Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Cartography of Stem Cell Science

The global reach and aspirations of the California stem cell agency are the subject of some legitimate debate and criticism.

On one hand, the agency has severe financial problems and will run out of money by next fall unless something changes in its cash position. It has approved nearly $700 million in grants including an ambitious lab construction program, which require attentive monitoring. And CIRM is continuing to hand out tens of millions of dollars in grants. All of this with less than 40 persons on its staff, and all of which leads some to say the agency needs to stick to its knitting.

But at the same time, stem cell science is hardly confined to the borders of the Golden State. Hot stuff is happening across the nation and globally. CIRM's leadership wants to leverage its position and build scientific and financial alliances throughout the world with the goal of pushing science along a bit faster.

Out in Minnesota, William Hoffman has captured the global stem cell picture in a way that words cannot. Co-author of "The Stem Cell Dilemma," he has been charting stem cell science since 2003 on a map of the world. The changes in that picture have been dramatic. He recapped them on Friday on the Bioethics Forum.

Hoffman wrote,
"To this layman, one of the most baffling things about the (the stem cell) debate here and the reaction to President Obama’s executive order is the near total inability of some leading critics to see the 'big picture' that the maps help to illustrate."
Some stories are best told in words. Some with numbers. Hoffman has demonstrated the the global spread of stem cell science may be best told with the tools of a cartographer.

Here is a link to the World Stem Cell Map website.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:11 PM

    The baffling thing about the text --Meanwhile, the rest of the world moves on. -- is "where" the "rest" of the world has moved "to." More than 3 years have passed since the fraud of Hwang Woo Suk, and human SCNT remains elusive, an odd result given both the "flexibility" of many countries and the willingness of the stem cell workers of 2005 to believe Hwang's work was real. The relevance of the map to real issues is illusory.


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