CMDA's The Point

Medical Breakthroughs Follow Ethical Choices

November 14, 2019
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by David Prentice, PhD

Medical breakthroughs are routinely touted in the media, whether they are actual breakthroughs or promising, potential information. Press outlets often make no distinction between real, evidence-based progress that can impact patients versus wished-for projections that can influence funding of projects. Rarely are the ethical choices noted regarding use, or development, of the research.


A recent Daily Mail news article about stem cell treatments is a case in point. In discussing advances in stem cell treatments for patients, the article starts with a decades-old mantra: “Embryonic stem cells can become any cell while adult cells have limited use,” implying here and in other places that embryonic stem cells are the great breakthrough and only real promise for patients. The article briefly mentions that embryonic stem cells are “sourced from human embryos” and mentions previous hype, but it fails to disclose that sourcing those embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of that human life, and that all of the hype was around false claims about embryonic stem cells. The bulk of the article then describes the remarkable results for five patients suffering from different conditions, all successfully treated…with adult stem cells.


The ethical choice turns out to be the lifesaving choice for patients. Life-destroying embryonic stem cell research has provided only false hopes for over two decades. Indeed, in 2007, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) declared that embryonic stem cells had “the potential to conquer all known maladies” and even today embryonic stem cells are still described as “important life-saving research.” This fiscal year, NIH will spend almost 300 million taxpayer dollars on human embryonic stem cell research, but embryonic stem cells have not saved a single life.


Stem cell pioneers who made the ethical choice, to help patients with adult stem cells, have made the real medical breakthroughs and saved at least two million lives thus far. These doctors are at the vanguard of a revolution in medicine, developing and validating treatments that put the patient first. This is not false hope or false promises, but documented evidence for real benefit to real people. These stem cell pioneers have provided hope and help to patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and a disabling MS-like disease, not just stopping but reversing the course of the diseases.


Stem cell pioneers have documented that using adult stem cells can alleviate chronic stroke symptoms. Recent published data adds to the growing literature, showing that a patient’s own bone marrow cells can aid in stroke recovery. Other pioneer doctors have successfully treated sickle cell anemia with an adult stem cell transplant, giving patients new opportunities for their lives. Pioneers have also led the way in using adult stem cells to help patients suffering from Type 1 diabetes and spinal cord injury. These are only a few examples of the opportunities for medical good by making the good choice on stem cells.


Adult stem cells are the gold standard for patient treatments. The ethical choice is leading to remarkable medical breakthroughs, providing real hope and therapeutic benefit for patients.


David Prentice, PhD

About David Prentice, PhD

David A. Prentice is Vice President and Research Director for the Charlotte Lozier Institute. He is also Adjunct Professor of Molecular Genetics at the John Paul II Institute, The Catholic University of America and was a Founding Advisory Board Member for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, a unique comprehensive stem cell center in Kansas that he was instrumental in creating. In 2020, he was appointed by the Secretary of HHS to the federal Human Fetal Tissue Ethics Advisory Board. Dr. Prentice has over 40 years’ experience as a scientific researcher and professor, including previous service as senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council, Professor of Life Sciences at Indiana State University, and Adjunct Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine. He established Stem Cell Research Facts, an educational website providing scientific facts and patient-centered videos about adult stem cells, and is a founding member of Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, and an advisory board member for the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. He has provided scientific advice for numerous medical professionals, legislators, policymakers and organizations at the state, federal, and international levels. Dr. Prentice received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Kansas, and was at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Texas Medical School-Houston before joining Indiana State University where in addition to his research and teaching, he served as Acting Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences and Assistant Chair of Life Sciences. He was recognized with the University’s Caleb Mills Distinguished Teaching Award and Faculty Distinguished Service Award. He has taught courses ranging from non-majors biology to advanced and graduate courses including developmental biology, embryology, cell and tissue culture, history of biology, science and politics, pathophysiology, medical genetics, and medical biochemistry. Several of his courses were also taught on-line. He received the 2007 Walter C. Randall Award in Biomedical Ethics from the American Physiological Society, given for promoting the honor and integrity of biomedical science through example and mentoring in the classroom and laboratory. Dr. Prentice’s research interests encompass various aspects of cell growth control, cell and developmental biology; one major focus is adult stem cells. He has reviewed for various professional publications including The Journal of the American Medical Association. He is an internationally-recognized expert on stem cell research, cell biology and bioethics, and has provided scientific lectures and policy briefings in 40 states and 21 countries, including testimony before the U.S. Congress and numerous state legislatures, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the President’s Council on Bioethics, European Parliament, British Parliament, Canadian Parliament, Australian Parliament, German Bundestag, French Senate, Swedish Parliament, the United Nations, and the Vatican. He was selected by President George W. Bush’s U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics to write the comprehensive review of adult stem cell research for the Council’s 2004 publication “Monitoring Stem Cell Research.” Dr. Prentice has published numerous scientific and bioethics articles, including a recent review of stem cell science and adult stem cell treatments published in Circulation Research. He has also published numerous commentaries and op-eds, and travels nationally and internationally to give frequent invited lectures regarding stem cell research, fetal tissue research, gene editing, cloning, embryology, cell culture and vaccines, bioethics, and public policy. He has been interviewed in virtually all major electronic and print media outlets, including CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CSPAN, Reuters, AP, NPR, USA Today, BBC, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.


  1. Avatar Mrs. Beth Sykora on November 18, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Dr. Prentice,
    For several years I have both read your prolife comments and attended your workshops at National Right to Life Conventions, with positive interest. During your last workshop in Kansas City, you said that adult stem cell research here in Kansas City was likely to be treating or curing 2,000,000 people.
    Has that actually happened yet?
    About how many people have been helped here in K.C.?
    Peaceful in Christ,
    Mrs. Beth Sykora