British Scientists: Embryonic Stem Cell Research Cures "Years Away" If Ever

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 1, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Scientists: Embryonic Stem Cell Research Cures "Years Away" If Ever Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 1, 2006

London, England ( — Two leading British scientists say that any potential cures from embryonic stem cell research are many years away, if they ever occur. They said that some of the hoopla created by the media and lawmakers who want to fund the controversial research has distorted the public view of it.

Professor Colin McGuckin, a specialist in regenerative medicine at the UK’s Newcastle University, says the potential for embryonic stem cell research to cure diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease had been exaggerated.

"What we’re going to see is one or two patients being helped in some way and people are going to hail it as the end of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s," McGuckin told CNN.

"But it’s going to be a slow process. We hear an awful lot of hype about what stem cells can do but in reality there’s still a lot of work to do," he added.

McGuckin said that it was more likely that stem cell research would have a beneficial effect for those suffering from disorders affecting major organs, such as those with heart or liver disease. Adult stem cells have already shown some progress in those areas.

He also told CNN that money for science is being mismanaged and that more funds are needed to tackle basic problems rather than for speculative fields like embryonic stem cell research.

"The thing that kills lots of people in the Third World is infection — and putting millions into stem cell research isn’t necessarily going to help us treat infectious diseases which kill millions of people," McGuckin said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Stephen Minger, Director of the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory at King’s College in London, told CNN that considerably more "fundamental research" is needed before embryonic stem cells are ever close to actually helping patients.

"We don’t want to create false expectations that these therapies are just around the corner," he explained.