In the past, the use of stem cells for various medical treatments was clearly over hyped. When the stem cell issue became conflated with the abortion issue, the rhetoric about the miracles of stem cell therapies went over the top. Serious medical researchers must have watched his media circus in despair, knowing that the technology was not ready but that the scientific research was solid and pointed the way to miraculous medical applications in the future. This process of initial over enthusiasm, followed by disappointment, followed by success seems to happen often for important breakthroughs. If the science is sound, the applications will eventually follow. Sometimes this happens quickly, as in the few years that spanned the discovery of nuclear fission, the first atomic pile, the first nuclear bomb, and the first nuclear power plant. This is in contrast to nuclear fusion where 60+ years after the first thermonuclear bomb, fusion power plants have yet to appear.
Over the past couple of years, there have been more and more verified improvements in health due to stem cell therapies. Brian Wang at Next Big Future blog cited a clinical trial in which stem cells were injected into hearts damaged by heart attacks. The therapy “reduced scar tissue by one third, built up healthy heart tissue and remodeled the spherical shape of the damaged heart to look more like a football-shaped healthy heart.”
Additionally, one of the researchers noted that “any condition that has to do with scar tissue could be responsive to this kind of stem cell therapy.” Obviously this opens up a vast array of maladies that could be cured by this new stem cell treatment.
As if all of this was not exciting enough, the stem cells can come from any donor. They do not have to be harvested from the patient. Also, there are no rejection issues such as encountered with organ transplants. And, ‘there are no compatibility requirements for stem cell donors as there is with blood and bone marrow, and one donor can provide enough stem cells for “many, many people.”‘
Hopefully, we are entering an era in which such stem cell therapies proliferate rapidly and become a normal part of medical practice.