Abstract image

The embryonic stem cell research controversy may finally be moving to a new stage, and perhaps closer to a good outcome. For years, those afflicted with chronic disease have seemingly been pitted against those who consider stem cell research immoral due to the destruction of embryos. Each side has become entrenched, exaggerating or dismissing the latest scientific development as it suited their perspective.

A few months ago, the development of a new method to derive stem cells provided the opportunity to shake up these divisive politics. In fact, the first signs of a cooling in the stem cell wars may be visible. But both sides need to take this opportunity seriously or risk being marginalized as extremists.

In November, stem cell lines that appear to be as potent as those from embryos were derived from normal body cells. Significant scientific progress since then has made the new cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), appear quite promising.

But unfortunately, a protracted political struggle can sometimes take on a life of its own. Each side comes to believe that it can...