Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Soon, we'll be able to grow new livers!

This is a breaking news story that isn't being published very widely by the media but is, nevertheless, very exciting and worth reading.

Human Liver Grown from Cord Blood Stem Cells--Media Ignores UK Breakthrough
Wesley Smith charges media deliberately ignore advancements using adult stem cells

By Gudrun Schultz

NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom, November 1, 2006 ( - A group of British scientists has achieved a major breakthrough in stem cell technology, growing the world’s first artificial human liver in a laboratory, using stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood. The achievement has been largely ignored, however, by North American mainstream media.

The UK Daily Mail reported yesterday on the work of Newcastle University researchers Nico Forraz and Colin McGuckin, who have successfully grown ‘mini-livers’ capable of being used to test new drugs and, in future years, of providing life-saving treatment to patients in need of liver transplants.

Researchers predict the science, with none of the ethical concerns associated with the use of embryonic stem cells, will be used to repair damaged livers within the next five years, and within 15 years whole artificial livers will be grown to be used in transplants.

No mainstream media source in either the United States or Canada, however, has reported on the achievement thus far. Leading bioethics critic Wesley J. Smith, writing for the Weekly Standard, said the absence of press coverage indicates just how strong the media bias is for stem cell research using human embryos.

“A story that doesn’t validate the stem-cell mantra that embryonic stem cells offer the “best hope” for future cures isn’t worth much attention,” Smith wrote. “Even the most important adult or umbilical cord blood stem-cell breakthroughs usually receive only minor, inside-the-paper coverage.”

“This is the primary reason why so many people still don’t know about the many advances being made on a continual basis in human research with ethical, adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells.”

Research using embryonic stem cells is highly controversial because it requires the destruction of embryos in order to “harvest” the cells. Further, to this date there has no success in using embryonic cells to treat any disease or disorder.

In contrast, the use of adult stem cells or of cells harvested from umbilical cord blood shortly after the birth of a baby have already been used successfully to treat multiple conditions, including spinal injury and blindness.

“[I]f this new breakthrough had been accomplished with embryonic stem cells instead of umbilical cord blood stem cells, the headlines would have been enormous,” Smith predicted. “Instead, we hear the sound of silence--thanks to the news blockade that doesn’t care much about stem-cell breakthroughs unless they come from destroyed embryos.”

An online news search shows several alternative media sources covering the story along with coverage by press in Australia, India, Qatar, South Africa and Turkey, but the material is “conspicuously absent” from the Associated Press, the Canadian Press, Reuters, or any of the dominant media outlets in North America.