October 24, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Stem Cells and Cars

It happens several times a month these days.

Some new, interesting paper comes out on IPS cells or on transdifferentiation.

Immediately, opponents of ES cell research criminally twist the findings in the new paper and produce ‘news’ headlines that pop up high on Google to the effect that ES cells are now ‘obsolete’.

IPS cells are phenomenally exciting and I do research on them myself, but we know a lot less about them than we do ES cells and it is likely to be years before we really understand cellular reprogramming. From a clinical perspective, how the FDA will view IPS cells is unclear, but considering the FDA’s level of caution with ES cells, it’s a safe bet that IPS cells are going to need a lot of time to get a green light from the FDA.

The notion that IPS cells have made ES cell research unneeded is false and is used as a political tool by extremists. Their goals include influencing public opinion, influencing lawmakers, and even perhaps influencing judges…all by deception.

To make a car analogy, if ES cells are like a safety and road tested Ford (a model that’s been around a dozen years), then IPS cells are a shiny new sports car that even the experts know very little about. We are not sure how its accelerator or brakes work. It hasn’t been crash tested. It looks really fast and everyone thinks it has a lot of potential, but it’s only been around a very short time.

If you had to get you and your loved ones safely from point A to point B, which kind of car would you go in at this time?

IPS cells have outstanding potential, but they are still somewhat of a mystery, particularly in terms of their safety. I predict that in a few years, there will be safe iPS cells, but we aren’t there yet. We just don’t know enough.