A year after President Barack Obama eased restrictions on research into embryonic stem cells and pledged billions in new stimulus money for it, researchers are almost giddy with enthusiasm about progress in the field. They're confident stem cells will treat - maybe someday cure - heart disease, diabetes, spinal cord injury and other disorders. But the excitement is not generated by stem cells harvested from human embryos.
Instead, researchers are coming to believe they can get results almost as good from adult stem cells taken from the patient's own bone marrow or belly fat, and even full-fledged adult cells from muscle tissue or skin.
"Adult stem cells have more flexibility than we thought," says Dr. Joshua Hare, director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the University of Miami Medical School. "The embryonic stem cell might not be the most valuable property in actual therapy. When you're treating a heart attack, you might do better with an adult stem cell."