Spinal Confusion

...an attempt to clarify confusing and innacurate information in science articles

Sunday, February 26, 2006

60 Minues, Embryonic Stem Cells

I was rather disappointed by the errors with the report tonight by Ed Bradley during 60 Minutes.
Laboratory rats whose hind legs were completely paralyzed — until they were injected with human stem cells. Remarkably, afterwards, the rats were able to walk again.
They were treated with human oligodendroglial precursor cells -- not stem cells.
Pending FDA approval, correspondent Ed Bradley reports that would make him the first scientist in the United States to transplant embryonic stem cells into humans.
Wrong: oligodendroglial precursor cells.

There are similar errors through the story, and I don't feel like correcting them all.

Here is an email I sent to 60 Minutes:
Dear 60 Minutes,

I am a partially ventilator dependent C3 quadriplegic and columnist with Wired News. I was excited to hear about Sunday's show and the Hans Kierstead segment.

Then it aired, and I was severely disappointed by the flagrant inaccuracies it included. Hans Kierstead's team does *not* transplant embryonic stem cells into the spinal cord. They generate a specific type of cells known as oligodendroglial precursor cells (OPCs) by culturing the embryonic stem cells and then transplant these OPCs, which remyelinate the demyelinated axons.

As a fellow reporter, I am disappointed that you allowed the segment to air with such lax fact-checking.

I hope that you will take it upon yourself to issue an immediate correction, both on-air and online. Please, feel free to check with Dr. Kierstead and Dr. Okarma, CEO of Geron, before you do so.

As a spinal cord injured person and research advocate, I am appalled. Perpetuating such errors makes advocating for a cure much more difficult, which directly prolongs my paralysis induced suffering -- and the suffering of the more than 250,000 other spinal cord injured persons in this country.

With sadness and disappointment,

Steven Edwards
Wired News