Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Miracle breakthrough?

Today I received an email asking about Stem Cell Research.  While writing the reply I was struck by just how the media manipulate these sorts of stories, by using such terms as "Miracle Breakthrough" and "Ground Breaking Research".  And frankly its not true!   Yes, stem cell research does hold a lot of promise (ignoring the ethics for a moment), but sadly in truth, I don't see a cure for my disability in my lifetime. And that's if I chose to take it.   I can't help wondering how this idea that seems to have permeated our culture in the last 50 years, that science can 'cure all', has affected how disabled people are viewed in society.  Are we just a problem to be fixed? Just like a defective computer, or are disabled people considered by society a valuable asset because of the diversity we bring?  Interesting question.   I have included a modified version of the reply I sent to the email message.  I have changed the name and altered some details though.   George, editor

Dear Sarah
As I'm sure you know stem cell research is still in its very early stages.  And while there have been a small number of human clinical trials, it hasn't as yet been a proven treatment.
I am not sure from your email where your brother lives whether its in the UK (like me) or the US.  But regardless both countries have very firm legislation regarding the use of Stem Cells at present. And indeed just last week a doctor here in the UK was stuck off for offering stem cell therapy to MS patients.  See the links at the end of the email.
I would urge extreme caution about entering any sort of clinical trial, especially if you are asked to pay any sort of fee.  Genuine trials are very rare and would never ask a participant for payment!
More specifically I think your brother could of been refereeing to an article I posted on my news blog in March of last year about using stem cells to repair damage to the brain following a stoke. But from what I understand (and I only have my own googling to go on), this is only in the experimental stage and has only been tried on rats.  I think it will be a long time before we see human trials.
Forgive me, because I'm making some assumptions.  But I understand your brother's eagerness to pursue this as I'm a wheelchair user myself, as the result of brain injury at birth. And I know for myself how frustrating it is to hear from the media about these 'miracle breakthroughs' and yet little seems to be happening in the way of actual treatments.  I believe stem cell research has a long way to go before disabled people start seeing the benefits and treatment in a way that is going to change our lives
The media it seems have a lot to answer for, as they tend to overplay the results of clinical trials and rather cruelly in my opinion give false hope (and certainly false expectations) to people in very difficult circumstances.
I hope this has at least partly answered your question, but please don't hesitate to contact me should you need specific information.

Posted via email from Editor's posterous

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