Next week, the Senate will consider a bill lifting restrictions on embryonic stem cell research imposed by President Bush in August 2001. Bush limited federally-funded research to embryonic stem cell lines already in existence, a move “widely decried by researchers and patient groups as a roadblock to the development of treatments for a range of diseases.”
Opponents of embryonic stem cell research frequently cite David Prentice, “a scientist with the conservative Family Research Council.” Prentice claims scientific papers prove that adult stem cell lines could be useful treatments “for at least 65 diseases.”
Prentice’s research is used to argue that enhanced embryonic stem cell research is unnecessary. On June 30, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) — one of the leading opponents of embryonic stem cell research — said “we have derived over 70 peer-reviewed and published medical treatments from adult stem cell research.”
It’s not true. A letter to the journal Science by three stem cell experts — Shane Smith, William Neaves and Steven Teitelbaum — debunks Prentice’s claim:
Prentice not only misrepresents existing adult stem cell treatments but also frequently distorts the nature and content of the references he cites…By promoting the falsehood that adult stem cell treatments are already in general use for 65 diseases and injuries, Prentice and those who repeat his claims mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients.
Only 9 of the 65 examples cited by Prentice hold up to scrutiny. For example, “a study cited by Prentice as evidence that adult stem cells can help patients with testicular cancer is in fact a study that evaluates methods of isolating adult stem cells.”
Prentice told the Washington Post “I appreciate them pointing out some of the things…that need to be changed and updated.” You can read the full list of Prentice’s distortions here.