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May 16, 2008
Nanotech Stem Cells, Order Now!
A good rule to follow: hold onto your wallet when two exciting, complicated fields of research are combined. Nature reported earlier this spring on a good example of this, the announcement by a small biotech called Primegen that they'd used carbon nanotubes to reprogram stem cells. (Here's a good article from VentureBeat on the same announcement, and there's an excellent piece on the announcement and the company in Forbes).
Stem cells and nanostructures are two undeniably hot areas of research. And also undeniable is that fact that they're both in their very early days - the amount of important information we don't know about both of these topics must be really impressive, which is why so many people are beavering away at them. So what are the odds of getting them to work together? Not as good as the odds that someone thought the combination would make a good press release, I'm afraid.
The PrimeGen web site, though a bit better than that VentureBeat article describes it, still has some odd notes to it. I particularly like this phrase: "PrimeGen’s broad intellectual property portfolio is founded on groundbreaking platform technologies invented by our team of dedicated and visionary scientists." Yep, we talk that way all the time in this business. You also have to raise an eyebrow at this part: "Disease and injury applications of PrimeCell™ include Alzheimer’s Disease, Cardiac Disease, Diabetes, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Leukemia, Muscular Dystrophy, Parkinson’s Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Spinal Cord Injury, Autoimmune Disease, Stroke, Skin Regeneration and Wound Healing." It'll mow your yard, too, if you're willing to participate in the next funding round.
The next sentence is the key one: "The extent to which stem cells can be used to treat injury and illness has yet to be fully evaluated. . ." You can say that again! In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing that in 36-point bold across the top of every stem cell company web page and press release. But what are the chances of that? As good as the chance that nanotechnology will suddenly going provide us a way to make the stem cells do what we want, I'm afraid. . .
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