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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

OK. Everyone take a deep breath ....

It's just another small step towards understanding development and regulation. We've been expecting it for months [Reprogramming Somatic Cells].

It's not that big a deal. Frogs were cloned from somatic cells over 40 years ago. Sheep and lots of other animals have also been cloned from somatic cells. We know that somatic cells can be reprogrammed. Now we know a little bit more about how to do it.

This is not the end of an "ethical" dilemma. Lots of countries were already allowing work with human embryos to create embryonic stem cell lines. We've got lots of them. Sure, it means that the USA will have a better excuse to continue to block embryonic stem cell research but given the political climate that was probably going to happen anyway.

We're not helping science by turning this into a circus and creating false expectations of medical cures just around the corner. A little perspective is in order here.


  1. I was disturbed that the ScienceDaily blurb concentrated on an interview with a University of Wisconsin Bioethicist rather than anything that had come from Thomson himself. It seemed to me that a large part of the false excitement over the reduced need for embryonic stem cells came from the press release on UW's site.

    I think you are right about how cultural conservatives in the US will use this to try to block additional ESC research funding.

    Somehow, the popular press' excitement over this reminds me of Nebraska Man. Can't figure out why.

  2. Attached is a link to another ongoing study which claims to be treating ALS and MS with adult stem cells.

  3. I'm afraid this train has left the station. This meme is all over the US media, even those very rare outlets like the NY Times that occasionally display a bit of cluefulness about science.

    And it figures a university press officer's BS would be the cause of it. Now there's a class of human being with few if any redeeming features...

  4. I'll repeat here what I've said elsewhere:

    I think the developing fall out from this announcement is as strong an indictment of "framing" as can be found. Scientists have for years being giving lip service to so-called "ethical concerns" over embryonic research without simply confronting the issue that those "ethical concerns" are ludicrous, incoherent and religiously motivated. The "frame" has been that we do embryonic research because of its potential, implying that we're weighing one legitimate ethical motivation against another, and that frame has been severely damaged by this announcement. Now our "framing" is going to come back to bite us.

    This is why the scientific community shouldn't use spin and should clearly and explicitly state when they think an opposing idea consists of inane, ludicrous, worthless drivel.

  5. We're not helping science by turning this into a circus and creating false expectations of medical cures just around the corner. A little perspective is in order here.

    Yeah, perspective - that'll sell newspapers! I hope Rupert Murdoch reads Sandwalk, for his sake..

    But seriously, we expect the mainstream media to exaggerate; it's the science press we need to be more critical of, although I don't think they've done a bad job in this case - even New Scientist had a good editorial on this.

  6. Here's the uglier "framing" of the debate: Some are claiming this work is vindication of Bush's ban, that researchers wouldn't have gone this way unless pushed by restrictions.

    Some people will believe anything...