National Science Foundation Publishes False Stem Cell Paper

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 14, 2011   |   12:03PM   |   Washington, DC

The Family Research Council is criticizing the National Science Foundation (NSF) for publishing a misleading paper on the topic of stem cell research that it says is “displaying appalling ignorance about stem cells.”

In touting NSF funding of a publication about stem cell comparisons, NSF put out a press release titled “Social scientists study impact of human adult stem cell research.” But the paper NSF references, and which the science agency funded, does not discuss adult stem cells at all.

The paper promoted by NSF, published in the journal Cell on Friday, compares embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. iPS cells are embryonic-like stem cells made directly from adult tissues by adding a few genes to normal cells, without destroying human embryos for their cells. The iPS cells are also not adult stem cells, which have helped patients dealing with more than 100 diseases and adverse medical conditions.

“I am appalled that the National Science Foundation would publish an ideological paper that promotes embryo-destructive research by attempting to link such research to advances in iPS cell research,” Dr. David Prentice, Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for Life Sciences, said in statement to LifeNews. “While even this possible linkage is questionable based on the limits of the data presented, NSF in its headlong rush to promote ES cell research goes over the edge in confusing and prejudicing the public.”

“Adult stem cells come from tissues such as bone marrow, blood, brain, heart and umbilical cord blood, and can be isolated without harm to the stem cell donor from birth onward. More than 50,000 people annually receive adult stem cell transplants around the globe, and published science shows adult stem cells are successful at treating dozens of diseases and injuries, including heart damage, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes and sickle cell anemia,” Dr. Prentice continued.

“Isolating embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of a young human embryo, and has yet to show published evidence of any success in humans. While iPS cells provide an ethical method to form pluripotent stem cells almost identical to ES cells, from any person, but without embryo destruction, iPS cells are not adult stem cells,” Prentice continued.

The former Indiana State University biology professor concluded, “The NSF should retract their press release and issue a full correction. Open debate on public policy and law regarding stem cell research cannot abide such scientific ignorance and willful misrepresentation.”

The controversy comes on the same day professor Augusto Pessina of the University of Milan was published in the official Vatican newspaper saying embryonic stem cell research offers only false hopes to patients.

“This situation helps to nourish the uncritical mentality that demonizes any attempt at regulation as anti-scientific and against progress. Moreover, ‘stem’ has become a sort of magic word that gives added value to everything from cosmetics to the most absurd therapeutic ideas,” he said.

“There is a lot of false information and lies in stem cell biomedicine, whether about biological knowledge or clinical applications,” he said, noting some ESCR supporters make “unrealistic promises” to cure “almost any pathology” with “at best therapies that have not been approved or that in other cases are useless or even dangerous to one’s health.”