Monday, November 21, 2011

The Meaning of Geron's Stem-Cell Decision

Michael Cook at BioEdge says the decision by Geron to end its human embryonic stem cell spinal-therapy research is a huge blow to those who believe in the therapeutic potential of hES cells. I have to disagree. It's true that the tissue-generating potential of hES cells was overblown in the battle to secure funding for hESC research. But I don't think Geron's move stands for anything greater than what it was: the decision of a single firm that its cancer research was more profitable than its stem-cell research. University-based work with hESCs and induced-pluripotent cells have shown real progress toward the tissue-generation goal; and, additionally, researchers are using stem cells as tools for drug-testing and for the analysis of diseased cells--work which is quite apt to have short-term therapeutic payoff.

Note, too, that while Geron had secured funding from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for its trial, it has given the money back with full interest, so there's no story here of wasting public funds.

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