May 26, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Portraying sci-fi about stem cells and aging as reality: unhelpful hype

I believe that stem cells may at some point allow people to live slightly longer, maybe a couple years on average. However, I think they have the potential to dramatically increase the quality of life during the time we are alive.  My colleague Amy Adams over at the CIRM research blog had a great post on this that I highly recommend and quoted CIRM President Alan Trounson that research may help us learn “how to keep those stem cells more lively during a person’s golden years”, which makes a lot of sense to me. These people are serious scientists and policy makers.

In contrast, what does not make much sense is a story out today that is getting enormous attention via Reuters (and then picked up by Yahoo) arguing that stem cells might make humans live 150 years or even 1000 years.  The Reuters story has already been recommended by almost 1000 people on FB and has hundreds of comments on Yahoo.

The article quotes “gerontology theoretician” Aubrey de Grey and takes most of what he says without careful analysis. Why not include a quote from a stem cell scientist with a different opinion? That would have been far better journalism.

de Grey is head of a foundation called SENS Foundation. An article from EMBO Reports by 28 scientists strongly questioned the ideas promoted by SENS.

Maybe the SENS folks know something I do not, but the story today about aging quoting de Grey is very counterproductive to serious stem cell science in my opinion. One might even call it non-SENS-e.

Telling millions of people that stem cells will some day “cure aging” or even make people live dramatically longer lives discredits the field.

Already, when I give talks to students and others about real stem cell science, they mention that this very real, present day published science sounds like science fiction to them. When you start mixing in actual sci-fi into the news on stem cells and say it is real science, it just makes the situation worse and provides ammunition to the opponents of stem cell research.

A SENS research center is located here in Northern California in Mountain View less than 2 hours from my lab, but the stuff they are putting out there seems more like stuff that is light years away.

 

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