You won’t hear about it on the nightly news, but a couple of years ago Dr. Mehment Oz appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to voice his support for adult stem cell research and to argue that “the stem cell debate is dead,” but instead of giving his statement a fair hearing, Oprah’s website buried and edited Oz’s comments.

Actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, was invited on the show to  talk about his struggle with Parkinson’s and his foundation’s endorsement of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

Dr. Oz, who is the vice-chair and professor of surgery at Columbia University, explained how stem cells could be used to treat or cure the effects of many diseases.  Then he shocked everyone when he said, “Now, I’m going to say something that’s going to be a bit provocative. I think, Oprah, the stem cell debate is dead, and I’ll tell you why.

“The problem with embryonic stem cells is that embryonic stem cells come from embryos, like all of us were made from embryos. And those cells can become any cell in the body. But it’s very hard to control them, and so they can become cancer.”

After the show, Oprah’s website summarized Oz’s argument for adult stem cells with two short paragraphs, hidden 11 pages deep in a 13 page summary of the show:

“Thanks to recent scientific discoveries, Dr. Oz says stem cells aren’t the only solution. ‘We went to a place we never thought we would go. I can take a little bit of your skin, take those cells and get them to go back in time so they’re like they were when you were first made.’”

“Dr. Oz says these skin cells, which contain your genes and are less prone to cancer, will be the ones that are ultimately used to cure Parkinson’s. ‘I think we’re single digit years away from making a big impact in the lives of [people with] Parkinson’s disease, but also diabetics and heart attack victims,’” the website summarized.

Oprah.com not only avoided quoting Oz as saying “the stem cell debate is dead,” but carefully avoided the words “stem cell” and “embryonic’ when quoting or summarizing his remarks.  Dr. Oz did in fact say stem cells were the solution, but instead of backing ESCR, he advocated adult stem cells as the future of medical breakthroughs.

Here are some interesting outcomes on the topic from the Life Issues Institute:

Interestingly, there are some fascinating findings related to using adult vs. embryonic stem cells.  From the Life Issues Institute:

“To date, current research on embryonic stem cells has resulted in no promising results.  Ironically, a leading pro-ESCR advocate is the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, but ESCR research has failed in fighting this disease.

Past supporters of this controversial research are now speaking out about the false hype surrounding the results.  The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that doubters are coming out of the woodwork.  Paul Billings, who studied stem cells’ effects and co-founded a stem cell bank, said that hopes for major new medical treatments based on embryonic stem cells are “very remote”.  “The problems are so complex that we’re not likely to be able to tackle them with the stem cell gambit in the foreseeable future.”

Researchers in China met with a disastrous result.  Fetal tissue injected into a patient’s brain produced temporary improvement, but within two years the patient developed a brain tumor and died.  An autopsy revealed that the fetal cells had taken root, but had then metamorphed into other types of human tissue – hair, skin and bone.  These grew into the tumor, which killed the patient.

A devastating result occurred at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.*

In some of the patients, the implanted embryonic cells apparently grew too well, churning out so much of a chemical that controls movement that they writhed and jerked uncontrollably.  Dr. Paul E. Greene called the uncontrollable movements developed by some patients as “absolutely devastating.”  He said, “They chew constantly, their fingers go up and down, their writs flex and distend.  It’s a real nightmare.  And we can’t selectively turn it off.  No more fetal transplants.  We are absolutely and adamantly convinced that this should be considered for research only.”

In stark contrast to the failures of embryonic stem cell research, the future looks very promising for treatment with adult stem cells. 

The following are examples of research breakthroughs with adult stem cells.  Please note that this list is only a sampling.

  • Researchers at Harvard Medical School say adult stem cells may eliminate the need for embryonic ones.  The researchers experienced a permanent reversal of Type 1 diabetes in mice by killing the cells responsible for the diabetes.  The animals’ adult stem cells took over and regenerated missing cells needed to produce insulin and eliminate the disease.  The results hold promise for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus and more than 50 other ailments.
  • At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, a man with a rare, potentially fatal skin disorder that was so severe that he could no longer eat, is now symptom-free after receiving a transplant of his own adult stem cells.
  • Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago extracted the adult stem cells from the blood of two Crohn’s patients and successfully used them to rebuild their faulty immune systems.
  • Dr. Edward Holland of the Northern Kentucky Eye Laser Center in the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area, is using adult stem cell transplants as part of a treatment to dramatically improve the eyesight of his patients.
  • New research in the UK on rats indicates that transplants of adult stem cells can help stroke victims regain movement, senses and understanding.  They also show that the adult cells were more effective than cells from aborted babies.
  • The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York came to similar conclusions.
  • A study by the Institute for Stem Cell Research in Milan, Italy showed that certain cells from the brains of adult rats can be used to generate muscular tissue. 
  • Researchers at the University of South Florida in Tampa have found that adult stem cells from the umbilical cord blood may be able to help repair damaged brain tissue after a stroke.
  • Scientists at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ have found that bone marrow cells may be converted into replacement nerve cells, able to treat brain and nerve injuries.  Dr. Ira Black and his team were able to convert 80% of the bone marrow cells into nerve cells.”