December 8, 2022

Stem cell expert turns away from embryonic stem cell cures

Best for drug testing, says James Thomson

James Thomson, University of Wisconsin
James Thomson, the American scientist who first
isolated human embryonic stem cells, asserts that it is unlikely that they will
be useful for transplantation and curing dread diseases directly. Instead, he
told the magazine Forbes, their ultimate use will be for drug testing. He recently
co-founded a company, Cellular Dynamics International, whose focus is testing
experimental drugs for heart side effects. Here are some excerpts from the
interview:

♦ 
“I do think
there will be some niches where transplantation is important, but I think
people are grossly underestimating how hard it is going to be for most
diseases.”

♦ “And I know
that a lot of people are going to work on transplantation, I hope it’s
successful, but I’d actually be fairly shocked if 10 or 20 years from now we
didn’t have such a good understanding of the biology of that disease that we
didn’t have to do transplantation.”

♦ 
“The hype
that was created [by stem cell science] is largely a part of that political
debate. Both sides played a little bit loose with the truth, I think, at
various times. One side would say one thing, the other side would feel
obligated to counter it, and if you say rational, reasonable things, it doesn’t
get the message across. So it’s kind of understandable, but the consequence of
that is that people are ill-prepared for how difficult it’s going to be to get
transplantation therapies based on these cells. And that that’s to be expected,
because it’s so brand-new.” ~ Forbes, May 28