Stanford University

A few weeks ago, my colleague used this space to discuss the second and third papers showing teams had turned skin cells directly into neurons, noting that this replication of research results is essential to verifying the initial breakthrough while refining and improving it. She noted that only after much replication and refinement would she or anyone else want the resulting cells for therapy.
Last week brought a paper by Stanford researchers that has been a long, long time coming. It shows that 12-14 years after the experimental treatment, women with metastatic breast cancer benefited from high dose chemotherapy followed by transplantation of their own blood-forming stem cells. The paper was published online July 15 in Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.
This is the way things often go in science: One group announces a breakthrough. Yah! Then for the next several years, scientists all over the world replicate and improve on that breakthrough until it's finally believable and widely useful.

To people outside science who read about the initial breakthrough, this may look a lot like scientists twiddling their thumbs, sitting on new therapies. But really, do you want a therapy based on a breakthrough that may or may not be real? Right, neither do I.

CIRM grantee Robert Blelloch of the University of California, San Francisco won the 2011 Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the International Society for Stem Cell Research. The society's annual meeting is taking place now in Toronto.

Blelloch presented his research June 15 at 6pm and will participate in a press briefing at noon June 16. His work focuses on the role of small molecules called microRNAs and their role in stem cell biology and cancer.

Those of you who follow this space have read our opinions on embryonic vs. adult vs. reprogrammed iPS cells. For those of you who don't watch this space, here's our opinion in a nutshell: There is no "vs." All types of stem cells could be therapeutically valuable, and what we learn in one cell type often directly translates to discoveries in another cell type.