The Niche

More analysis on stem cell clinical trials

In response to my last post, I wondered what Chris Scott’s analysis of would say if he looked for fetal stem cells. He just told me he did the relevant search, and came up with nothing. In fact, one trial by StemCells that does use fetally derived cells does not say so in its clinical trial description. (See his post and several interesting comments at the link above.) Christopher Scott directs the program on stem cells and society at Stanford.

Scott has told me before that he is concerned that, because of enthusiasm for stem-cell research, clinicians may be including the term “stem cell” in clinical trials even if what’s being transplanted are poorly purified and characterized mixtures likely to contain stem cells. When I asked him about his recent analysis, he said he couldn’t prove whether or not stem cells had been carefully purified or characterized. "It’s just that the words “stem cell therapy” sounds sexier than “cell therapy” which is more accurate because most studies transplant populations of cells “enriched” for stem cells."

I suppose similar PR reasoning can explain the dearth of “fetal stem cells” in the database. A more charitable explanation would be that, of course, fetal stem cells is as poor a descriptor as is adult stem cells, since fetuses have already formed all their major organs. All the trials I know of using fetal cells use fetal neural cells. (But see my last post for more on that.)


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