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Science by Press Release

Wesley J. Smith

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More hype from stem cell entrepreneurs.

"New Stem Cell Method avoids destroying embryos," the New York Times headline blared. "Stem cell breakthrough may end political logjam," chimed in the Los Angeles Times. "Embryos spared in stem cell creation," affirmed USA Today. Reporting the same supposed scientific achievement by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), the Washington Post quoted the company's bioethics adviser Ronald Green: "You can honestly say this cell line is from an embryo that was in no way harmed or destroyed."

Unfortunately, you can't "honestly" say that. The above headlines--like Green's statement and innumerable similar press accounts around the world--are just plain wrong. While ACT did indeed issue a press release heralding its embryonic stem cell experiment as having "successfully generated human embryonic stem cells using an approach that does not harm embryos," the actual report of the research led by ACT chief scientist Robert Lanza, published in Nature, tells a very different story. In fact, Lanza destroyed all 16 of the embryos he used, just as in conventional embryonic stem cell research.

And that's not the only facet of Lanza's work that the press got wrong. The ACT team did do something new: It worked with very early embryos, of 8 to 10 cells each, rather than the 100- to 200-cell blastocysts usually used in such research. From each of these early embryos, the scientists removed not one cell--as several press accounts reported--but 4 to 7 cells. This misreporting is important because it creates a materially false impression.

Read the entire article on the Weekly Standard website (new window will open).

Posted: 28-Aug-06



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