Fox News' Herridge misinformed on whether new method can supplant stem cell research

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

On the June 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox News homeland defense correspondent Catherine Herridge reported that opponents of a bill that would ease restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research cited alternative methods, such as a new technique in the experimental stage, in which scientists were able to use skin cells from mice to develop cells that have regenerative properties similar to that of a mouse's embryonic stem cell.

But in doing so, Herridge failed to note that the technique's developers have asserted that that it will be "awhile" before they know whether or not the process can be applied to human cells. In a June 6 press release, the scientists stated that "all these results are preliminary and proof of principle. It will be awhile before we know what can and can't be done in humans." They also noted that human embryonic stem cells "remain the gold standard" and that "it would simply be premature and irresponsible to claim that we no longer need [human] eggs for embryonic stem cell research."

Herridge reported:

HERRIDGE: On the House floor, critics said embryonic stem cell research was overblown. Other avenues are more promising.

REP. DAVE WELDON (R-FL): Embryonic stem cells have never moved beyond animal research because embryonic stem cells have never been shown to be safe. Embryonic stem cells form tumors when you put them in animals.

HERRIDGE: Throughout the debate, both Republicans and Democrats pointed to new discoveries announced this week by the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Scientists there created embryonic stem cells without embryos through experiments on mice skin cells.

On June 7, The Washington Post reported on the new technique:

Acutely aware that their new work could undermine that key political goal, the scientists cautioned that their success with mouse cells does not guarantee quick success with human cells. They called for Congress to pass the bill, which would give federally funded researchers access to embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics.

"A human is not a mouse, so a lot more work has to be done," said Marius Wernig, who led one team with Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass.

Indeed, Jaenisch stated in a June 6 Whitehead Institute press release:

"[A]ll these results are preliminary and proof of principle. It will be awhile before we know what can and can't be done in humans. Human embryonic stem cells remain the gold standard for pluripotent cells, and it is a necessity to continue studying embryonic stem cells throughout traditional means."

Weldon's statement that "[e]mbryonic stem cells form tumors when you put them in animals," echoes a distortion that Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) advanced on April 11. According to an April 12 Post article, Brownback, an opponent of embryonic stem cell research, claimed that "embryonic stem cells are forming tumors." But as the Post went on to note: "[Brownback's claim] ignored the fact that no scientist today talks of putting embryonic stem cells directly into patients. Rather, they are growing the cells into more stable cells that do not form tumors but retain their therapeutic potential."

From the June 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: OK, Major, thank you. While newspaper headlines were touting a significant breakthrough in stem-cell research, House Democrats today won passage of a bill easing restrictions on using taxpayer money for embryonic stem cell research, but the measure failed to gain enough votes to overcome a certain veto by the president. National correspondent Catherine Herridge reports.

[begin video clip]

HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): On this vote, the yeas are 247; the nays are 176. The bill is passed.

HERRIDGE: The vote in favor of expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research came after two hours of heated debate on the House floor.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): And liberals in this Congress are not content simply to have embryonic stem cell research legal in all 50 states. They want pro-life Americans like me to get our wallets out and finance it, and I'm not having that.

HERRIDGE: Congresswoman Diana DeGette [CO], whose daughter suffers from diabetes, shepherded the bill through the House for Democrats. On the floor, she and other lawmakers anticipated what many expect will be the president's second veto on the issue.

DeGETTE: The Senate gets it. The public gets it. The House gets it. Why doesn't the president of the United States get it?

HERRIDGE: The bill would allow federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells derived from human embryos, which would otherwise be destroyed. These human embryos would come from fertility clinics and couples who no longer want them to conceive a child.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): You're talking about spare embryos now, but if it ever did work, especially when we have an ethical alternative that does work, but if it ever did work, it would mean requiring the killing of millions of embryos.

HERRIDGE: Leading up to this debate, Republicans successfully blocked a separate bill by Democrats. Although it banned human cloning for reproductive purposes, critics claimed it was really a backdoor effort to allow cloning for other reasons, such as embryonic stem-cell research.

On the House floor, critics said embryonic stem cell research was overblown. Other avenues are more promising.

WELDON: Embryonic stem cells have never moved beyond animal research because embryonic stem cells have never been shown to be safe. Embryonic stem cells form tumors when you put them in animals.

HERRIDGE: Throughout the debate, both Republicans and Democrats pointed to new discoveries announced this week by the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Scientists there created embryonic stem cells without embryos through experiments on mice skin cells.

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R-TX): And science is resolving and providing answers to this ethical dilemma.

DeGETTE: It's true embryonic stem cell research is relatively new. However, these other sources that our opponents tout are even newer and have provided no evidence and no hope for cures.

[end video clip]

HERRIDGE: Neither the House nor the Senate has the votes necessary to override a presidential veto. In a strongly worded statement from the White House, the president said if the bill were to become law, quote, "American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos," and for that reason alone, the president will veto the bill -- Brit.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Stem Cell Research
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Catherine Herridge
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
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