In a way the TCE cells pose a problem similar to cancer. They divide too much and squeeze out cells that do necessary jobs. In another way the TCE cells are similar to the T cells that cause auto-immune diseases. They propagate too much to create antibodies that are not needed (in the case of TCEs) or even harmful (in the case of T cells causing auto-immune disorders). It would be interesting to know whether some auto-immune disorders are caused by TCE cells and whether people who suffer from auto-immune disorders have less diverse T cell populations.
In a way this report is good news for people suffering frmo auto-immune disorders because it focuses attention on the need to be able to very selectively eliminate large subsets of immune system cells. A therapy developed to eliminate TCE cells might also be adaptable to use against T cells that are causing auto-immune disorders.
Effectively the pool of people who need to have their immune systems selectively pruned back has just gotten a lot larger. This increases the odds of more resources being deployed to develop such therapies.
This treatment is a far greater economic value because it is of similar cost to existing treatments but works better because it actually fixes the cause of the problem.
Think about the economic value of stem cell treatments. Our problem in the United States isn't that we spend $1.6 trillion (as of 2002 - surely higher now) per year on medical care. Our problem is that so much of that care does not really fix the underlying causes of various medical conditions. Imagine medical treatments were capable of fixing everything that breaks just as auto mechanics can fix cars. Imagine you could therefore live in perfect health. Then I for one would not complain if that takes 15+% of the GDP.
What I find great about this report is that it shows that stem cell therapies that really fix what is wrong are moving into regular clinical practice. Stem cell therapies are not some distant prospect. They are happening now and every year that goes by from here on out we will have more stem cell therapies that successfully treat more diseases and disorders.
The economic argument is a good one (and I haven't been saying enough on that topic of late). The way to a healthier life is to greatly reduce the cost of curing and preventing disease. One way to achieve this end is to move beyond treating the symptoms of chronic conditions and repair the underlying problem. Medical research is expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as no medical research.