Back in 2013, a half dozen years ago, I went out on a limb and made predictions for the stem cell field for 2020. These are different than my yearly predictions for the coming year (for instance, you can see my predictions made in 2018 for this year of 2019 here).
As to my 2013 predictions, of course, it’s only 2019 and not yet 2020, but how are my old predictions looking at this point?
I can’t be sure how they’ll look next year at the endpoint, but so far not so great. Below, I’ve commented in bold on these often way too optimistic predictions (predictions listed listed first verbatim from 2013) and I’ve included the same original graphic for fun from 2013.
I’d say the “predictions” from 2013 were almost more like a hoped-for wish list if things went extremely well. There’s also still more than a year left before the end of 2020 so there could be some happy surprises.
Here’s the list.
- Some forms of acute spinal cord injury, with intervention within a few weeks with a stem cell-based therapy, will show signs in clinical trials of being partially reversible. How’s it looking in 2019? Moderately promising. Although early trials without placebo controls from Asterias have had some participants report substantially better than expected outcomes, it’s still early days.
- Macular Degeneration will be routinely treated with stem cell-based therapies. The treatment will be safe and effective even if a bit expensive. The major cause of blindness will for the first time ever be able to be partially reversed. Will ES cell- or iPS cell-based therapies be further along in 7 years for treating blindness? I’m not sure. Today ES cell-based therapies are years ahead so they certainly have a head start. It’s possible that both ES and iPS cell therapies will have their roles for treating macular degeneration. How’s it looking in 2019? Things are looking modestly hopeful for more concrete progress by the end of next year with various kinds of stem cell-based therapies, but I was way too optimistic on the timeline when I made this prediction in 2013.
- Clinical trials will suggest that arthritis can be partially treatable with stem cells that will have been proven to effectively and safely regenerate cartilage. How’s it looking in 2019? It’s a mixed bag depending on who you ask. I’d say again that I was too optimistic on the timeline and my sense is that many are less committed to the idea of cartilage regeneration as opposed to some other mechanism of joint healing via stem cell injections.
- Stem cell-produced synthetic blood and blood products will be widely available. The military will start carrying “disposable” synthetic blood units into battle saving many lives of our men and women in the military. How’s it looking in 2019? There has been progress here on the research, but once again we are not there yet.
- A drug that kills cancer stem cells specifically enters clinic trials, raising hope of dropping recurrence rates dramatically for some cancers in a totally new way. How’s it looking in 2019? We aren’t there yet. This is an area of particular interest for me as a researcher and cancer survivor.
- Diabetes will be partially controllable in some patients by stem cell-produced mini-pancreases in clinical trials. How’s it looking in 2019? Well, the trials are ongoing such as by ViaCyte so that’s a big step forward. I hope we’ll get an update from ViaCyte soon.
- A stem cell-based ALS treatment will show signs in clinical trials of efficacy and raising hope of significantly extending lifespan and quality of life for patients. How’s it looking in 2019? Too optimistic again.
- A stem cell-based Huntington’s Disease treatment will show signs of efficacy in clinical trials, for the first time providing real hope for these patients and their families. How’s it looking in 2019? There’s been good research progress, but trials have not yet produced data one way or another.
- Replacement of entire organs will not be realized, but this approach to medicine will seem more realistic in the years following 2020. How’s it looking in 2019? I think it is looking more realistic, but a long way to go before clinical implementation. Still my prediction was fairly conservative.
- Several stem cell biotechs including Advanced Cell Technology (ACTC) and Osiris will be household names known to average Americans and other people around the world. How’s it looking in 2019? We definitely aren’t there yet and won’t be by next year most likely. If you count some of the gene editing firms using #CRISPR and other tech to be under the larger “regenerative medicine” umbrella like the FDA does, then we are closer to getting one or more to be household names.
- In 2020, a much greater percentage of stem cell scientists will routinely hold meetings with and work with patients to advance stem cell-based treatments. Stem cell scientists will also more routinely advocate (both actions and words!) for evidence-based medicine, for patient safety, and for the field. How’s it looking in 2019? I think this was somewhat accurate. A good example is Jeanne Loring’s work on the patient inclusive team Summit for Stem Cell.
- Several major academic hospitals will offer formal physician training in cellular and stem cell-based regenerative medicine. How’s it looking in 2019? Here at UC Davis, we have such a training program and there is talk of other places heading that way too. There might even be a few more that are now active.