CNN Backs Myth Embryonic Stem Cell Research Will Cure Alzheimer’s

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 18, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

CNN Backs Myth Embryonic Stem Cell Research Will Cure Alzheimer’s Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 18, 2006

Atlanta, GA ( — In the wake of a South Korean scandal involving embryonic stem cell research scientists who faked their studies, mainstream media outlets have been working overtime to prop up the morally problematic research. However, in their zeal to persuade the public the research still has a potential for success, they have often overstated the case.

In a wide-ranging article on Tuesday, CNN writers Michael Bay and Matt Ford talk about embryonic stem cells’ "almost miraculous ability to cure and restore" patients.

"Many scientists believe the treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease could ultimately benefit from stem cell research," the CNN writers claim.

Yet that’s not the case.

Because Alzheimer’s is not a disease involving one type of cell, one scientist says the use of embryonic stem cells is unlikely to have much effect.

"Alzheimer’s is a more global disease, with an effect on numerous kinds of cells," Steve Stice, a stem cell researcher at the University of Georgia, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. "That makes it much more difficult for a cell therapy to be effective."

In a patient afflicted with Alzheimer’s, clumps of protein called amyloid build up within the brain and begin attacking various types of cells and the connections between cells.

Other researchers agree that potential cures, if they come about, won’t happen soon.

Marilyn Albert told the Associated Press, "I just think everybody feels there are higher priorities for seeking effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and for identifying preventive strategies."

Albert, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who chairs the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Association, says there are more promising efforts to treat the disease than waiting on the decades it could take to see results from embryonic stem cells.

Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, associate director of the National Institute on Aging’s neuroscience and neuropsychology of aging program, concurs.

"There’s an awful lot going on right now that perhaps holds a little bit more immediate promise for trying to slow the disease, or even cut off its development," Morrison-Bogorad explained.

Both scientists pointed to efforts to block amyloid from building up in the brain. Such research could yield results in 5 to 10 years, much sooner than dividends from embryonic stem cell research.

Even Ron Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan, admitted in an interview on MSNBC’s "Hardball" in July 2004 that embryonic stem cell research is unlikely to provide cures for the debilitating disease.

"Alzheimer’s is a disease, ironically, that probably won’t be amenable to treatment through stem cell therapies," Reagan admitted.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said the proof has been in the pudding — that embryonic stem cells have yet to help a single patient while adult stem cells have already produced treatments for dozens of conditions and diseases.

"Science has proven that embryonic stem cell research has not delivered one successful cure and deliberately kills human life in the process," Perkins added. "Adult stem cell science, however, has thousands of cures and is completely ethical."