Friday, November 23, 2007

New York Times on the sea change in stem cells: the past debate as a funny footnote?

In a Nov. 22 article titled -- Man Who Helped Start Stem Cell War May End It --, Gina Kolata of the New York Times presents some interesting quotes:

The fact is, Dr. Thomson said in an interview, he had ethical concerns about embryonic research from the outset, even though he knew that such research offered insights into human development and the potential for powerful new treatments for disease.

"If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough. I thought long and hard about whether I would do it." [James Thomson]


Now with the new technique [direct reprogramming approach], which involves adding just four genes to ordinary adult skin cells, it will not be long, he says, before the stem cell wars are a distant memory. "A decade from now, this will be just a funny historical footnote," Dr. Thomson said in the interview.

Merely as a commentary on the old "flash of genius" approach in patent law, Kolata also wrote:

As for the science behind it, the thrill of discovery, [Thomson] said, “Surprisingly, there is no ‘Wow’ moment,” either from 1998 or now. Both times, the discovery came after he had spent months rigorously testing the cells to be sure they really were stem cells, worrying all the while that they could die or be lost to contamination. When he knew he had succeeded, the suspense was gone.

IPBiz notes that, while the ethics wars may be winding down, the patent wars may just be beginning.


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