Doctors Make New Inroads in Fight Against HIV; Media’s Prognosis Still Hopeless

The Huffington Post reports that a stem-cell treatment is thought to have not only treated, but actually cured a man’s HIV infection – obviously a major development.

However, HuffPo being HuffPo, they neglect to mention one tiny detail: the stem cells came from bone marrow. No destruction of human life required.

The stem-cell battle has been fading away in recent years, thanks in part to it becoming increasingly clear that human embryos aren’t needed. This story should continue that trend, but it’ll be interesting to see if any other media outlets choose instead to follow HuffPo’s lead.

Memo to Governor Doyle

More stem-cell advances, and they’re not embryonic:

Research reported this week by three different groups shows that normal skin cells can be reprogrammed to an embryonic state in mice. The race is now on to apply the surprisingly straightforward procedure to human cells.-If researchers succeed, it will make it relatively easy to produce cells that seem indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells, and that are genetically matched to individual patients. There are limits to how useful and safe these would be for therapeutic use in the near term, but they should quickly prove a boon in the lab.


But the iPS cells aren’t perfect, and could not be used safely to make genetically matched cells for transplant in, for example, spinal-cord injuries. Yamanaka found that one of the factors seems to contribute to cancer in 20% of his chimaeric mice. He thinks this can be fixed, but the retroviruses used may themselves also cause mutations and cancer. “This is really dangerous. We would never transplant these into a patient,” says Jaenisch. In his view, research into embryonic stem cells made by cloning remains “absolutely essential”.

Do we still have a way to go? Of course. I’m not going to take the Doyle route and pretend my favored research is a bed of roses completely devoid of thorns, but the potential of not just this development, but past advances such as umbilical cord blood, is undeniable. Given that we know the embryo to be a living human, and that embryonic-stem-cell research would be years off anyway, what possible rationale is there to justify killing in science’s name?