In a watershed moment for one of the most contentious areas of science and American politics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the first-ever human trial of a medical treatment derived from embryonic stem cells.
Geron Corp., a Menlo Park, Calif., biotechnology company, is expected to announce Friday that it received a green light from the agency to mount a study of its stem-cell treatment for spinal cord injuries in up to 10 patients. The announcement caps more than a decade of advances in the company’s labs and comes on the cusp of a widely expected shift in U.S. policy toward support of embryonic stem-cell research after years of official opposition.
“This is the dawn of a new era in medical therapeutics,” said Thomas B. Okarma, Geron’s president and chief executive officer. The hope that stem-cell therapy will repair and regenerate diseased organs and tissue “goes beyond what pills and scalpels can ever do.”
The potential and promise to this remains great, and hopefully this will be the beginning of the payoff for years of research.
And just as a side note, but this is something that really gets overlooked a lot. When that plane went down in the Hudson last week, and not one person was killed, even your host used terms like “miraculous” to describe the events. This caused more than one person to make comments like this:
Many, many commendations to the pilot for making the right decisions quickly, keeping his head and allowing his training to take over. He literally saved 150 lives.
The same to the crew and passengers for getting themselves out of a hellish situation quickly and orderly.
However, what I can’t stand is the talking heads that call it a “miracle” that the plane stayed together and was able to float long enough to get everyone off. No, it wasn’t an f’ing miracle! It was at least 100,000 man-hours of research, design and testing that built a machine that supposed to do that, with another who-knows-how-many hours of science research backing up that design.
I heard some anchor (maybe on MSNBC) talk about that being a miracle and almost lost it. Another example of the lack of respect for science and engineering among many parts of the population.
Call it a miracle (if that’s you’re persuasion) that it happened in one of the busiest waterways in the world, so that help showed up quickly. But don’t call it a miracle that a piece of technology that many people spent their entire careers creating worked like it was supposed to.
While I still think the plane landing was miraculous when you consider the combination of events that had to take place to have it occur without injury (What if the engines had gone out earlier in the plane’s ascent? What if there had been a different and less skilled pilot or crew? What if it had been a different airframe? What if there had been ferries in the way? What if the water had been rocky? And on and on.), the point is duly noted.
Should stem cell research lead us to a day in which the paralyzed can once again walk or that there is a cure for Alzheimers or cancer or Parkinson’s, it will be miraculous. However, that miracle will be the direct result of millions of hours spent by people in labs, squinting through microscopes in cold metallic labs with bad fluorescent lighting and only the dull hum of machinery to keep them company.