An inconvenient enthusiast
Al Gore bets on iPS cells
First Oprah, now Al. Are America’s opinion leaders jumping from the USS
Embryonic Stem Cell and enlisting on the USS Inducted Pluripotent Stem Cell?
Former vice president, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Oscar winner Al Gore is
investing $20 million in iPS cells. Oprah Winfrey’s house medico recently
claimed that the stem cell debate was over and iPS cells had won.
iPS cells are created by reprogramming ordinary skin cells and turning them
into cells with all the potential of embryonic stem cells without the ethical
drawback of embryo destruction.
"I just think it’s a very important breakthrough that is filled with promise
and hope," says Gore, who is now a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and
Byers, a venture-capital company. His firm is backing research by California
cell technology company, iZumi Bio, in collaboration with Japanese researcher
Shinya Yamanaka, who discovered the technique for creating iPS cells. "I think
this is one of those good news stories that comes along every once in a while,"
The scientists will focus on treatments for Parkinson’s, spinal muscular
atrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). "It’s exciting
for the patients and their families that currently have limited therapies
available," Gore says. "The trans-Pacific collaboration is likely to
dramatically accelerate the drug discovery process."
However, not everyone welcomed the news. Dr Summer
Johnson, writing on the American Journal of Bioethics blog, argued that
high-profile support for iPS cells might undermine the cause of embryonic stem
"But is Gore’s backing for iPS cells good for stem cell research really? I
think not. A former Vice President doing what appears to be stumping for iPS
cells detracts from the significant advances that embryonic stem cell research
can yield. Even if the research appears promising, it sends a very clear message
that at least one prominent science policy leader is backing another horse–and
right after President Obama’s funding of embryonic stem cell research. At the
very least it sends very mixed messages about where research priorities in the
US should be placed where stem cell research is concerned." ~ USA
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