The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Democrats’ embryonic stem cell strategy hits scientific wall

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The Democrats’ decade-long strategy of hyping embryo stem cell research crashed into a hard fact on Nov.15. That’s when Geron Corp., the world’s leading embryo research company, announced it was closing down its much-touted stem cell program, despite the guarantee of more government aid from Democratic-affiliated sources.

The political battle waged over embryonic stem cell research burst onto the front pages in 2001, when many reporters and scientists began touting stem cells as medical miracles that would offer cures for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s and other diseases.

From 2000 onwards, “Democrats and liberals were hyping the research absurdly,” Princeton professor Robert George, a member of President George. W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics, told The Daily Caller. “There was no real prospect of therapeutic uses of [Geron’s] embryonic stem cells.”

University of Pennsylvania bioethics professor Art Caplan agreed. “Companies like Geron tried to attract investors by over promising.”

Social conservatives and some liberals were appalled by the prospect of companies, such as Geron, manufacturing embryos so their parts could be sold to the highest bidder. Democrats, however, eagerly used the prospect of miracle cures to lure sick voters and retirees, flatter professionals and stigmatize conservatives as being anti-science.

President George W. Bush offered a 2001 compromise in the stem cell debate, permitting the study of less controversial stem cells found in adults and providing limited funds for research on stem cells already harvested from embryos.

The compromise failed to slow the Democrats’ political strategy, although it did nudge medical research in a more ethical path, say some conservatives.

“Bush’s policy created a defensible line against the development of Brave New World technologies paid for by taxpayers,” such as human clones for use in lab experiments, said Wesley Smith, a pro-life but politically moderate ethicist.

The end of Geron’s embryo stem-cell work now leaves the stem cell field dominated by two other types of stem-cells. Both are supported by social conservatives, and both were derided by Democrats and many reporters.

The leading stem cell technology is found in many hospitals, where doctors and surgeons use cells found in patients’ own organs. Those “adult stem cells” can be stimulated to regenerate damaged hearts and other organs. In one peer reviewed study published on Nov. 16, more than a dozen heart-failure patients gained an average 12 percent improvement in heart function from their own stimulated stem cells.

This uncontroversial adult cell technology was pioneered by hospitals, not drug companies. It is sufficiently reliable that insurance companies green-light its use for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, lupus and many other ailments, and it is cheered by social conservatives and religious groups because it improves medical treatments without killing human embryos.