Overly-optimistic portrayal of stem cell research in the media gives false hope
Researchers analyzed newspaper articles on stem cells from 2010-2013 and found almost 70% of the articles reported that treatments would be available in 5-10 years or earlier, but these timelines are unsupported by scientific research. These inaccurate timelines give false hope and can lead patients to seek out unproven stem cell therapies.
Most of the news articles in the US, Canada and the UK focus on diabetes, neurological and cardiovascular diseases even though these applications are still very far from being ready for the clinic. Today, the only approved and effective stem cell treatments are bone marrow stem cell transplantation for cancers like leukemia and genetic blood diseases like thalassemia. Most of the recent clinical trials involving stem cells have focused on treating cancers or issues that arise when the immune system rejects transplants.
The analysis of recent news articles has also shown that the media has recently shifted the stem cell debate away from ethical concerns like whether we should allow researchers to use cells from human embryos. Now, the marketing of unproven treatments and other policy concerns are dominating headlines.
The take-home message from this analysis is that stem cell research is not as far along as the media may lead you to believe. Patients should try to be skeptical of media hype and discuss any potential treatments with their physicians before receiving them.
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