Science Runs One-Sided Attack on Adult Stem Cell Research Advocate

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

Science Runs One-Sided Attack on Adult Stem Cell Research Advocate Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 18, 2006

Washington, DC ( — In the days leading up to the Senate debate on embryonic stem cell research embryonic stem cell research advocates began a collective attack on a leading adult stem cell research supporter. The attack culminated in a claim that adult stem cell research does not help patients with dozens of diseases as its supporters have said.

Dr. David Prentice, a Family Research Council spokesman who is a former biology professor as Indiana State University, has been a leading advocate of adult stem cell research.

He has repeatedly pointed out that such research has yielded treatments for patients suffering from dozens of diseases and conditions ranging from bladder cancer problems to heart disease issues.

“The bottom line,” Dr. Prentice has explained, “is that our real promise lies not in the use of embryonic stem cells but with adult stem cells."

"Adult stem cells are today already at work in patients. I can document, through published scientific papers, with over 65 human diseases, where patients are better already, having been effectively treated through adult stem cells," Prentice said.

However, Dr. William Neaves, a proponent of embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, wrote a letter in the scientific journal Science criticizing Dr. Prentice.

Neaves accuses Prentice of claiming that adult stem cells are being regularly used as FDA-approved treatments in the United States. While some treatments have been FDA approved others listed by Dr. Prentice, such as Parkinson’s and spinal cord injury, occurred overseas and would not involve the FDA.

"It’s bad science and bad ethics to misrepresent adult stem cell treatments in an effort to mislead the public about the potential benefits of research with embryonic stem cells," Neaves wrote.

However, Prentice has never made the claim that the FDA has approved every adult stem cell treatment for every condition where it has already helped patients. In fact he’s specifically said that the FDA is behind in making these therapies more readily available to the American public.

"Dr. Prentice has correctly pointed out that many patients are being helped in these trials," Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, said.

Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, said, during the Senate debate on embryonic stem cell research funding, that he agreed with Prentice’s view.

"A lot of people are having to go overseas to get the treatments because of lack of FDA approval," Brownback said. He added that the federal government has spent more than $500 million on human and animal embryonic stem cell research that could have made adult stem cell therapies more available and put others into human trials.

Meanwhile, Perkins also said that Science approached the criticism in a biased manner by now allowing Prentice to respond to the letter and its claims.

"What’s more disheartening, the journal Science published it without giving Dr. Prentice a chance to respond, a usual practice for scientific journals," Perkins said.

"Even worse, Science does not disclose Dr. Neaves’ expenditure of $10 million to advance Missouri’s clone and kill human embryo ballot initiative," Perkins added.

In fact, Neaves is the president and CEO of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, which has poured millions into a Missouri ballot proposal voters will consider in November that promotes embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.

Perkins said that while embryonic stem cell research has yet to cure or help a single human patient, because it still has problems in animals, "The good news is that the list is now at 72 diseases that have been treated in humans with adult stem cells."

He challenged Neaves’ contention that embryonic stem cell research would yield a host of cures and therapies.

"One wonders based on his own criteria, how Dr. Neaves knows embryonic stem cells from cloned embryos are going to treat people, when not a single disease has been treated by this method in any trial," Perkins added.