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Science Books

September 9, 2005

Cord Blood: Establishing a National Stem Cell Bank Program
Emily Ann Meyer, Kathi E. Hanna and Kristine M. Gebbie (2005)
ISBN: 0309095867

It's amazing that any progress has been made on stem cell research at all considering the amount of conflict and indecision surrounding this controversial and misunderstood subject. It was only a matter of time before a book was released that would cut through the rhetoric and propose a course of action. Cord Blood: Establishing a National Hematopoietic Stem Cell Bank Program, has been released by the non-profit organization the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a component of the National Academy of Sciences, as part of an initiative aimed at considering a national cord blood program. Cord Blood explores important issues and strategies concerned with maximizing the potential of stem cell technology and its implementation. Cord Blood does not hide its objectives of being both a call for public support and a call to action, opening with Goethe's famous quote: "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do." It is easy to understand the IOM's eagerness, as stem cell research holds enormous potential to revolutionize medicine. And one specific type of cell - the hematopoietic progenitor cell (HPC) - derived from the umbilical cord, is currently the favorite to deliver on such a promise. When transplanted, these cells can successfully treat a range of blood disorders such as leukemia, specific metabolic disorders, immunodeficiencies, and sickle cell anemia, and have already saved twenty thousand lives across the United States alone. Leading experts in the fields of economics, public health, medicine, and bio-statistics discuss, and make recommendations, for the current and future role of cord blood in stem cell transplantation and the possible structures for such a program. Cord Blood is a comprehensive reference for professionals and any general reader interested in the future of revolutionary medicine.

Stem Cells: Nuclear Reprogramming and Therapeutic Applications
Gregory Bock (Editor), Jamie Goode (2005)
ISBN: 0470091436

It appears that the world's scientists agree that stem cell research is the way forward in regard to the way serious illnesses and injuries are treated in the future. Stem Cells: Nuclear Reprogramming and Therapeutic Applications is a book that provides a comprehensive summary from leading experts on the current state of stem cell research. While each contributor focuses on their specific area of expertise, they also revisit the policy and ethical framework within which researchers are constrained. Ethics is an important area of stem cell research, as the boundaries of this relatively new area of investigation constantly change as new findings come to light. In this respect, Dr Thomas H Murray, of The Hastings Center in New York, discusses the connection between current stem cell research and attempts to clone human beings. Murray's engaging and enlightening account addresses some of the current apprehensions and clarifies some of the pervasive misconceptions. In fact, the strength of this book is the diversity of practical research and the way each scientist enthusiastically reports their remarkable findings on some of the world's most stubborn and debilitating diseases and injuries. Dr Bernat Soria, of the Miguel Hernandez University in Spain, for example, reports on the progress made in the development of insulin-producing cells derived from embryonic stem cells that present new possibilities for the treatment of type 1 and 2 diabetes. On anther front, Dr Bernardo Nadal-Ginard, of the New York Medical College, tells of how he and his team recently discovered a cell population that behaves like cardiac stem cells. The implications of such an important finding are incredible, as a single cardiac stem cell is capable of reconstituting a functional ventricular wall. The arrival of books that encompass such broad and salient thoughts from so many influential scientists is a sign that stem cell research is entering a new phase. John Gearhart, of the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, sums up the current attitudes on stem cell research best. "Many of us have heroes in embryology. One person who stands out for me is Karl Ernst von Baer, and I wanted to reflect on a paraphrase of what he wrote more than 100 years ago: 'All new and truly important ideas and discoveries must pass through three stages: first, dismissed as nonsense, then rejected as against religion, and finally acknowledged as true, with the proviso from initial opponents that they knew it all along.' We are currently between stages two and three."

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