Magazine article Newsweek

In Search of Stem Cells: It Turns out Many of the 64 Lines May Be Unusable

Magazine article Newsweek

In Search of Stem Cells: It Turns out Many of the 64 Lines May Be Unusable

Article excerpt

TV crews camped out, reporters swarmed, phones rang off the hook--and employees at the year-old biotech firm CyThera, Inc., felt so besieged that they took its name off the door. The sudden attention followed the announcement by the National Institutes of Health last week that CyThera has more stem-cell colonies--nine--than anyone else in the United States. Fear that it would be targeted by anti-stem-cell activists (Operation Rescue vows to picket) was just the beginning of CyThera's woes. The obscure La Jolla, Calif., company, with only 12 employees, isn't even ready to analyze its stem-cell lines to see whether they're what researchers need, let alone supply biologists itching to get their hands on them. Warns chief scientist Lutz Giebel, "The cells are not ready to be released"--and won't be for at least a year.

When President George W. Bush announced last month that there were scores of stem-cell colonies around the world that federally funded scientists would be allowed to study, biologists were skeptical: just where the heck were all these cells? Last week NIH finally coughed up the answer. Ten universities, research centers and companies control 64 human stem-cell lines, derived from 64 blastocysts (days-old embryos). But dozens of those colonies belong to firms that, like CyThera, are so small that making the cells available to all comers would swamp them. "We've already had about 20 inquiries," says CEO John Smeaton of BresaGen, Inc., in Athens, Ga. "I think we're in a position to supply one or two, but if hundreds of labs want our cells, we'll be overwhelmed." And because stem cells can be temperamental--when BresaGen got some for its lab in Australia, the cells refused to grow--shipping them to researchers requires more than some dry ice and a call to FedEx. Scientists who want cells from BresaGen's four colonies might have to spend days at its lab learning to nurture them, taxing its 17 employees. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.