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Stem Cell Therapy Causes Tumors 327

Posted by kdawson
from the too-good-to-be-true dept.
SpaceAdmiral writes, "Using human embryonic stem cells, researchers have cured a Parkinson's-like disease in rats. Unfortunately, the Parkinson's cure causes brain tumors." From the first article: "...10 weeks into the trial, [University of Rochester researchers] discovered brain tumours had begun to grow in every animal treated... By definition, human embryonic stem cells have the almost mythical, immortal power to grow and divide indefinitely as they become the various tissues that make up the body. As a result, scientists have always known that any stem cell therapy could result in an uncontrolled growth of cells that could give rise to cancer."
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Stem Cell Therapy Causes Tumors

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  • Calm down.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:12PM (#16553518) Journal
    You know how you guys flip out over every "breakthrough" in an overheated university press release, and then wonder why that in-vitro or animal result didn't turn into a miracle cure a few months later?

    This is the same thing, in reverse. It's an interesting, frustrating animal result in a pretty good journal, not a crashing doom for stem cell research.

  • Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thisfox (994296) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:20PM (#16553606)
    ...And biology research has been proven to cause disease and death in rats...

    Seriously though... It doesn't necessarily follow that the cure (especially a cure that is still in its infancy - 'scuse the joke) is better than the disease, and the idea is to do the research now so that we can use the stem cells to cure terrible illnesses (and repair missing limbs and all the rest of it) without the side effect of the stem cells going out of control.
    Of course medicine has side effects. Many of the drugs given to a person on chemo and radio therapy are to keep them alive while the actual cure goes ahead and kills their cancer. As yet we are still learning how to control the stem cells, and they are doing what cells do when uncontrolled: making more of themselves and living life to the full. We'll get better at controlling them if we research them. That's why it's called stem cell research...
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:20PM (#16553608)
    I am pretty sure that your suggestions have occured to them and for whatever reason won''t work. Generally speaking scientist don't reject more money because they want to work on projects that have more political turmoil.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:20PM (#16553612) Homepage Journal
    Because Stem Cells have been politicised left right and sideways.
    Right, Embryonic Stem Cells == Baby-killing.
    Left, The right want cancer patients to DIE to prove a point.

    Welcome to politics in the 21st century. They both put things in the most extreme way possible.
  • by kbonin (58917) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:21PM (#16553622) Homepage

    From the article: Goldman and his team took human fetal midbrain tissues, in which dopamine cells are made, and extracted glial cells, whose normal role is to support and maintain the growth of neurons. They then cultured stem cells in this glia-rich environment.

    I'm sure they have an professional ethecist on board who told them all is well, but I'd say this goes a wee bit beyond the use of stem cells harvested from blastocysts. Where exactly did they obtain "human fetal midbrain tissues"?

    I cringe in disgust at how far this slippery slope is progressing...

  • Re:Tumors? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jhon (241832) * on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:37PM (#16553826) Homepage Journal
    Speaking as a European, I can safely say, so what?
    Speaking as an American, "embryonic" stem cell research is one of those polarizing issues (like abortion) which at worst is ripping apart our nation and at best is keeping our representatives from cooperating with each other on the MUNDANE tasks of government because they are so busy stroking their respective constituencies passion with such hot-button issues
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:43PM (#16553888) Homepage

    Speaking as an American, "embryonic" stem cell research is one of those polarizing issues (like abortion) which at worst is ripping apart our nation and at best is keeping our representatives from cooperating with each other on the MUNDANE tasks of government because they are so busy stroking their respective constituencies passion with such hot-button issues

    Okay. My point was, the rest of the world is zipping merrily ahead while the US sits and debates politics and/or religion, and turns good science into another chess piece. Better sort it out quick or you'll be left too far behind to catch up!

  • by Ingolfke (515826) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:51PM (#16553966) Journal
    Vote Democrat... because the current Republican administration wants people to have Parkinson's disease.

    Vote Republican... because Democrats want to give you cancer.

    Vote Libertarian... because the government shouldn't be deciding for you if you want cancer or Parkinson's.
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:53PM (#16553996)
    It's interesting. You have a link to whitehouse.gov as part of your profile. I'd say you might, just might, have an agenda. As for "ethical" baggage, not vigorously pursuing embryonic stem cell research is the only unethical act going on here. Bush and his supporters are responsible for the people who die because he is withholding Federal funding of this research.
  • by pla (258480) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:56PM (#16554032) Journal
    Where exactly did they obtain "human fetal midbrain tissues"?

    Well now... IANASTR, but I'll go out on a limb and say "from the midbrains of human fetuses", with a pretty high level of confidence in my answer.



    I cringe in disgust at how far this slippery slope is progressing...

    What slippery slope? We have a significant portion of the population that deliberately aborts unwanted pregnancies. If someday we benefit from the use of their medical waste to cure Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or even just slow down plain ol' ageing - Good for me, good for you, good for everyone!

    This doesn't require any sort of moral relativism to accept. It can provide nearly miraculous benefits for no (extra) cost. Sounds like a win/win, even if you take the FUD spewed by its worst opponents (tempered by a small dose of reality).

    The fact that it causes tumors I consider an exceedingly inconvenient (if somewhat predictable) complication, but one we can hopefully overcome with continued research.



