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The discovery of human embryonic stem cells has pointed to the potential use of these cells in developing new approaches to therapy for many major human diseases. While there is general agreement that such applications are possible and will require a great deal of additional basic and preclinical research, some discussions of the therapeutic applications of human embryonic stem cells have been characterized by the kinds of exaggerations and elevated expectations that characterized the field of human gene therapy a decade ago. In the case of gene therapy, public perception of and confidence in the field were damaged by the hype. Most unfortunate of all, the hopes of patients and their advocates were disappointed. The eventual success of a gene therapy approach, albeit one still plagued by serious adverse events, has come through scientific advance and careful clinical application. The probable eventual use of human embryonic stem cells for therapy of human disease will also require thorough basic and clinical research, but that goal is endangered by the current level of inaccurate representations and undeliverable promises.