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Confusion and misapplication of stem cells

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:34 GMT

Author: Ole Isacson
Position: Professor
Institution: Harvard Medical School
Submitted Date: February 18, 2009
Published Date: February 27, 2009
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

Re: Donor-Derived Brain Tumor Following Neural Stem Cell Transplantation in an Ataxia Telangiectasia Patient by Ninette Amariglio et al doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000029

Dear Editor,

The publication of this case illustrates primarily the misapplication of science in the non-service of patients and medicine, in my opinion. The participants here do not have an acceptance in the core-scientific field of stem cells or clinical regenerative medicine, and unfortunately this PLoS Medicine article’s semi-scientific façade legitimizes the mis-application of the promise of stem-cells. Further evidence for this opinion, is that the PLoS Medicine Editor’s own summary and the article itself contains misquoted and confused reference to the stem cell field and potential cell therapy applications. For example, while indeed undifferentiated neural stem cells have been proposed for stroke and trauma, the Editor’s own summary states that such cells would be considered for..”(for example, Parkinson’s disease)”. This is not the case, since no serious professional consideration would be given to a proposal of transplanting any proliferating stem cells (like neural stem cells) to Parkinson’s disease patients. This misconception is also evident in the article itself which misquotes and confuses references for “neural stem cells” for therapy intent, with completely different experimental efforts (or proof of principle experiments in animals) for using stem cells or fetal cells as an in vitro source only for fully differentiated dopamine neurons for Parkinson’s disease (Refs 6, 9 in PLoS Medicine article).

-- Professor Ole Isacson
Harvard Medical School

Competing interests declared: Until 2007 I held a consultancy and SAB agreement with BrainStorm Inc. I have no active consultancy, shares, options or income from BrainStorm Inc.