Friday, December 01, 2006

Framing News Coverage of CIRM

Certain news media tend to set the agenda in news coverage throughout the nation. One of those is The Associated Press, whose news service goes into virtually every newspaper, radio and television station in the country.

Not only are its stories read by millions, but perhaps more importantly they are read by editors – gatekeepers -- who make judgments about what is fit to print. Those editors look to The AP for guidance about what is important, what is not and what to think about subjects they are not familiar with.

Now comes an update on the California stem cell agency by AP reporter Paul Elias, who has covered CIRM since its inception. The story, which is also likely to be circulated overseas, sounds a bit of a cautionary note in advance of next week's meeting of the CIRM Oversight Committee.

Elias quoted Zach Hall, president of the agency, as saying,
"Our aspirational goal is to cure disease. But you can't snap your fingers and have that done."
Elias also wrote:
"...(M)uch of the money (the agency) doles out in 2007 will finally go to senior scientists eager to push stem cell research out of the lab and into patients.

"But don't expect those promised cures anytime soon. The research is in such a nascent stage that even fundamental questions such as what defines a human embryonic stem cell remain unanswered."
Elias's "walk-up," as such stories are known in the business, could generate more coverage and attention to next week's meeting in Irvine. It will also shape how news media is likely to frame its thinking concerning an agency that has received short shrift in news coverage during the last year.


  1. Early in 2006, the MIT Tech Rev had recognized that stem cell work for disease models was a much more realistic near-term goal than stem cell work directly for treatment:

    But Friedmann and Snyder are focusing on an application that could have much broader implications -- and is closer at hand. Instead of using the cells as a form of -therapy themselves, the researchers plan to use them to study Lesch-Nyhan disease and test new treatments. Experts say this type of application could dramatically improve our understanding of how any disease with a genetic component unfolds at the cellular level. "You could make a stem cell line that has ALS or Parkinson's, using DNA from a patient that really has the symptoms," says Snyder.

    Direct treatment approaches through embryonic stem cells likely will require patient-specific cell lines, as Hwang asserted to have made through SCNT. Nobody has done that yet, and treatments based on this are a long way away.

    Disease model studies can be done right now.

    In my opinion, most researchers fully understand now (and have understood) that "promised cures" are not on the near term horizon, but it is not politically expedient to highlight such a position.

    [a fuller discussion appears within IPBiz.]

  2. As a followup, the Brauman report on the publication of the fraudulent stem cell work of Hwang Woo Suk was made public at the end of November 2006.

    Much of assertion of near-term treatments based on patient-specific stem cells was predicated on the truthfulness of Hwang's assertions, which were given the imprimatur of the journal Science.

    More information on the report can be found at

  3. Anonymous11:11 AM

    I dont see what all the arguments about stem cells entering the clinic or not. In India, embryonic stem cells have already been used clinically and published in a reputable journal. See the story at

  4. Anonymous11:12 AM

    What is the reputable journal? Is is

  5. is NOT a journal, but describes the paper published in Transplantation Proceedings, which IS a reputable journal. Below is the abstract...

    Transplant Proc. 2006 Nov;38(9):3103-8. Links
    Embryonic stem cell derived and adult hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for tolerance induction in a renal allograft recipient:--a case report.Trivedi HL, Mishra VV, Vanikar AV, Modi PR, Shah VR, Shah PR, Firoz A.
    Institute of Transplantation Sciences, Department of Nephrology and Transplantation Medicine, Civil Hospital, Gujarat, India.

    We generated an human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line to augment chimerism-associated tolerance. A 40-year-old African with chronic glomerulonephritis-chronic renal failure with 100% G6PD enzyme deficiency presented for renal transplantation with a 27-year-old, 6/6 HLA-matched sister as a willing donor. METHOD: We generated an hESC line from the donor's oocytes using long ovarian stimulation protocol simultaneously with tolerance induction protocol. A nuclear transfer (NT)-hESC line was derived by transferring a donor cumulus cell into an enucleated oocyte, subjected to electrical fusion, and cultured for 5 days. ESCs hatched from the blastocyst on day 6 were cocultured with her unmodified bone marrow for 2 days and suspended in Ringer's lactate. Five milliliters of suspension were collected for cell counting, viability, pluripotency, flow cytometry, and karyotyping. The remaining suspension was infused into the periphery of the recipient. Transplantation was performed 1 week later following a negative lymphocytotoxicity cross-match test using no immunosuppression. Peripheral blood chimerism (PBC) was studied using fluorescent in situ hybridization technique. Allograft biopsy was performed on day 7. RESULTS: NT-hESC CD34+ count was 7.6%, viability 100%, karyotyping normal, pluripotency markers: SSEA-1, SSEA-4, OCT-3/4, TRA-1/60:positive; 12% PBC was noted at 1 week after transplantation. Serum creatinine was 1.2 mg%, graft biopsy was unremarkable, and G6PD enzyme deficiency was corrected to 0% at 100 days posttransplant. Liver function tests and hematology profile were unremarkable for graft-versus-host disease. CONCLUSION: This is the first report of tolerance induction using NT-hESC-induced hematopoietic chimerism with synergistic use of adult bone marrow. It was safe and effective.

  6. Anybody interested in the clinical implimentation of adult stem cells should look to the website of Cellmedicine. Currently Cellmedicine is the only stem cell clinic that has actually published in peer reviewed journals. They also have posted numerous videos on youtube. Just thought it may be of interest.


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