Chatterbox Rates the Bush 64 Stem Cells: First Draft

[Last Updated: Aug. 31, 1:30 p.m.]

Chatterbox will attempt an experiment in Web journalism. Rather than collect information on the Bush 64 and deliver it in one neat package, as a newspaper or magazine would, he will share information with readers as it comes in. The chart below will be updated and altered frequently as Chatterbox gets newer and better data. Once Chatterbox is satisfied that he has synthesized the necessary quantity of information, he will, as promised, issue each cell line a MichelinGuide-like rating: one star (“très bonne qualité“), two stars (“d’excellente qualité“), or three (“fine et justement renommé“). Or no stars, for the dogs.


We begin by compiling a few snippets from the press. …


Number of stem-cell lines developed and reported to NIH by the Aug. 9 deadline

What we know so far

BresaGen Inc., Athens, Ga4“‘We’ve already had maybe 10 researchers approach us,’ [president John] Smeaton said. ‘My guesstimate is maybe we’ll end up working with 100 to 200 researchers in the United States and maybe the same number in Europe.’”

Patricia Guthrie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/28/01”BresaGen … [has] obtained stem cells from the [Wisconsin Alumni Research] foundation but [is] listed on the government roster as having stem cell lines of [its] own. … [Smeaton] said his company’s cell lines were different from the foundation ones.”

Marilynn Marchione, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/27/01
CyThera Inc., San Diego 9“At least several months from providing a colony to researchers, officials [at the company] said.”

Ceci Connolly and Rick Weiss in the Washington Post, 8/28/01
Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden 5 ”[O]fficials said the colonies are not scientifically ready for research.“‘The cells are not validated,’ said Professor Lars Ahrlund-Richter. ‘That is necessary in order to continue with clinical research.’ “

Paul Recer of the Associated Press, 8/29/01”[C]ollaborations … would be limited under legislation being considered in Sweden that is intended to prevent cells from being bought and sold in an unfettered marketplace. [Institute president Hans] Wigzell said the cells could neither be sold nor provided to researchers outside a collaborative effort. Once that collaboration ended, he said, the cells must be destroyed or returned.”

Anthony Shadid in the BostonGlobe, 8/28/01
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia 6“[Associate professor Martin] Pera said their six lines were proven to be sustainable. …”

Brett Foley in The Age of Melbourne, 8/29/01”[The cell lines] were derived from embryos donated from an infertility program in Singapore.”

Ibid.“Within the next week, [Dr. Ariff Bongso’s company] ES Cell plans to start shipping small batches of embryonic stem cells packed in liquid nitrogen to scientists in the U.S.”

–Robert Frank and Veronica Brooks in the 8/31/01 Wall Street Journal.
National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India 3   ”[Director K.] Vijayaraghavan said [his team has] “frozen the inner cell mass from embryos and are in the process of testing and analyzing them. Any collaboration will depend on further progress in determining the characteristics of the lines.”

Chidanand Rajghatta in the Times ofIndia
Reliance Life Sciences, Mumbai, India 7“Four of the seven cell lines included in the NIH tally have barely cleared the first hurdles in the long process of proving their identity and usefulness as stem cells. The three remaining lines are even younger and could easily ‘peter out,’ said Firuza Parikh, founder and director of the Bombay-based research firm.”

Connolly and Weiss, Washington Post“The company was rumored to have ES cell lines, but Anand Rao, research director for cell biology, told Science it has none.”

– Gretchen Vogel, Science, 8/17/01”[Reliance] said Wednesday it had established embryonic stem cell lines and would make them available to researchers in ‘six to eight months.’ “

–AP Dow Jones, 8/29/01
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel 4“[A]n Israeli medical center [has] obtained stem cells from the [Wisconsin Alumni Research] foundation but [is] listed on the government roster as having stem cell lines of [its] own.”

Marchione, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel“Joseph Itkovitz-Eldor … who collaborated with [the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s James] Thomson to derive the first ES cell lines, told Science he has derived three more of his own.”

–Vogel, Science“Rafael Beyar, dean of the faculty of medicine … said his institution’s four cell lines are ‘robust’ and have already demonstrated an ability to transform into heart cells and insulin-producing cells. He added, ‘We can maintain these cells in an immortal way,’ meaning cells have shown they will replenish themselves endlessly.”

Recer, AP
University of California, San Francisco 2“‘We’re very dedicated to sharing these cells with others for a nominal fee, to cover the cost of perpetuating them,” said UCSF Assistant Vice Chancellor W. Sue Shafer.”

Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 8/28/01”[T]he University of California at San Francisco … [has] obtained stem cells from the [Wisconsin Alumni Research] foundation but [is] listed on the government roster as having stem cell lines of [its] own.”

Marchione, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel“Roger Pedersen of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has derived at least one.”

–Vogel, Science
Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden 19“‘I was a little surprised to see the NIH calling them 19 lines,’ said neurobiologist Peter Eriksson, part of a six-member team developing stem cell lines there. ‘Maybe they misinterpreted a little bit.‘“At most, he said, three of the 19 batches of cells could be called stem cell lines. … [These three] have been alive for about six months but have yet to prove that they can turn into all the major cell types of the body–a key test that cells must pass before they can be regarded as stem cells.”

Connolly and Weiss, Washington Post“[Team leader] Dr. [Lars] Hamburger said he couldn’t criticize the Bush plan because ‘of a personal connection’ to the president. On his July trip through Europe, Mr. Bush stopped to eat in Dr. Hamburger’s family restaurant.”

–Anthony Regalado and Jim Carroll in the Wall Street Journal, 8/28/01
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Madison, Wis5“Of the four in the United States, [this] is the only one that appears ready now to share its cells–and indeed already has–with other researchers. An Australian firm with a lab in Georgia says it will share its cells but has limited capacity to do so because it’s a small company.”

Marchione, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel“[T]he Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation subsidiary set up to distribute stem cells is offering cells from only one of its five lines. That line, it should be pointed out, is probably the most reliable and the most documented of all the 64 lines listed by the NIH.”

–Ron Seely, Wisconsin State Journal, 8/30/01