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The Moot Attack on a Pioneering Stem Cell Paper

By Michael Fumento

Oh joy; oh joy! The original paper finding that a type of adult stem cell can become mature cells from all three germ layers - and hence any type of cell in the body - turns out to be false. Or so some backers of massive extra taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell (ESC) research would have us believe. But t'ain't so, as I write in today's American Spectator Online.

That paper, published in Nature in 2002 by Catherine Verfaillie and colleagues at the University of Minnesota, has been investigated and irregularities have been found. Those might include problems in the conclusion of the paper. But that hardly means that those particular stem cells (from rodent marrow) don't do what Verfaillie claimed. In fact, one researcher has replicated some of Verfaillie's findings with human cells. At this point, Nature has neither requested a retraction nor has Verfaillie offered one. Contrast that with what happened in January of last year when the journal Science was forced to retract two groundbreaking ESC studies that proved totally fraudulent.

More importantly, since that Verfaillie paper appeared a large number of labs have used a wide variety of adult stem cells to make mature cells in either two or all three germ layers. Anthony Atala's work reported in January using amniotic stem cells is only the latest. Thus even if the Verfaillie paper were "false," it would be like saying a recent discovery that the Wright Brothers falsified their documentation shows that planes can't actually fly.

March 1, 2007 07:32 PM  ·  Stem Cells