February 28, 2024

“Conspiracy of hype” over stem cell research

“How can there be a groundbreaking, a path-breaking paper every other week from Nature?”
Bioethicist Alta Charo, of University of Wisconsin, is a strong supporter of human embryonic stem cell research. But she expressed her dismay at the way it has been treated in the media at the Milken Institute Global Conference in late April:

"In my opinion, there’s almost been a conspiracy of hype in this field. Let’s take a look at all of the players. We have patient groups who were advocating vociferously for adequate federal funding, since federal funding’s really where the action’s at, and so really needed to over-promote the near term potential for therapies in order to gain sympathy from members of Congress.

"Members of Congress needed to score points with not only patient groups but on either side of the abortion debate to show their bona fides to their respective constituencies. And so for those who oppose the research, they would over-hype the potential of alternative sources of stem cells other than embryonic…

"Frankly, the scientific community wasn’t innocent in this either as the journals have started sending out media alerts and press releases about papers they think are important which also tend to over-hype the significant of each paper.

"How can there be a groundbreaking, a path-breaking paper every other week from Nature? It’s not possible, unless you’re going to redefine those terms. And so all of us collectively have been moved into a state of near hysteria around this topic, pro and con, for all sorts of reasons having very little to do with actually making some scientific progress."

A video of the full panel is available at the Milken Institute’s website. This quote begins around 28:30 minutes. HT to Biopolitical Times.