Stem Cell Milestone (But Not Those Stem Cells)
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpBZGPAEvUYThe science wires buzzed throughout Tuesday with news that European doctors used stem cells to repair a 30-year-old, Colombian woman's windpipe, which was damaged by tuberculosis. The procedure--written up in the British medical journal The Lancet--is a milestone for sure; we're talking about a lab-grown trachea that circumvents the risks of tissue rejection. But, as Scientific American blogger Jordan Lite points out, some reports are taking a leap and connecting this medical marvel to President-elect Obama's promise to lift the federal funding ban on embryonic stem cells.Take, for instance, this piece in the International Herald Tribune (the international edition of the New York Times), which states: "News of the procedure coincided with speculation that President-elect Barack Obama may reverse the Bush administration's restrictions on stem cell research, an issue that has also been contentious in some European countries." (Interestingly, the Times's version does not include this sentence.)This procedure involved adult stem cells from the patient's bone marrow, which have never been under ethical scrutiny. Adult stem cells come from certain environments in the body (the marrow or the brain) and can develop into many different kinds of cells--but not every type. Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, come from the initial eight or so cells that eventually multiply and grow into every part of the body. Using these cells to create stem cell lines typically involves destroying the future embryo--which is the cause of all the stem cell hubbub.But, Obama's so hot right now, it's hard not to make the stretch and mention him.