Overview/Stem Cell Prospects" data-pin-do="buttonBookmark">
Sidebar: Overview/Stem Cell Prospects
HUMAN EMBRYO five to six days after fertilization, called a blastocyst, is opened to retrieve the inner cell mass (red bulge) that produces embryonic stem cells.
Sidebar: Overview/Stem Cell ProspectsImage: YORGOS NIKAS Wellcome Photo Library
Stem cells raise the prospect of regenerating failing body parts and curing diseases that have so far defied drug-based treatment. Patients are buoyed by reports of the cells' near-miraculous properties, but many of the most publicized scientific studies have subsequently been refuted, and other data have been distorted in debates over the propriety of deriving some of these cells from human embryos.
Provocative and conflicting claims have left the public (and most scientists) confused as to whether stem cell treatments are even medically feasible. If legal and funding restrictions in the U.S. and other countries were lifted immediately, could doctors start treating patients with stem cells the next day? Probably not. Many technical obstacles must be overcome and unanswered questions resolved before stem cells can safely fulfill their promise.
This article was originally published with the title The Stem Cell Challenge.