Last week, a middle-aged woman from Maryland sat in the Denver airport, reading a story in The New York Times headlined "California Maps Strategy for Its $3 Billion Stem Cell Project." Asked whether she's professionally involved in the life sciences, she said, "No." Why then was she reading this particular article? Without hesitation she replied, "My father died from Parkinson's disease."

So it is around the state, the nation and even the globe: Having launched a major stem-cell venture nearly a year ago, California is being watched and looked to for stem-cell cures for all kinds of chronic diseases and conditions.

But the woman in the airport would not have been encouraged by the tale told in the most recent University of California, Berkeley, alumni magazine of a woman near her own age suffering from Parkinson's. This woman's husband happens to be both a cell biologist and director of Berkeley's stem-cell center. When it comes to the prospect of a stem-cell therapy to save his wife or any other Parkinson's patient, he states his scientific opinion succinctly: "Right now, it's...