So yesterday, I read an article on Inquirer.net about former Philippine President Joseph Estrada defying age through stem cell therapy. The exact title is “Joseph Estrada defies age, shares how he did it: Stem cell therapy.” Having had a background in life science, I read the article, skipping to the section about the treatment. Here’s what it said:
At the prodding of friends, the 75-year-old Estrada flew to Frankfurt, Germany, last month to undergo fresh cell therapy (also known as stem cell treatment), an innovative albeit controversial procedure where fresh cells from donor animals are injected into the human body to treat diseases or reverse the aging process.
Fresh cell therapy operates under the principle of “like heals like.”
The fresh cells from a donor animal’s organ are infused into the human counterpart.
… Estrada said he received 14 shots of blood from unborn sheep in his buttocks during the visit.
I was confused. In all the time I learned about human stem cell treatments, I was aware of only two types: autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplants. Basically, one involves stem cells taken from the injured person himself, and the other involves stem cells derived from another person. Both procedures involve putting human stem cells in an injured or diseased human.
But here, we have an article referring to fresh cell therapy, where fetal cells from a sheep are taken and introduced into a human. It further states that “fresh cell therapy” is also known as “stem cell treatment.”
While I’m not familiar with developments in medical biotechnology that have happened since I graduated, I’m pretty sure that the term “stem cell treatment,” as discussed in the news, currently broadly refers to human-to-human transplants. To illustrate, a related article in the same issue of the online publication discusses “stem cell therapy” without referring to animal-to-human transplantation. If ever, I’m fairly certain such a process would be called “xenogeneic stem cell therapy,” which, if I remember my science nomenclature right, would correctly indicate the process of taking stem cells from a creature of another species.
To be fair, though, the term “stem cell treatment” itself specifies only the use of undifferentiated cells for treatment purposes; strictly speaking, if one reads that phrase alone, the question of where the stem cells that are used came from is left unanswered. But given that the context of discussions surrounding “stem cells” nowadays is centered around human-derived stem cells, could we say that there’s been a case of misleading writing here?
I can only speak from my experience: I read “stem cell therapy” in the headline, I expected to read about human stem cell treatment, and I instead read about sheep’s fetal cells being used. Personally, I feel cheated. I learned from the article, sure, but it wasn’t what I expected at all.
What do you think? Am I being a prick about it, or do I have a right to feel like it was unfair?