"Gunny" Bob: Stem cells from amniotic fluid are "[s]ame type of stem cells that you get out of an embryo"

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Newsradio 850 KOA host "Gunny" Bob Newman falsely claimed that new research shows stem cells from amniotic fluid are the "[s]ame type of stem cells that you get out of an embryo." In fact, the lead researcher of the study cautioned that his work should not be considered "a substitute" for the search for material from embryonic stem cells.

While discussing legislation seeking federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, "Gunny" Bob Newman falsely asserted on the January 9 broadcast of his Newsradio 850 KOA show that new research shows stem cells from amniotic fluid are the "[s]ame type of stem cells that you get out of an embryo." In fact, Dr. Anthony Atala, the lead researcher for the recently announced and widely reported amniotic stem cell research study, noted that "amniotic fluid-derived cells are a close second" to the more controversial embryonic stem cells, which "are considered the most malleable of the various types of stem cells," according to a January 8 Reuters article.

Presumably, Newman was referring to a recent announcement by the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, which reported the discovery that stem cells derived from amniotic fluid -- the fluid surrounding a human fetus -- were, according to Reuters, capable of growing "muscle, bone, fat, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells in the laboratory." As Reuters reported, amniotic stem cells are considered "easier to grow than human embryonic stem cells" and do not appear to form tumors as embryonic stem cells have in early research. Atala expressed hope that the cells could "give rise to any type of tissue in the body -- blood, nerve, muscle," as embryonic stem cells are capable of doing.

However, amniotic stem cell research does not, as Newman falsely claimed, produce "the same science" as embryonic stem cell research, nor are the stem cells from amniotic fluid the "[s]ame type of stem cells that you get out of an embryo." As a Los Angeles Times article published January 8 in The Denver Post reported, "It is still unclear whether stem cells from amniotic fluid -- the liquid that cushions babies in the womb -- can give rise to the full range of cell types that embryonic stem cells can produce":

"They can clearly generate a broad range of important cell types, but they may not do as many tricks as embryonic stem cells," said Dr. Robert Lanza, a prominent embryonic-stem-cell researcher and head of scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass.

Further contradicting Newman's claim, the Times article reported, "Amniotic-fluid stem cells lie somewhere between the two major categories of stem cells: embryonic and adult. Embryonic stem cells are derived from days-old embryos. Nearly all of the development is still to come, so those cells must be extremely flexible."

Similarly, an article by Jim Erickson in the Rocky Mountain News reported on January 9 that "[s]tem cells harvested from amniotic fluid may hold great promise for treating disease, but they are not a replacement for embryonic stem cells, Denver-area researchers said Monday." The article further reported:

Dr. Curt Freed, head of the clinical pharmacology division at the CU School of Medicine, called the amniotic fluid cells "an exciting addition to the tools available" -- but no substitute for embryonic stem cells. Curt Freed and his colleagues have used human embryonic stem cells to treat rats that have a neurological disease similar to Parkinson's disease.

"I think they'd be called politically correct stem cells by the Bush administration," Curt Freed said of amniotic fluid stem cells.

Furthermore, The Washington Post reported on January 8 that, as lead researcher of the study, Atala warned against using his findings to argue that his research can replace embryonic stem cell research. The Post noted, "Atala and other scientists emphasized that they don't believe the [amniotic stem] cells will make embryonic stem cells irrelevant." In fact, on January 9, The Washington Post reported that Atala "urged Congress on Tuesday not to consider his work a substitute for the search for disease-fighting material from embryonic stem cells." According to the article, Atala stated, "Some may be interpreting my research as a substitute for the need to pursue other forms of regenerative medicine therapies, such as those involving embryonic stem cells. I disagree with that assertion."

On July 19, 2006, President Bush used the first veto of his administration to reject legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) to lift restrictions on federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells. On January 5, DeGette reintroduced stem cell legislation, H.R. 3, which seeks to "amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research." The House on January 11 passed the bill 253-174, falling short of the number needed to override another threatened Bush veto.

From the January 9 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Gunny Bob Show:

NEWMAN: And Nancy Pelosi wants federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Conservatives, generally speaking, do not. Generally speaking. We've just found out that pluripotent stem cells can be retrieved from amniotic fluid with no harm to the baby or mother. Same type of stem cells that you get out of an embryo. They can morph into brain cells, or bone cells, or what have you.

[...]

NEWMAN: Generally speaking -- this is only general, because it's, it's not -- it's not split right down the middle. Most -- I would daresay most conservatives do not like the idea -- conservative Christians, rather -- do not like the idea of embryonic stem cell research. They say that we can come up with the same science by not using embryonic stem cells but by using stem cells from other places like amniotic fluid. And a few days ago a report was released that we can find pluripotent stem cells from amniotic fluid and not even harm the mother or the baby. Where, if you retrieve the stem cells from embryos, they're killed, they're destroyed. Nancy Pelosi says, no; federal tax dollars should be used for embryonic stem cell research because she says embryos are not people, they're just embryos, and that, and that the people who feel that they are -- that they are people, you know, that it's destroying life, are morons. So she is proposing a bill that she's gonna be having -- I don't -- I don't know if it's introduced yet, but it's about to be introduced, in any case -- she says that federal tax dollars should go to that.

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