Active support for stem cell research is key to alleviate incurable chronic diseases

Never in modern history has the need for medical research been clearer, with COVID-19 roaring just outside our windows.

Fighting such nightmares is why the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) was founded. Begun in 2004 as a US$3 billion citizens' initiative, Proposition 71, the California stem cell program attempts to ease, alleviate or end "incurable" chronic diseases.

One CIRM-backed technique may be the answer to cancer. That technique removes a protein called CD-47 from deadly cancer stem cells.

But now CIRM's funding is almost gone, and a decision must be made: should the California stem cell program be funded for an additional S$5.5 billion dollars?

Called the "Grandfather of stem cell research advocacy", author Don C. Reed has been fighting for funding for 25 years, ever since his son was paralyzed in a college football accident. America's first stem cell therapy was paid for by a bill named after his son, the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999.

In Revolutionary Therapies, Reed argues strongly for CIRM's renewal. He cites successes like the 50 children who were cured of "bubble baby" disease, the paralyzed patients who recovered upper body function, and a blind woman who sees her twin sons for the first time.

The book makes its point by stories. To illustrate the problems of political division, Reed cites Gustave, the giant man-eating crocodile. The orca-sized reptile killed an estimated 300 people--but was not caught due to Burundi's civil war.

Few realize the mountainous costs of chronic disease: nearly US$3 trillion dollars were spent on treatment, services and therapy for chronic diseases last year--more than all personal federal income taxes combined. Nearly one in two Americans has one or more chronic diseases. The cost of suffering? Incalculable.

Chronic disease is a personal battle for the author, whose son, Roman Reed, is paralyzed. His sister Patty died of leukemia at the age of 23. And as this is written, Reed's beloved wife of 50 years, Gloria, is dying of pancreatic cancer.

As the author's wife has said: "No one should have to suffer like this. Stem cell research must go on."

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