A Brief Glance at Stem Cell Politics and Research Timelines

If you follow the machinations of those who spend their working lives striving to limit your access to new medical technologies, you'll no doubt know that a vote on stem cell research is coming up in the US Senate:

A controversial bill that would lift federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research is headed to the Senate floor for a vote next month along with two related bills favored by social conservatives.

"We have been working a long time to bring this to the floor in an appropriate fashion," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Thursday, nearly a year after his initial pledge to bring the bill to a vote.

Research would no doubt be far more effectively directed and well-funded without the intervention of a government that enforces taxation, debases the currency, tramples over freedoms, willfully damages economic growth, and wastefully gluts itself upon the resources it takes. Debating government restrictions on the disbursement of tax dollars is one of those line items I prefer not to touch.

A UPI article takes a broader view of the science and aspirations of researchers:

Deepak Srivastava, director of the University of California at San Francisco's Gladstone institute of cardiovascular disease, told United Press International embryonic stem cells hold the greatest promise for regenerating heart tissue and could be in the clinic in the next several years.

"There's a lot more that needs to be done in animal trials first before considering clinical trials ... but maybe within the next five years is a reasonable goal"


Robert Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific affairs at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass., said his company plans to get embryonic stem cell-derived therapies for heart disease in the clinic even earlier.

"Optimistically, we plan to file an IND in 2008 for hemangioblasts derived from human embryonic stem cells," Lanza told UPI. "One of the lead applications would be cardiovascular disease," he added.

Lanza said his company's first IND for a therapy derived from embryonic stem cell therapy could be filed late next year, but that would be for macular degeneration.

To round off, Maclean's is running a profile of energetic researcher Hans Keirstead and his work on repairing spinal damage:

someday -- maybe someday soon -- his work will restore mobility for those who are paralyzed with spinal injuries or stricken with multiple sclerosis. He has already made partially paralyzed rats walk again, using derivatives of human embryonic stem cells. The next stop -- as early as next spring -- is trying the same therapy in human trials.


Critics have accused Keirstead of rushing ahead too fast, and of cozying up to biotech companies, but Keirstead is unapologetically entrepreneurial. If the purpose of the exercise is fixing spines, that means getting research out of the lab and into the market. With the cost of many human clinical trials for new therapies running about $500 million, that's not for the faint of heart. "Sorry if this sounds egotistical," he says, "but most scientists aren't as business savvy as I am."

There could never be too many people in possession of this sort of attitude to the repair of failing human bodies. Progress in medical science requires people to get out there, work hard and succeed. This is the essence of the future, not the posturing of stuffed shirts and other government employees in Washington DC.

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