"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Evidence for Success of Embryonic Stem Cells Was Faked, Scientist Admits

I'll never understand the attraction of embryonic stem cells (other than as a way of making some good come from abortions and human cloning), for they have no practical use and show little to no real promise of ever having any, whereas adult stem cells (ASCs, including umbilical cord cells) are successfully doing so much good and have been doing so for several years. (Ever heard of the wonders of bone marrow transplants? That's a common use of ASCs.) The benefits of ESCs are perpetually on the horizon and never actually achieved, whereas ASCs are doing much good and show clear promise of doing much, much more if only sufficient resources were directed to the effort.

Accordingly, it should come as no surprise when the Times of London reports that one of the most prominent alleged successes of ESCs was in fact fabricated, and the scientist has admitted it:

The scientist who led the world in pioneering human cloning faked much of the data for his landmark research into embryonic stem (ES) cells, one of his close collaborators said today.

Woo Suk Hwang has admitted to fabricating key parts of a study that purported to show the creation of the first human master cells tailor-made to match individual patients, according to Sung il Roh, a senior colleague at his laboratory in Seoul, South Korea.

Dr Roh said that nine of the 11 colonies of stem cells featured in the study, which was published to worldwide acclaim in May in the prestigious journal Science, had not been authentic. The validity of the other two is still uncertain.

He said Dr Hwang had admitted to flaws in the study when Dr Roh visited him today in hospital, where the scientist is being treated for exhaustion. Both researchers had then agreed to ask Science formally to retract their paper. "Professor Hwang admitted to fabrication," Dr Roh told the MBC, a Korean television station. "Hwang said there were no cloned embryonic stem cells at all and he did not know that."

What is at fault here is the excessive enthusiasm for ESCs, which is far beyond the bounds of what they have accomplished or can realistically be expected to achieve, especially in comparison with ASCs. When the press start praising the authentic, documented achievements of ASCs with one-tenth the enthusiasm with which they greet the meager work that has been done with ESCs, the temptation to cheat in favor of finding false hopeful results for the latter will decrease accordingly.

6 comments:

Tlaloc said...

"for they have no practical use and show little to no real promise of ever having any,"

That is really not true. Theoretically ESCs are FAR more versatile than ASCs. The only reason they haven't been proven so is that social conservatives keep preventing any actual attempts to use them.

Furthermore confounding them with abortion is silly when you know very well that plentiful ESCs are available from fertilization treatments.


"The benefits of ESCs are perpetually on the horizon and never actually achieved,"

Gosh could that be because any attempt to realize their benefit is interfered with?


"What is at fault here is the excessive enthusiasm for ESCs, which is far beyond the bounds of what they have accomplished or can realistically be expected to achieve, especially in comparison with ASCs."

It's true that nothing can be expected to be achieved with ESCs so long as the socons keep suppressing them.

Do adult stem cells have the same capability as embryonic stem cells?

For many years, scientists have conducted studies to determine whether the stem cells in adult tissue have the same developmental capability as embryonic stem cells. The general consensus is that adult stem cells seem to be less versatile. Scientists think that embryonic stem cells have a much greater utility and potential than the adult stem cells, because embryonic stem cells may develop into virtually every type of cell in the human body. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, may only be able to develop into a limited number of cell types. Embryonic stem cells also continue to divide indefinitely when placed in culture, while this may not be the case for adult stem cells and this would reduce their capacity to form new cell types. Both adult and embryonic stem cell research should continue simultaneously as they are both critical to our understanding of the etiology, progression and treatment of disease.
http://www.stemcellresearchfoundation.org/About/FAQ.htm

tbmbuzz said...

social conservatives keep preventing any actual attempts to use them.


This is patently false. The only thing that social conservatives have managed to do, during the Bush administration, is to limit federal funding for ESC research. Certain states, such as California, support ESC research, and the private sector is wide open, as well as the rest of the world, the developed world, that is. Nowhere is it illegal as far as I know, which is what you imply. I agree with your stance, by the way, that ESC research should be performed and has great potential value, but let's not exaggerate the situation, shall we?

Tlaloc said...

"This is patently false. The only thing that social conservatives have managed to do, during the Bush administration, is to limit federal funding for ESC research."

Without funding there is no research. The days when a guy could significantly advance science using his home set up are long gone. Now you need a significant amount of money.



"Certain states, such as California, support ESC research, and the private sector is wide open, as well as the rest of the world, the developed world, that is. Nowhere is it illegal as far as I know, which is what you imply."

As with Grover Norquists position on government itself there is no need to make something illegal when you can simply make it unaffordable. The private sector relies on government grants to provide research capabilities.

JC said...

"for they have no practical use and show little to no real promise of ever having any,"

That is really not true. Theoretically ESCs are FAR more versatile than ASCs.

You didn't actually disagree with the author. He said "practical" and you said "theoretical," which was his point. And even that's a bit of a stretch, when scientists are have made significant progress toward modifying ASC's to make them pluripotent like ESC's. The social conservatives have greatly encouraged such work.

Now for the more important observation.

The private sector relies on government grants to provide research capabilities.

Not entirely. There's a little industry called pharmaceuticals.

You also ignored tbmbuzz's mention that some state governments do fund research. (And incidentally, the federal government even funds research if it is limited to certain existing ESC's.)

Finally, social conservatives in Congress can't stop other countries from funding as much embryonic stem cell research as they want. We don't have a monopoly on science. The author's original point is still valid.

James Elliott said...

It turns out that this article Mr. Karnick is referring to is a bit jumping the gun. Dr. Roh, one of the research partners, is saying the evidence was fabricated. However, Dr. Hwang, the principle author and researcher, says he is withdrawing the article in question due to errors and flaws in the data reporting as written in the report, not the methodology. Indeed, the researcher who Dr. Roh claims Dr. Hwang pressured to falsify data, Kim Sun-jong of the University of Pittsburgh, denies Dr. Roh's claim and vouches for the eight stem-cell lines in question.

What's occurring here is a he said-he said between Roh and Hwang.

Tlaloc said...

"You didn't actually disagree with the author. He said "practical" and you said "theoretical," which was his point."

No. He said they "show little to no real promise of ever having any" (practical use. That is absolutely false. They show every promise of having vastly more practical use than ASCs. If you don't understand the science please refrain from commenting on it.



"And even that's a bit of a stretch, when scientists are have made significant progress toward modifying ASC's to make them pluripotent like ESC's."

Yes they have made some (small not large as you suggest) steps toward that end, but they could have simply bypassed it by using cells that are pluripotent in the first place. ESC are exactly that. SO instead of trying to convert our screwdriver into a rickety wrench we could have just used a freely available wrench. Except the socons keep interfering.

And what really gets me is that the objection is so stupid because those ESCs from fertility treatments are going to be thrown away regardless.



"Not entirely. There's a little industry called pharmaceuticals."

Your point being? The semiconductor industry provides the vast mjority of it's own funding too, but as neither pharma nor semiconductors have anything to do with ESCs it's kind of irrelevent.



"You also ignored tbmbuzz's mention that some state governments do fund research."

Not it's just that you are comparing a drop to a river. Strangely California's budget is just a little bit smaller than the federal governments.



"Finally, social conservatives in Congress can't stop other countries from funding as much embryonic stem cell research as they want. We don't have a monopoly on science."

While this is true it's hardly a good point for your side. Intentionally handicapping the US ability to remain competitive should be something you'd like to AVOID. We are already suffering a huge loss in science due to our underfunding of education and consequently our understaffing as far as qualified engineering and science personnel. The last thing we need to do is to compound that difficulty by letting a nonsensical objection to real research strangle our ability to advance.