September 29, 2010

In Coverage of Latest Court Ruling, AP Continues Press Tradition of Stem Cell Obfuscation

StemCellsIt is truly remarkable to observe how press outlets continue to misreport and misinform the public in the area of stem cell research.

One of the latest examples came yesterday at the Associated Press. In a report covering a court ruling on government funding of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), the AP’s Nedra Pickler completely failed to acknowledge that there are any other kinds of stem cells. Every single use by Pickler of the terms “stem cell” or “stem cells” has no modifying adjective, except the very first, whose modifier is “embryonic.”

It’s as if there are no other avenues besides ESCR for “scientific progress toward potentially lifesaving medical treatment.” In fact, Pickler’s less-informed readers would have no reason to believe that there is any form of stem cell research besides ESCR. The reality, which will be shown later for the umpteenth time, is that non-embryonic stem cells, often referred to as adult stem cells, have already shown that they can do virtually everything embryonic cells can with far less potential for side effects and, of course, no loss of human life. The word “adult” does not appear in the AP report.

Here are several paragraphs from Pickler’s pathetic piece, which also includes a deeply deceptive quote (is there any other kind?) from Obama White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (bold is mine):

Court OKs US-funded stem cell research for now

An appeals court ruled Tuesday that government funding of embryonic stem cell research can continue for now.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington granted the Obama administration’s request to allow the funding from the National Institutes of Health while it appeals a judge’s order blocking the research.

The administration had argued that stopping the research while the case proceeds would irreparably harm scientific progress toward potentially lifesaving medical treatment.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth had blocked President Barack Obama’s research funding guidelines because he said it’s likely they violate the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court issued an unusually quick decision, a day after hearing arguments over whether the funding could continue while it considers the case. The court also said it would expedite the case.

Researchers hope one day to use stem cells in ways that cure spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease and other ailments. Opponents say the research is a form of abortion because human embryos must be destroyed to obtain the stem cells.

… “President Obama made expansion of stem cell research and the pursuit of groundbreaking treatments and cures a top priority when he took office,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement after the ruling. “We’re heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved.”

The bolded sentence above is false. Let’s take it one item at a time.

Adult stem cells have already been used to treat spinal cord injuries. Here’s one example that was recounted in testimony this month before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations:

The first example Dr. Peduzzi Nelson gave was that of Silvio, who was quadriplegic after a spinal cord injury at the base of his neck, “AIS Grade A”. Grade A is considered the worst, indicating a “complete” spinal cord injury where no motor or sensory function is preserved in the lower body. Silvio was left with no movement of his legs and minimal movement of his fingers. At 2 years after injury, and after intensive rehabilitation failed to lead to an improvement, he received his own nasal adult stem cells and partial scar removal.

Today Silvio can maintain a standing position and wave without help. With a walker and short braces, he can walk over 30 feet without anyone helping him. He can now move his fingers, which he could not do before.

Silvio’s improvement is astounding. Usually only 5% of AIS Grade A patients improve in grade if a treatment is given at 1 year or greater after spinal cord injury. But using adult stem cells for treatment, Silvio is not an isolated case.

Adult stem cells have successfully treated Parkinson’s disease (Life News; February 16, 2009):

Scientists have published a paper in a medical journal describing the results of the world’s first clinical trial using autologous neural stem cells for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. A leading bioethics watchdog says the results show more money should be put behind adult stem cells.

UCLA researchers published their results in February issue of the Bentham Open Stem Cell Journal which outlines the long term results of the trial.

“We have documented the first successful adult neural stem cell transplantation to reverse the effects of Parkinson’s disease and demonstrated the long term safety and therapeutic effects of this approach,” says lead author Dr. Michel Levesque.

The paper describes how Levesque’s team was able to isolate patient-derived neural stem cells, multiply them in vitro and ultimately differentiate them to produce mature neurons before they are reintroduced into the brain.

The team was able to inject the adult stem cells without the need for immunosuppressants. Unlike embryonic stem cells, adult stem cell injections don’t cause a patient’s immune system to reject the cells.

The adult stem cells were highly beneficial for the patient involved in the study.

Are the AP and Nedra Pickler going to quibble over whether the two instances cited represent “cures,” when the ESCR cupboard is utterly bare of success stories such as these?

As to other ailments, several years ago, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life wrote that “ASCR has produced treatments for more than 73 medical conditions, including brain cancer, breast cancer, type I diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, osteoporosis, and stroke damage.” The number is probably higher now.

Advocate Don Margolis’s web site lists well over 50 categories of diseases and conditions that have been improved and/or cured with adult stem cells.

At some point, the oh-so-cute obfuscation of the press stops being funny. That’s the point where people who could be gaining knowledge they could use to help themselves or their loved ones get desired treatment for chronic diseases and conditions are kept unaware because of consistently irresponsible journalism. I would suggest that we’re really close to being there, i.e., we’re not far from the point where people will be needlessly suffering and perhaps even dying because they are being kept in the dark by an establishment press that is all about ESCR uber alles while continuing to ignore and/or downplay available adult stem cell progress and treatments.

Graphic found at LifeNews.com.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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3 Comments

  1. Is it just me, or is Gibbs the most imbecilic press secretary ever?

    Comment by zf — September 29, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

  2. Oh, he is. It takes a special lack of talent to be worse than Scotty McClellan.

    Comment by TBlumer — September 29, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

  3. [...] the political side, less than a week ago (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), an AP item by Nedra Pickler, in response to a courtroom development relating to Obama’s [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — October 4, 2010 @ 7:44 am

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