Researcher: Bush Embryonic Stem Cell Bill Veto Wouldn’t Halt Science

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 14, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Researcher: Bush Embryonic Stem Cell Bill Veto Wouldn’t Halt Science Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 14, 2006

Irvine, CA ( — A leading stem cell research scientist says a veto by President Bush of the embryonic stem cell research funding bill doesn’t shatter the hope that science can proceed. He indicated that there are better alternatives that are available that offer more hope for patients for cures than embryonic stem cells.

Francisco Silva, the lead stem cell researcher at PrimeCell Therapeutics, a California biotech firm, said, "While all stem cell research is important, a presidential veto would not mean the end of the promise that stem cells show."

"Hope for effective therapies also lies in the alternatives — specifically in the therapeutic reprogramming of the germ line," he explained.

Thanks to new research, there is now a possibility of deriving adult human pluripotent stem cells that do not involve the use of human eggs and/or embryos, Silva explained. These cells are not hampered by the ethical hurdles and scientific challenges that embryonic stem cells face, putting them on a faster track to therapeutic applications.

"Achieving pluripotency in adult stem cells offers a solution that can elevate us out of the political morass and move us faster toward therapies that cure," Silva said.

Silva and his team have taken adult stem cells from testes, the germ line, and reprogrammed them to exhibit pluripotentiality.

The germ line is the most protected and genetically pure cell line in the body and, as such, provides the best chance for successful therapies that will lead to cures, Silva explained.

PrimeCell Therapeutics’ mouse model is similar to that referenced in an article published by German researchers in the journal Nature. But, Silva says his company is further along — its researchers have already begun developing a human model by therapeutically reprogramming human germ line stem cells.

For therapy, the cells would be derived from the same individual receiving the therapeutic treatment. This eliminates risk of rejection, infection and the introduction of foreign pathogens found in embryonic stem cell treatments in animals and possibly reduces the time to regulatory approval for clinical trials.

President Bush’s Council on Bioethics published a paper in 2005 about the kind of technology Silva’s team is advancing.

Reprogramming human somatic cells to dedifferentiate them back into pluripotent stem cells is a key proposal found in the paper. Therapeutically reprogramming the germ line falls under this proposal and has already been accomplished by three independent laboratories.