October 29, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Stem cells on the 4th of July: plenty of fireworks lately

It’s an exciting time to be a stem cell scientist and I feel fortunate to be doing research on stem cells today what with all the developments recently and real promise for clinical impact in coming decades. There’s also unfortunately a ton of hype out there including in academia, biotech, and the stem cell clinic arena. That’s something we all need to be aware of and avoid as much as possible.

stem cell fireworks

Hype and hope are only different by one letter (y versus o), but although they are both out there it is often not easy for patients to distinguish these. The hype is flashy like fireworks of the kind we might see today. But often it is more bang than substance and is harmful to the stem cell field and patients.

There’s so much to celebrate in terms of legitimate research across all the spectrum from the lab to the clinic with stem cells. Making an effort to cut back on hype actually helps the field collectively by keeping expectations realistic (even if optimistic)  and avoids disasters like patients being harmed by hyped stem cells. When powerful people engage in hype of stem cells that is even riskier for patients and the field. I’ve been trying to challenge that.

There’s also been fireworks in the stem cell field over policy debates in the past few weeks and months. The fireworks in the debate over stem cell oversight are not fun, but this kind of disagreement may be a necessary part and sign of healthy debate of different policy ideas. Even if we do not sing a stem cell version of Kumbaya together, that’s OK. Group think and silencing of diverse voices are not helpful to put it mildly.

It’s a big, crazy stem cell world out there. Enjoy all the real fireworks this weekend as well as that in the stem cell world related to science and policy that is likely to continue throughout the rest of 2016.

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