When can we expect the first true regenerative medicine to arrive as commercially available products, widely used in hospitals and clinics? Which therapies will be first out of the gate? Getting the science done is just the first step in the long road from laboratory to product. It's a difficult enough process even without the politicians attempting to legislate certain technologies out of existence.
A Houston Chronicle piece mentions some of the conventional wisdom in scientific circles regarding timelines and the first conditions to benefit from stem cell research:
"There has been a lot of inordinate hype," said Terry Devitt, a spokesman for stem cell research at the University of Wisconsin, where the first human embryonic stem cells were isolated in 1998. "Basic science is a slow, expensive, painstaking process. It'll be at least a decade, I think, before stem cell advances make it to the clinic."
In any event, most scientists express confidence that embryonic stem cell research will yield fruit. They say the most promising targets are Parkinson's disease, which affects a small and specialized population of brain cells; type 1 diabetes, which is caused by the loss of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas; and spinal cord injuries, where a few crucial nerve cells die.
That the first likely targets are ones in which large benefits can be obtained from the regeneration of comparatively little tissue. This is a good first step. Meanwhile, effective adult stem cell therapies for heart disease, bone regeneration and a few other conditions - those that have already undergone limited human trials and are not subject to the same level of political opposition - are likely to reach the marketplace within the next ten years.