Who’s Selling the “Promise?”

ChelseaAdult Stem Cell Research, Science, Stem Cell Storage, Umbilical Cord BloodLeave a Comment

This article in the LA Times is ripe with criticism of the recent push for stem cell banking:

KEVIN MANNIX is a salesman and entrepreneur in the healthcare industry, a husband, father of two and the son of a man who died of a heart attack at 52. In matters of business and of health, he lives by the same principles: Do your research, hedge your bets, avoid regret and — every once in a while — take a leap of faith…

Adult stem cells are Mannix’s leap of faith. And after a fair amount of research, he’s intent on putting his in a bank…

As stem-cell research has gathered momentum in recent years, these microscopic powerhouses have come to spark at least as much hope as they have controversy. And they have spawned new businesses eager to cater to this blossoming of public optimism. Private tissue banks, which offer to harvest and store adult stem cells for a client’s future personal use, are among the most visible of these. And they are springing up across the country.

The result is an industry marked by hype, high cost and only a limited chance that the cells extracted and stored will be of use when the fog of scientific inquiry — still very much underway — clears….

Adult stem cells exist in the blood and organs after a human has emerged from the womb, and remain there, hiding in a crowd of more specialized cells. They do not bear the same ethical baggage as their embryonic counterparts, because they can be harvested without creating or destroying new life. But scientists also believe they probably lack the wide-ranging curative potential that embryonic cells have.

Mannix (a man the article cites as , however, is a believer, and he’s not the only one. In a future that he and many others see as dawning already, adult stem cells will heal the ravages of age, genetic inheritance and environment. They will treat and cure heart disease, cancers, autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and injuries including banged-up bones and joints and damaged spinal cords.

That future may never come, or it may come too late to benefit patients such as Mannix and his wife. It may require stem cells gleaned from embryos, not adult bodies. It may require adult stem cells from different sources than blood, or processed and stored differently than the methods used by banks starting up now.

Nevertheless, private tissue banks are drawing a growing number of customers such as Mannix, who expects to pay $6,000 to harvest his own stem cells from his bloodstream and $400 a year thereafter to keep them cryogenically stored for his future use.

Meanwhile, the Biotech Industry is selling the “promise” and “potential” of embryonic stem cell and human cloning research that, unlike research with adult stem cells, has yet to produce positive results, in order to get laws passed to ensure that they receive millions in public funds.

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