Stem cell breakthrough?


SCOTT JAGOW: A biotech company in California says it's come up with a new technique that could end the debate over stem cell research. Advanced Cell Technologies says the method creates new stem cell lines without destroying embryos. The company wants investors, but a lot of people aren't buying this at all. Helen Palmer reports from the Health Desk at WGBH.

HELEN PALMER: Here's how it works: When an embryo created in a lab reaches eight cells, one cell is removed. The company grows an embryonic stem cell line from this.

But ethicist Glenn McGee says this technique's a problem since the embryo could develop into a person, this is research done on a test subject unable to give consent. It won't help the company win investment.

GLENN MCGEE: Investors just aren't buying it. I mean they don't believe this kind of discovery is going to set Advanced Cell Technologies apart and they shouldn't.

Jan Reichert of Tufts University says ethical issues aren't the only problem. Stem cell therapy just isn't ready for prime time.

JAN REICHERT: It's not being picked up either by biotech or by the major pharmaceutical firms simply because the end use of them is not quite clear yet.

Reichert says stem cells need five more years of basic research before venture capitalists will see enough returns in therapies and dollars to tempt them to invest.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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