The ultra right-wing Family Research Council (FRC), a non-scientific organization, today issued a press release slamming the National Science Foundation (NSF), one of the premier scientific organizations in the world over their supposed ignorance about stem cells.
What sparked the FRC’s ire was a press release from NSF that discussed a paper in Cell that had studied the impact of induced pluripotent stem cell (IPSC) research and human embryonic stem cell research on each other’s progress. In the press release NSF referred to IPSC as “adult stem cells”, angering David Prentice of the FRC who went so far as to say the NSF was “appallingly ignorant”.
Prentice said that IPSC are not adult stem cells and that it was wrong of NSF (and presumably the authors of the Cell paper) to say that IPSC and human ES cells are tightly intertwined.
However, Prentice is way off base here.
While I personally do not refer to IPSC as “adult stem cells” because I think of them as their own unique type of stem cells, the term “adult stem cells” is often used to refer to stem cells that are not embryonic, including IPSC. IPSC can indeed be made from adult cells and IPSC are definitely stem cells, so it is not unreasonable to refer to IPSC as “adult stem cells” unless of course the IPSC were made from cells that were not adult.
Prentice is simply wrong that the NSF has any hidden agenda here to “mislead” or “confuse” the public.
The clear agenda of the FRC, however, is to attack anything having any connection to embryonic stem cells, and to promote “adult stem cells” as an alternative. It is therefore sadly ironic that FRC is so mad about this imaginary ideological agenda of the NSF and about the very real links between human embryonic stem cells and not only IPSC but also other types of stem cells including hematopoietic stem cells, which even FRC agrees are adult. The reality is that most stem cell scientists work on many types of stem cells and we do not see the imaginary lines between different types of stem cells.