is removed from a human embryo to be used in generating embryonic stem cells for scientific research. A Massachusetts biotechnology company has developed a new way of creating stem cells without destroying human embryos. (AP)

On August 9, 2001, President George W. Bush hit the brakes on embryonic stem cell research. Not a complete halt, but a big slowdown on research into the wonder cells that can turn into any other kind of cell in the human body.

Potential cures for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, MS, Parkinson’s, and more, all seemed further away. But the work didn’t stop. Scientists in other countries jumped in, in a big way. American researchers found new ways forward.

Now Bush is gone, Obama’s in, and hopes and expectations are rising again. Stem cell research has come in from the cold, once more promising medical miracles. Last month, the FDA approved the first trials of embryonic stem cell therapy for human patients — paralyzed patients with spinal cord injuries.

All this as new methods of creating new cells from adult tissue may bypass debates over human embryos entirely.

This hour, On Point: The leading edge of stem cell research — now.

You can join the conversation. Are you hoping that stem cell therapies may one day save you or someone in your family? Are you ready to let the research roll?


David Scadden, professor of medicine at Harvard University, where he’s co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Regenerative Medicine.

John Gearhart, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1998, he led one of two teams — along with James Thomson’s at the University of Wisconsin — that first isolated and identified human embryonic stem cells.

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  • Joe B.

    For someone as myself who is staunchly pro-life, I am glad to see that stem cell research can be done without destroying human embryos.

  • Jean

    Artificial stem cells have a problem with growing uncontrollably. They act like cancer. But maybe we have learned from the practice and can use real stem cells now.

  • Brenda Neil

    I am an oncology nurse and a student in a nurse practitioner program. Thanks for this wonderful show on stem cells. I have great optimism for their use in the future in cancer and other diseases and conditions. I disagree with Dr Gearheart’s short term use of stem cells in heart disease. Most of the heart disease and stroke in this country is due to lifestyle. I think that stem cell usage should be focused on those diseases that one has no control over, the cancers and neuromuscular diseases. In addition, more money needs to be spent on prevention and education for those conditions we do have control over.

  • http://ArtisansinWoodandDesign Michael Turkoc

    Where can people with spinal cord injuries go to get in line? #2853315

  • Judy marz

    I am so excited about stem cell research. My granddaughter, age 9, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I would love to know that when she is in high school, she can say to her Mom, “remember when I had to wear the pod.” Thank you!
    Judy Marz

  • http://IowaPublicRadio Shirlee Funk

    STem cell use for type 1 diabetes also has the problem to overcome in terms of the porcess that originally destroyed the beta islet cells, which is a defective auto-immune system. So unless there is a mechanism to turn off the immune system from attacking new implants, the process will happen again, destroying the new beta cells.

  • Gary Oberlin

    I have had DBS for Parkinson’s Disease and would like to know where i can find the latest on stem cell research.

  • Gary Oberlin

    I have had DBS for Parkinson’s Disease and would like to know where i can find the latest on stem cell research.

  • Geri Rippe

    Whose children will be killed for these embryonic cells? the poor, the homeless, the middle class, the undesirables, surely not the rich or the millionaires children. Almost sounds like eugenics to me. Perhaps we will farm our children to grow new parts for ourselves so that we can live eternally. Ahhh the old quest for immortality. I pity the poor children who are going to be sacrificed.

    PS. I have no problem with adult or umbellical cord research. At least those persons get to live.

  • Lisa Regn

    I fully support stem cell research and am excited about what will be done with it. But who are we to decide one person should die so another can live a better life? If adult and umbilical cord stem cells show just as much, if not more promise than embryonic stem cells, why do we need to continue the practice of aborting babies in the name of science?

  • Theresa Krahner

    It’s a shame that so many misconceptions exist about stem cell research and the use of embryonic stem cells. Thankfully, new ideas like ips cells are being worked on and we can move past the existing issues and misconceptions.

  • Florian Menninger Jr

    I have been a practicing Type 1 diabetic for 41 years. I was diagnosed in 1967 at age 30. I’ve done well with all the new discoveries and developments in the new insulins and devices for treating and managing the disease. It’s gotten easier but I am an optimist and I am hoping that one of the many cures that have been reported in mice will become available to me in my lifetime. I am glad that scientists and researchers in the field of stem cell research include a diabetes cure on their short list of diseases. I am ready to take the cure.

  • Tiger

    Liberty Mutual: take note…..

    Once again, twice the listeners respond to an arts segment than to an Ashbrook Hate-Bush segment. PLease call off the partisan. The audience has demonstrated its preference.

  • Jane

    Then how long before insurance companies will be willing to pay for these treatments unless they are dirt cheap!?

  • Don Koza

    I’m confused. Although embryonic stem cells have been studied longer than adult stem cells, I thought the only successful application have been from adult stem cells and that true embryonic stem cells tend to grow uncontrollably like cancer. Yet the host and guests talked as if true embryonic stem cells were going to be our salvation, praise Obama! Under Bush, funding was indeed available for adult stem cell research and medical applications were developed. I found the discussion very deceitful.

