Excerpt from an article about President Barack Obama lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research.
The Eleventh Hour and its Stem Cell Storyline
Despite hearing over the last decade of advances in stem cell research and later how it could benefit me personally, I didn't research the topic. It seemed an overwhelming task to learn anything about stem cells. But about a month ago, while watching the CBS drama Eleventh Hour one Thursday night, I started wondering about the promise of stem cell research. That evening's show a corporation stealing cord blood form families who'd stored their child's umbilical cord blood in case the stem cells in the blood were needed later to cure them or help stop the progression of an illness.
Here's a video clip from the show about stolen stem cells, that wealthy people wanted because they believed stem cells would restore youth. That's not true ; there's no evidence that stem cells are the fountain of youth, but some of the other science behind Episode 12, Season One of Eleventh Hour was based in fact.
Eleventh Hour focuses on the scientific investigation of the fictitious "Dr. Jacob Hood, a brilliant biophysicist and special science advisor to the government, as he investigates scientific crises and oddities." A blog at Discover Magazine examines the science behind the show, and in the post "The Cord Blood Panacea," tackled Episode 12, Season One specifically:
Cord blood is the stem-cell rich blood that can be extracted from an infants’ umbilical cord shortly after birth. The blood holds the makings of full grown blood cells, and as such can be useful in helping to treat certain blood-born diseases and as a replacement for damaged bone marrow in certain treatments for cancer. Cord blood was first shown to be useful in 1988 when it helped replace damaged blood and marrow in apes. To provide a supply for research, the National Cord Blood Program was founded in New york in 1996. Even though some 6,000 cord-blood transplants have taken place between then and 2005, people receiving treatment with cord blood are considered human subjects of research and the treatment has to be certified by the appropriate boards. The public registry accepts cord-blood from anyone and will give it to anyone who needs it.
On the other side are the private blood banks, of which there are several. These companies process and hold cord blood for the donor’s or the donor family’s future need. They charge in the neighborhood of $1,500 or $2,000 for collection and then $125 or so annually for storage. The firms market their services to parents both as insurance against many forms of cancer and because, as they say, the future of stem cells is bright. ... (continue reading at DM)
As you can gather, cord blood stem cells, the stem cells used in the show, and embryonic stem cells, the stem cells related to President Obama's order today, are not the same..
Embryonic stem cells are cultured in a Petri dish using the spare fertilized eggs of in vitro fertilization (IVF). These eggs are donated with the informed consent of the donors. Many moral and ethical questions arise in embryonic stem cell research; this is especially true of fetal stem cell research, the use of older embryos. The issue lies in scientists making their own embryos from scratch for use in stem cell research. (Pregnancy-info.net)
Another site also looks at the science behind the show Eleventh Hour. Eleventh Hour Facts had a live blog for Episode 12 by Michael Gilkey from the National Center for Regenerative Medicine.
This post is an excerpt from a blog post at WSATA about a personal stake in stem cell research. You may read the full post at this link, "Stem Cells 101 and Stem Cells in Science Fiction."