Let me start by saying that I'm a big fan of the show.. I am a neurosciences PhDstudent and rely on podcasts to make routine labwork go by more quickly-Being/SOF is fantastic and I look forward to it weekly.
While I do neurosciences, half of the lab that I work in is devoted to stem cellresearch. I just re-listened to your interview with Doris Taylor and wasdisturbed by a couple of inaccuracies. First, she describes embryonic stem cells(ESCs) as being fertilized eggs. This makes most people think of a single cellwith a sperm that has just landed in it. However, ESCs are removed from theembryo when it is about 150 cells. This might seem nitpicky, and it is true thatan embryo at the 150 cell stage is quite early in development, but I stillthought it was misleading to the general public to describe ESCs as fertilizedeggs.
Much more troubling of an inaccuracy: research is indeed conducted on humanfetal stem cells (not just embryonic), and some are derived from abortedfetuses. It is no less than untrue to say otherwise. I don't have statistics asto the percentage of labs that do work with human fetal stem cells vs humanembryonic stem cells, but I'm sure that while it is relatively low, it is mostcertainly not zero.
Personally, I am troubled by the use of human stem cells, while I also canacknowledge their therapeutic potential. I think communicating truthfully withthe general public about what our research consists in is so important-- scienceis advancing so quickly compared to the informed ethical discourse that ought tosurround it.
To end on a positive note, the most massive advance in the last 2 or 3 years inthe stem cell field has been the advent of induced pluripotent stem cells(iPSCs). These are differentiated cells from an adult (such as our skin or bloodcells) that can be turned back into stem cells! This is really exciting forseveral reasons but most relevant to this podcast is the fact that it seemslikely that they will supplant embryonic or fetal stem cells for therapeutic andperhaps basic science uses.
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