The use of embryonic stem cells for medical treatments has not only proven unpromising but, according to some scientists working in the field of stem cell research, the practice is actually counterproductive. From Australia, where the debate is raging over cloning, comes this news story.
Professor James Sherley [shown at left], a researcher in the field of adult stem cells, is one of a series of experts in Canberra to lobby MPs ahead of a conscience vote on whether a ban on therapeutic cloning should be overturned. Prof. Sherley, from Boston's Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), today said scientists had failed to reveal problems with embryonic stem cells that would prevent them being used in humans.
The unique feature of embryonic stem cells that allowed them to turn into any cell of the body, known as pluripotency, created a problem when researchers injected them into tissue, Prof Sherley said. “When you put them in an environment where they can grow and develop, they make lots of different kind of tissues,” Prof Sherley said.
“This tumour formation property is an inherent feature of the cells. And all you have to do is simply inject them into an animal tissue – this happens at very high efficiency. And although some might say we can solve the tumour problem down the road, that's equivalent to saying we can solve the cancer problem and we may, but that's a long time coming...”