Diabetes and Stem Cell Research and Advocacy

Ann Bartlett Health Guide
  • Last week, I got a last minute email from JDRF Capitol Chapter about tickets to a documentary on embryonic stem cell research called The Accidental Advocate. The film is centered around one man, Dr. Claude Gerstle, a surgeon and avid cyclist who became paralyzed after a bike accident.  To keep himself motivated to move and his mind useful, Claude began to look into spinal cord research and saw that the most promise for spinal cord injuries rested in embryonic stem cell research

    Since the US has put restrictions on embryonic stem cell, the research has slowed in this country.  But unrestricted research has simply moved overseas, taking along with it dollars that this country would have vested in it’s own research centers.  According to Dr. Jeffery Jones, Director, Derivation Laboratory at the WiCell Research Institute; Associate Professor, Department of Ob/Gyn at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, between 7,000 to 20,000 embryos are discarded every year.  The percentage of embryos being adopted is so small compared to the number being discarded, and in some states the right to donate embryos to research is banned. (For information on state legislature)

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    The large number of discards reflects another problem.  Should embryonic stem cell research be privatized? At this point, US research labs participating in embryonic stem cell suffer consequences if using privatized AND government funds.  If a lab receives government funding, they must follow all government regulations to continue to receive government funds.  In other words, a microscope, Petri dish, slide, pencils and paper that are bought with government funds cannot be used for privatized research that isn’t following government regulations.  The problem is that many of the researchers want FDA oversight.

    Dr. Hans Kierstead, Associate Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology 
University of California, Irvine 
Associate Professor, 
Reed-Irvine Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.  Dr. Kierstead's lab was the first in North America to garner federally-approved embryonic stem cells for spinal cord research and is currently developing a cell transplantation therapy for clinical trials. Dr. Kierstead feels similar research in other countries have fewer protocols and standards required and because of the hope that embryonic stem cell research is offering these labs in other countries are rushing into human trials.  Most of the researchers in the USA are in agreement, government needs to be involved.  Why? Because NIH and FDA regulations help set the standards for excellence and safety.

    During the last 8 years, there has been a decline in government funding for all research.  Embryonic Stem Cell research has seen a sharp decline with regulations set forth by President Bush.  I’m all for regulations to keep science ethical and safe, but it seems to me that Embryonic Stem Cell research has been politicized for the wrong reason.  This documentary takes this hot button issue and opens it up for conversation.  Religious leaders, Senators and researchers are asked to answer, “what is embryonic stem cell research and what does it mean?”

  • Embryonic Stem Cell Research is an exciting prospect for many Health Central bloggers and readers.  So many of the diseases listed on our site would be helped, if not cured, but to know for sure we need to understand it’s implications and applications and that’s what research does for all of us. My feeling is why am I listening to a politician when I should be listening to the medical researchers and FDA, who are qualified to answer my questions.

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    I hope the Gerstle's get the support they need to push this new documentary to more cities or are able to produce a DVD. 

    Personally, I want to congratulate Jessica on a job well done!  And to Claude, thank you for reminding me to be a better advocate for the research!

Published On: January 25, 2009