Stem Cells in 2011: Predictions

In this post I give my prognostications about events in the stem cell field in 2011.

Appeals court rules in favor of federally funded hESC research. This is more of a hope than a prediction, but I think there is a better than 50% chance of getting good news on this front. In either case, the decision is appealed to the Supreme Court. Will the Supremes hear the case?

American support for federal funding of human ES cell research continues strong.Americans in 2011 more strongly support federally funded ES cell research than ever and across all religious and political spectrums. At the same time the enemies of ES cell research, a very small fraction of Americans, continue their well-organized and well-financed campaign of disinformation and dominate the media.

A surprisingly large number of Republican leaders publicly support embryonic stem cell research. Many Republicans support human ES cell research in 2011 and despite the new Republican controlled Congress, legislation supporting federal funding of ES cell research has some remaining tiny hope. Teapartiers fight back and pressure Republicans to oppose ES cell research.

Good news for Geron and ACT on safety. Geron’s GRNOPC hESC-based product is found to be safe in their Phase I clinical trial. Also, ACT’s Phase I/II clinical trial finds that their hESC drug for macular degeneration is safe. As a big bonus, ACT’s 2nd IND is approved. I make no predictions about efficacy as that is more of a hurdle and is not the primary focus of early clinical trials.

Transdifferentiation competes with iPS cells in terms of translational promise. Quite a few more transdifferentiation papers are published and transdifferentiated cells are found to be conclusively safer than differentiated iPS cells. More safety concerns about iPS cells are raised too.This all raises the question of whether transdifferentiation is a better approach for the clinic than using differentiated iPS cells, but transdifferentiation may not work for some cell types giving iPS cells a possible advantage. ES cells continue to be the gold standard.

More stem cell superstars are recruited to California thanks to CIRM. A few more big name stem cell researchers move to California via CIRM leadership awards.

Major advances in cancer stem cell research. Scientists focus in on potential drug targets specifically in cancer stem cells providing hope of new treatments.

4 Comments


  1. “In either case, the decision is appealed to the Supreme Court. Will the Supremes hear the case?”

    If the court of appeals affirms the injunction, the odds are that the Supreme Court would take the case. When the government asks the Court to take a case, the Court usually grants the request, and the practical impact of the injunction makes it even more likely. The odds would be significantly lower if the injunction is reversed.

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