  • Rayilyn Brown

    No person dies when embryonic stem cell research is done. All cells, not just germ cells, are potential life, not persons. Embryonic stem cells are microscopic undifferentiated cells created in a petri dish, not tissue, a fetus or a baby that is ripped out of a womb.

    As a person who has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for 13 years, I am offended by the lies and misconceptions promoted by those who oppose embryonic stemm cell research.

  • Jill Gill

    Hats off to the excellent discussion. Hope is on the way. It reminds me of HOPE the stem cell movie by Rich Ambler which puts a human face to Stem Cell research.
    In this movie a tragic crime challenges a Senator’s stance against Stem cell research. I can see light at the end of the tunnel now…. Thank you Doctors

  • Edward Helmrich

    Of course they are doing great work with adult stem cells and umbilical blood cells. But embryonic stem cells – they are killing a human being to get them. That is evil, and they should not do it.
    Their only reason, not that any reason would do, is that it’s another avenue – but it is very evil and will bring disaster upon our country.

  • Calvin Johnson MD

    I was very disappointed that no clear distinction was made between adult stem cell and embryonic stem cell. The implication that All stem cell research was hindered by Pres.Bush’s restriction on embryonic stem cells research is not true.
    Adult stem cells obtained from the patients own tissue or cord blood have and are being used to treat upward of 70 different diseases – include spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s dis., cancer (>20), Diabetes Type 1, etc. (There has never been a limit on this research and there are articles almost every month on one or another successful treatments. Don’t take my word for it. Google the specific problem/stem cell treatment. – eg. spinal cord injury treatment, sept 2008, Brain 131, and J.of Sp Cord Med,. 29, 2006)).
    Embryonic stem cell research, which was the area of research limited by Pres. Bush to available stem cell lines only, has never been successful. The most frequent problem is the development of lethal tumors. The recent FDA approval trial is not to test the efficacy of hESC in treating spinal cord injuries but its safety.
    Last year, as was mentioned but not well or fully discussed, Dr. Yamanaka at Kyoto U. and Dr. Thomson at U. of Wis. both succeeded in turning adult skin cells into the equivalent of human embryonic stem cells. This is a major break through. THIS REQUIRED NO SACRIFICE OF A HUMAN EMBRYO!
    So why do scientists and the media, etc. not focus on what is successful, namely adult stem cell treatment and get excited about the recent above research?
    Instead your experts and your program seemed to emphasize the “panacea” of embryonic stem cells from embryos. Could it be research funding?
    I believe each embryo and unique human- its DNA is unique and has the potential of been someone special.
    As a physician we all want to find successful treatments for those suffering from chronic disease. But should not want it at the expense of another human.

  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7847753.stm Frederic C.

    It is gratifying to see the end of the husc ban. When life begins and when is an embryo an ‘individual,’ is a phylosophical-religious issue, not one to be made by the federal government.

  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7847753.stm Frederic C.

    It is gratifying to see the end of the husc ban. When life begins and when is an embryo an ‘individual,’ is a philosophical-religious issue, not one to be made by the federal government.

    It is refreshing to hear the debate in enlightened terms and not in the language of the pro-life tissue fetishists .

  • nishant

    yes i am definately hoping and praying that the research in the field of these wonder cells also knwon as stem cells gets ahead with great speed and starts to show results soon as my mother is suffering from MND and the only ray of hope is stem cells i hope some day very soon as time is running out, something would be offered by these wonder cells..

  • seth

    I have a T8 sci, and I still can’t believe that people think that ESC’s are children, Think about the end of every month one of the so called “children” goes out of a womans body, and think about how many “children” men make get thrown away. Once ESC’s are used and applied adult stem cells can be reverted back safely with harmful viruses and will be applied. I ask anyone who says ESC’s are” very evil and will bring disaster upon our country.
    Posted by Edward Helmrich, on February 6th, 2009 at 4:26 pm EST”

    To sit in a wheelchair and have to have people help you everyday, and be able to have a full life, to be able to control you bowel or badder, not have sexual function. Before I got hurt a few years ago I would have no IDEA how bad life can be.

    GO and try to do what you do right now in a wheelchair for a day and then come back on and tell me to limit what people are going to work on to fix your body and then think about going thru everyday having people tell you to accept it and that you are going to have to wait and unknown amount of time to be repaired.

    I can’t even walk in my shoes right now so How can you.

  • Dr.J.Ramesh Chandra Das

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    If you have confidence in me and happy with my idea please contribute liberally to
    Dr.J. Ramesh Chandra Das, SBAc.No. 10570395979, STATE BANK OF INDIA (00941) IFS Code: SBIN0000941, Thiruvananthapuram-695001, Kerala, S.India

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