Friday, December 16, 2005

It Ain't Necessarily So: Stem Cells

SEOUL (Reuters) - Key parts of a landmark paper from South Korea's most renowned stem cell scientist were fabricated and the researcher is seeking to have the work withdrawn, a close collaborator told South Korean media on Thursday...

Roh told media nine of the 11 stem cell lines that were part of the tailored stem study paper were fabricated and the authenticity of the other two was questionable.

According to recent reports in South Korean media, some of the photographic images of the stem cells lines may have been manipulated to make it appear as if there were 11 separate lines.
Skipping ahead a bit in the The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, this quote seems prescient when taken into account with the happenings above.
For years it was not stem cells but gene therapy -- the idea of fixing a disease by mending broken DNA -- that seemed to be the ultimate expression of molecular medicine. Cures, we were told, lay just around the corner. Unfortunately, success turned out to be much harder to achieve in people than to diagram on a chalkboard ... Realization that the promised cures were years away finally burst the bubble. Today, a disappointingly small number of hardy investigators remain in what was once medicine's most highly anticipated new area of research.

Is this going to be the fate of embryonic stem cell science in five or ten years? I hope not, and yet it's also not very difficult to imagine this happening. Already newspapers are filled with extravagant claims of progress and cures. These reports belie the very slow rate of true scientific advancement. Add to this the explicit expectation of rapid clinical progress ... and you have a recipe for trouble.
David A. Shaywitz,
Harvard stem cell researcher,
Washington Post, April 29, 2005
UPDATE: Get Religion has a good story with links about the cloning superstar's "feet of clay."

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