Benefits of stem cell over-hyped, leading fertility expert says

The ability of stem cells to provide cures for serious diseases has been over-hyped, according to Britain's leading fertility expert.

Prof Robert Winston, professor of fertility studies at Imperial College London, is to warn that exaggerated claims made by some scientists about the potential benefits of stem cell therapy could lead to a public backlash.

Barely a week goes by without new and dramatic claims being made for potential therapeutic uses of stem cells, the body's master cells that can form different types of cells.

They are regularly touted as miracle treatments for everything from Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes to strokes, spinal cord injury and infertility, reports Telegraph.

But, according to Times, Professor Stephen Minger, of King’s College London, who created Britain’s first colony of ES cells, said: “There has been hype in the field, but it has not been the scientists who have been responsible for it. None of us is claiming that therapies are going to be with us tomorrow, and I think it’s irresponsible to say everything is driven by hype.

“It is true that Alzheimer’s is not a promising candidate for stem-cell therapies, but it was not scientists who suggested it was - that was all politics in the US driven by Nancy Reagan. This field is really a nascent one, I think the public here understands that, and I think he’s overreacting. I get ten phone calls a week from desperate patients and the last thing I want to do is sell them hype and false hope.”

Lord Winston aired his concerns as scientists today publish a study showing that colonies of human ES cells can accumulate genetic changes that could affect their behavior. The study in Nature Genetics, led by Aravinda Chakravarti, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, underlines the need for careful testing before the cells can be used in medical therapies.

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