Despite continuing huffing and puffing over the merits of human embryonic stem cells, the central issue seems to be shifting from the patients’ right to health to the scientists’ right to free inquiry. An editorial in New Scientist (Oct 17), an ardent champion of embryo research, assumes that cures will come more rapidly from adult stem cells. “What marks these treatments out is that they are eminently practical and ethically unquestionable. “ Furthermore, they are far simpler to work with.
The editorial concludes:
“Of course all avenues of stem cell research should continue, not least because work on embryos provides fundamental insights. But it pays to keep looking for new approaches, and nature's locker can often yield useful secrets. Though there are never easy answers, sometimes there are unexpectedly simple ones.”
More and more, it seems that human embryonic stem cells are being quietly relegated to smaller benches in darker labs while substantial progress is being made with various types of adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.