A reader wrote in to the "Public Editor," an online ombudsman at the The New York Times, asking why a study of the potential of amniotic stem cells (and their potential to make embryonic stem cell research obsolete) didn't appear in the newspaper, notwithstanding write-ups on the front pages of The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.
In fact, virtually everybody who was anybody wrote about it. The Times responded that its "genetics reporter, Nicholas Wade,
. . . looked at the Atala paper last week and deemed it a minor development. Nicholas noted: "It reports finding 'multipotent' stem cells in amniotic fluid. Multipotent means they can't do as much as bona fide embryonic stem cells (which are called 'pluripotent'). So the cells really belong in the adult stem cell category, even though the authors claim an 'intermediate' status for them." Nicholas further noted that there had been previous reports of multipotent stem cells, which were much heralded at the time but then seemed to go nowhere."
I posted the following response:
Wade is flat-out wrong. Although I have read the full paper, you need go no further than the online abstract at PubMed to read that the amniotic stem cells were differentiated "into cell types representing each embryonic germ layer, including cells of adipogenic, osteogenic, myogenic, endothelial, neuronal and hepatic lineages." Translation: The amniotic cells carry the same potential as embryonic stem cells to become each of the 220 cell types in the human body. As to "similar cells," Wade is right but not in the way he'd have you believe. Amniotic stem cells are the same as those from placenta. Almost six years ago, scientists at Anthrogenesis Corporation announced they'd discovered stem cells that were readily harvestable in great numbers from placenta and convertible into all germ layers. PubMed now lists over 500 articles concerning "placenta" and "stem cells," indicating that a tremendous number of scientists find amniotic/placenta cells to be of tremendous interest even if Nicholas Wade and The New York Times do not.
I could also have added that this was the same newspaper that in 2004, in a Gina Kolata article, declared of adult stem cells "The problem is in putting them to work to treat diseases. So far, no one has succeeded." In fact there were about 70 ASC cures or treatments at the time, dating back to the late 1950s. The bottom line is the Grey Lady supports increased federal funding for ESC research - research that has yet to even be tested on a human being - to the point of outright lying over advances in alternative stem cell therapy. They don't call it "The Slimes" for nothing, folks.