Top 10 stem cell stories of a crazy 2012 so far

What are the top 10 stem cell events of a crazy 2012 to date? Based on this wild list in just over 3 months, I would say 2012 overall will prove to be a memorable one.

1. Celltex and McGee versus University of Minnesota’s Turner and Elliott. Glenn McGee, at one point both editor of American Journal of Bioethics and ethics consultant for adult stem cell company, Celltex, finds himself criticized for trying to do both things raising issues of conflict of interest. Now at this point, to my knowledge McGee is no longer in either position. Celltex finds itself in the center of a controversy after University of Minnesota Professor Leigh Turner writes the FDA asking them to investigate Celltex. Celltex threatens litigation. Turner colleague, Dr. Carl Elliott, writes an article on Celltex and McGee for Slate, only to find that soon after Slate retracts the article reportedly under legal threat from Celltex.

2.  Vatican organizes stem cell meeting with speakers who work on ES cells and then cancels the meeting amid scandal. The Vatican had an adult-themed stem cell meeting in 2011 and was planning to have a 2nd stem cell meeting in 2012 that would include researchers that worked on both adult stem cells and ES cells, but then pulled the plug on the meeting amidst a scandal over the whole affair.

3. During tumultuous fallout period from cancelled meeting, Vatican surprises everyone by slapping pro-lifers in the face. The Vatican comes up with other alleged reasons for canceling its stem cell meeting (besides the involvement of ES cell researchers or pressure from pro-lifers) including financial issues, lack of interest, and organizational problems. As part of this explanation the Vatican firmly slaps the American pro-life movement in the face as having absolutely “no credibility”.

4. Stem cells in my Pepsi myth explodes. Anti-stem cell extremists go off the deep end into the 12 oz. zone alleging that Pepsico uses embryonic stem cells in its research, when the cells in question are not even stem cells. 

5. 60 Minutes Broadcast exposing alleged stem cell huckster Ecklund. 60 Minutes body slams alleged stem cell purveyor in new broadcast, Dan Ecklund. 60 Minutes pulls off an astonishingly effective old-fashioned surprise interview with Ecklund.

6. Lawsuit on federal funding of ES cell research goes to new 3-judge panel of appeals court. While ES cell funding remains legal in 2012 so far, the new 3-judge panel of the federal court is predicted to rule against funding in the Fall, once again throwing ES cell research in America into doubt.

7. Stem cell cosmetics explodes, heading towards multibillion dollar market based on almost entirely unproven methods. The stem cell cosmetics industry overtakes all other stem cell-related industries, selling massive numbers of dubious stem cell cosmetic procedures. FDA takes note, for example sending a warning letter to “Dr. LookGood”, but may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of places offering such treatments. Even “mainstream” companies such as Nordstrom’s are indirectly funneling clients to adult stem cell cosmetic companies.

8. Stem cells may have ruined Perry’s chance to be president. Rick Perry, while a GOP presidential primary candidate, receives a non-FDA approved stem cell treatment involving Celltex for a spinal condition. Some wonder if treatment ran afoul of federal law. Apparently in major pain during the campaign despite the treatment, Perry stumbles badly during debates.

9. Texas passes dubious state stem cell clinic rules pushed by Perry. Rick Perry pushes through weak stem cell regulations in Texas at medical board, but since they take a back seat to federal regulations, Perry’s own treatment and those of dubious stem cell clinics in Texas may still be in the crosshairs.

10. Stem cell report from Witherspoon “think tank”, gang of self-serving ex-Bush Jr ethicists, aims to influence federal case, attacks this blog. A fraternity of anti-ES cell self-proclaimed “authorities” produce what is intended to be a definitive report on stem cells. Many believe this document is intended for the 3-judge panel of the appeals court hearing the case against federal funding of ES cell research.

What’s next? Hang onto your hats! In synthesis these events suggest one critical, problematic trend is purveyors of adult stem cell treatments overwhelming regulatory authorities with their sheer numbers and boldness while their friends in high places exert political pressure for deregulation. As a wedge and diversion, these folks attack ES cell research as well as anyone who challenges them.