    As an aside, I also fully encourage continued research into adult stem cells... Though not for any squeamish "oooh, no dead babies" line of BS. Nope - Simply for the far more pragmaic reason that tissue rejection doesn't present a problem after the cure itself takes effect.
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Monday October 23, 2006 @08:16PM (#16554224)
    Not every attempt at something new works the way you want the first time. The first heart transplant patient didn't live very long. The first medications for aids didn't work as well as what is out there now. That's why this kind of research is done on rats. *cough*eatshitpeta*cough* If medical research stopped the first time there was this kind of result, we'd all still be dying of yellow fever and polio. There are entirely too many people getting their shorts in a twist over this. Sheesh!
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neurosean (862751) on Monday October 23, 2006 @08:54PM (#16554530)
    IAASCR (I am a stem cell researcher)and while adult stem cells are indeed useful in certain cases, at the current level of understanding and utilization, they are not as proliferative, nor multipotent as embryonic stem cells. ES cells do have a lot of issues, but this tumor issue is pretty old news for those of us who work with stem cells. I think an increased level of availability and funding there is a better chance to overcome some of the negative issues associated with ES cells as opposed to alterting and manipulating adult stem cells into becoming more potent
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gkhan1 (886823) <oskarsigvardsson.gmail@com> on Monday October 23, 2006 @09:16PM (#16554676)

    I think you meant Edward Jenner and smallpox, not Pasteur and rabies. True, Pasteur did give a rabies-vaccine to a boy and did so at some risk to himself (he wasn't a licensed physician), but the boy would have died if he had done nothing. You can't really say that what he did was unethical, he didn't really have a choice!

    Edward Jenner however gave a 9-year old boy cowpox, which made him sick for 48 days. After that, he injected him with the smallpox virus, "just to see if it would work". This is hugely unethical, but it did eventually lead to the eradication of one of the worst diseases ever to plauge humanity.

  • Re:Tumors? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @09:46PM (#16554942)
    Whether they are correct in the end of not, we must trust medical scientists in the field to choose the research topics on which they will focus and ignore the judgments of posturing politicians.

    If we leave science to the scientists, and forego ethical oversight, what could possibly go wrong? [wikipedia.org]
  • We have a significant portion of the population that deliberately aborts unwanted pregnancies. If someday we benefit from the use of their medical waste to cure Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or even just slow down plain ol' ageing - Good for me, good for you, good for everyone!

    This doesn't require any sort of moral relativism to accept. It can provide nearly miraculous benefits for no (extra) cost. Sounds like a win/win, even if you take the FUD spewed by its worst opponents (tempered by a small dose of reality).

    The ethical problem is that, if the raw material is "medical waste" and the results are successful, how long will it take before the demand out-strips the supply and people start looking for ways intentional generate the raw material? I'm already concerned about the outsourcing of pharmaceutical testing to thrid world countries - whether the test subjects are actually giving informed consent. Are we going to find out in ten or twenty years that these new wonder drugs are being produced by intentionally impregnating women and then harvesting their fetuses?

    Before you respond that I'm being ridiculous, do a little research into the blood diamonds mined in Africa or children forced into the sex industry in southeast Asia. People will be "farmed" if there is a market for it, and it cna be hidden behind enough shell corporations that the big biotech firms have plausible deniability.

  • Are there really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ghjm (8918) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @02:41AM (#16556442) Homepage
    You are certainly correct that there are people within the medical community far more qualified to *understand* issues of medical ethics.

    However, with equal certainty, such experts are *not* qualified to make final decisions on these questions. They represent no-one, were elected by no-one, and are accountable to no-one outside their medical specialty.

    Whatever you may think of politicians - and believe me, I probably share most of your views - they are nevertheless the only people in a position to make legitimate ethical decisions that bind us as a society. This is almost axiomatically true, because in a democracy, legitimacy comes from the people as represented in the legislature.

    So the medical professionals are needed for their expertise, and the politicians are needed for their legitimacy. Medical professionals can't take over this role. What needs to happen is for the two groups to work together.

    Whether the U.S. system of government remains structurally capable of allowing this to happen remains an open question, of course.

    -Graham
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @04:45AM (#16556836) Journal
    Better sort it out quick or you'll be left too far behind to catch up!

    You're assuming that there's something there to begin with... Embryonic stem-cell research could well be a dead-end, resulting in no viable treatments.

    It's also strange that you categorize it as if it is a race... Europeans aren't going to find some magical cure and keep it to themselves. If European scientists develop something before the US, good for them. It would be a nice change.
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by orcrist (16312) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @05:14AM (#16556902)
    You say embryoes are not human life, and therefore killing them is not murder.

    NO. That's your vocabulary. My sperm is human life, and I kill millions every day; other 'human life' includes my hair and fingernails. We (the 'you' in your sentence) say embryos (nice Quayle spelling of that word BTW) are not Human Beings. Big difference.
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @05:16AM (#16556916)
    The difference is that if I'm right, you're endorsing murder. Whereas if you're right, all I'm doing is slowing down a particular field of scientific endeavour.

    That particular field of scientific endeavour being medical research. Chronic diseases kill too, you know.
  • Re:Bullshit. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @09:01AM (#16558290)
    You expected a higher rate of blind agreement and call that 'more'? Great.

    Stem cells are indeed a promising treatment for a variety of auto-immune and other genetic disorders, but all the gp poster did was point out that this research demonstrates an issue with the use of embyonic stem cells that hasn't been solved and state his preference for the use of adult stem cells.

    I don't have any moral problem with destroying undifferentiated lumps of cells, but I understand why other people do, and calling them idiots is no way to have a rational discussion. Perhaps they are idiots btw, but telling them as much isn't going to do anything to convince them of anything.

In these matters the only certainty is that there is nothing certain. -- Pliny the Elder

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