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Tone down the stem cell hype

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The University of Minnesota issued a news release this week reading, in part: “For the first time, stem cell researchers at the University of Minnesota have coaxed human embryonic stem cells to create cancer-killing cells in the laboratory, paving the way for future treatments for various types of cancers (or tumors). The research will be published in the October 15 issue of the Journal of Immunology.”

Local media picked up the story, including a WCCO report that said, in part: “Researchers expect to begin testing on animals within a couple of months, but it will be a few years before the research will be tested on people. The research will be published in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Immunology.”

If such a result had been reported by the University of Wisconsin or the University of Iowa, you can bet that WCCO would not have reported on it. Tell me the last such study they reported on from the Journal of Immunology. But because it was local, it was newsworthy. I don’t buy it. It was a preliminary finding in lab dishes — not even in mice yet. Good science, no doubt. But let’s apply consistent news judgment to such preliminary science stories.

KSTP reported: “Researchers at the University of Minnesota have made progress in fighting cancer.” That’s hyperbole. They made progress in a test tube. Nothing has yet been shown in people — not even in mice.

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