While I am usually an optimist, I must admit that there is a possibility that we will continue to be in the Dark Ages of medicine for quite some time. I fear that therapies using purified tissue and organ-specific stem cells – the only self-renewing cells in a tissue or that can regenerate that tissue or organ for life – will remain elusive.
Weissman, who directs Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, goes on to cover the gamut of hurdles facing stem cell research today: fraudulent and questionable stem cell clinics and practices, the recent decision by the Texas medical board to allow physicians to provide unproven therapies without FDA oversight to ensure safety and efficacy (calling this a ‘giant step backward’ for stem cell research), how the need for profit can squelch even promising medical advances, and more.
He ends by saying:
So, whom have I failed to annoy here? In one way or another, I have called out almost all of the different stakeholder groups involved in developing stem cell therapies. I wish I had a better story to tell, but I am convinced that we need to identify and reveal those who directly or indirectly do harm with phony medicines, and those who generate barriers to finding and transplanting adult tissue/organ stem cells for financial, religious, political, or other reasons. Unless we do, it will be difficult to usher in the era of stem cell regenerative medicine. Remember, right now our patients, friends, and families are contracting diseases that have a very short window of opportunity in which regenerative therapies can save them, and each delay removes a cohort of them from possible cures. We should not fail them.