Thoughts on Stem Cells
This letter was published in the New York Times’ Science section on Jan. 10, 2006
To the Editor:
The discovery of a new technique to grow human stem cells without animal products is good news, but it also highlights a critical challenge in modern medicine ("Scientists Report a Crucial Gain in Growing Stem Cells," Jan. 3). As a neurologist, I know that the transfer of nonhuman animal cells, tissues and organs to humans can have serious health consequences.
Infections with animal viruses, bacteria and prions (the infectious agent in mad cow disease) are examples of the problems sometimes associated with using animal products in medicine. Patients treated with such products may also face severe allergic reactions and rejection of transplanted animal organs and tissues.
Let's hope the discovery, made at the University of Wisconsin, leads other scientists to search for similar alternatives. The further we move away from using nonhuman animals in the laboratory, the safer our medical products will be.
Dr. Aysha Akhtar