You’re invited!

What: Book launch for “Stem Cell Battles”, by Don C. Reed.

Where: California Institute for Regenerative Medicine headquarters: 210 King St., San Francisco, across from AT&T Park.

When: Wednesday morning, October 14th, 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Who: Contact Don C. Reed, 650-812-1011, diverdonreed@pacbell.net

Why: October 14th is Stem Cell Awareness Day, and the publication date of Reed’s new book, “Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease”.


Background: working side by side with his paralyzed son Roman, the author has fought to fund cure research and protect scientific freedom for more than two decades: in California, numerous states, nationally, and in the halls of the United Nations.

In 71 chapters, Reed’s book “Stem Cell Battles” tells the story of Proposition 71, which built California’s $3 billion stem cell program. Today, with 2/3 of the funding spent, Reed offers answers to crucial questions:

Did California get its money’s worth? Are cures approaching for “incurable” disease and disability? Should there be further funding for regenerative medicine? What is the rest of the world doing?

Don Reed is the author of a weblog, “Stem Cell Battles”, and is currently writing a 20-issue series called “Disease-a-week Challenge”, showing how the California stem cell program is taking on multiple conditions long afflicting the human race.

For a sample, visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/don-c-reed/sickle-cell-disease-vs-th_b_8205464.html.

Join us, October 14th, at the center of the stem cell universe: the headquarters of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
AND—the first 25 attendees will receive an autographed free copy of Don’s book!


Disease-a-week Challenge #19

By Don C. Reed

Imagine: inside the veins of an African-American child, red blood cells: round and soft, doing their job, keeping the person alive.

What would happen if those cells hardened and changed shape, curving into the letter “C”, like a wheat-cutting sickle?

First, the capillaries would clog, in what Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) doctors call a “crisis”. Excruciating agony, like broken glass in the veins, a crisis may last an hour or a day, and the pain is just the beginning.

“By twenty years of age, about 15% of children with SCD suffer major strokes…
by 40 years of age, almost half have central nervous system damage …
cognitive dysfunction (mental problems) … damage to lungs and kidneys….
frequent hospitalizations… (and face the likelihood of) early death…”


Why does this nightmare condition single out African-Americans? The carrier state for SCD may be a defense against malaria, common to sub-Saharan Africa, but the defense is worse than the disease.

Poverty makes things worse: African-Americans are almost three times more likely than whites to be poor, and accordingly lack decent medical insurance:

“The U.S. Census declared in 2010… of the population …in poverty, 9.9% are white persons, 28.4% are black persons.”


Without medical advice, SCD sufferers may not even know even the most basic care: like the vital importance of drinking lots of water to stay well-hydrated.

“… The more water a person drinks, the less likely it is that their abnormal blood cells will clog…

“Another effective treatment is a medication called hydroxyurea, which reduces crises by 50% and death by 40%, but most adults are not treated…”

The problem is getting worse. For a person with sickle cell anemia–

“ …the average life expectancy has (gone down) from 42 in 1995 to 39 today.”

But doesn’t the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) help?

Yes, if your state has it. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) brought reasonably-priced medical care to millions of the poor and middle class. If someone on “Obamacare” develops SCD, medical care and advice is available to them. This is a wonderful accomplishment, for which history will thank President Obama.

Politics, unfortunately, has gotten in the way.

“As originally enacted, the ACA required states to expand Medicaid eligibility to (families)…with incomes (close to) the federal poverty level…However, a 2012 Supreme Court ruling made it optional for states to expand Medicaid eligibility…”


As of this writing, 21 state governors (all Republicans) have “opted out” of ACA: denying affordable medical care to millions of low-income Americans: including all too many families of color.


But access to care is only part of the problem; we also need to have therapies waiting, actual cures to make people well—not just maintain them in their misery.

Which brings us to three men connected to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Bert Lubin is a member of the California Stem Cell Agency’s board of directors.

If you live in Oakland, California, you might know Dr. Lubin, who for more than thirty-six years has been working to save children’s lives from sickle cell disease.

“At the Children’s Hospital of Oakland, Dr. Lubin began the Sibling Donor Cord Blood Program, offered to families across the United States who have a child with a blood disorder such as sickle cell anemia…and who are expecting another child. Following the birth of a healthy child, (his/her cord blood)… is harvested. Because cord blood is enriched with blood-forming stem cells, it is cryopreserved (frozen) and can be later used for transplantation. A number of lives have been saved following transplantation with cord blood units collected in this program…”


A second champion is Dr. Ted Love, who recently retired from the board of the California stem cell program.

Dr. Love is one of the most genuinely charming people you will ever meet, and he has a way of calming down arguments that is amazing to see. When disagreements on the stem cell board got hot and heavy, he could sum up both sides with a gentle voice, allowing problems to be settled amicably. When I told him he would be greatly missed, he said he wanted to dedicate his life to finding a cure for SCD.

How is Dr. Love doing?

“Helmed by Bay Area biotech veteran Ted Love, Global Blood Therapeutics is developing treatments for sickle cell disease… a genetic blood disorder that in the U.S. affects 1 in 365 African-Americans…”


The third man is Dr. Donald Kohn of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), recipient of funding from the California stem cell program.

The following are his own words, taken from public documents.

His method?

“…Isolate some of the patient’s own marrow and then use gene therapy methods to correct the sickle gene defect in the blood stem cells before transplanting them back into the patient…”

What would this do?

“… correction of the sickle mutation in adult bone marrow (blood stem cells) would allow for permanent production of normal red blood cells… each red blood cell (RBC) derived… will produce normal, non-sickle red blood cells…

What are his hopes?

“These advances will have direct and immediate applications to enhance current medical therapies of sickle cell disease…”

Will this information be kept secret, or be shared with other researchers?

“All scientific findings and biomedical materials produced from our studies will be publicly available to non-profit and academic organizations in California…”


“The first clinical trial of stem cell gene therapy has begun at UCLA and there are great hopes a new therapy will emerge.”—Dr. Kohn, personal communication.

The struggle is hard. But it must and will go on, funded by both public and private sources.

In our lifetime, will our scientists make an end to this deadly disease? California intends to find out.

Because black lives matter.
Don C. Reed is the author of the forthcoming book, “STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease”, available by pre-order from Amazon.com.

By Don C. Reed
Years ago, I was interviewed by famed KGO Radio talk show host Ronn Owens and was impressed by his asking just the right questions. Interviewing is a subtle skill, and what seemed like casual conversation- warmth and encouragement spiced up with humor—was in fact a friendly interrogation. Afterward I felt as if my brain had been vacuumed.
With a new book on stem cells coming out next month, naturally I thought of the Bay Area’s legendary journalist, only to find out he was just recovering from surgery for Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) to ease the symptoms of his Parkinson’s disease.
Asked what he was doing in the hospital, Owens replied:
“Just the normal thing, go in and have a couple holes drilled into your head and have some wires put in.”
DBS has been called a pace-maker operation for the brain. A battery device the size of a silver dollar is put under the skin near the collarbone, with a wire going up through the neck into the brain; there it will produce mild shocks to counteract the “abnormal nerve signals that cause PD symptoms”.
If all goes well, many of the problems of Parkinson’s (tremors and shaking) will be considerably reduced, perhaps for 5-7 years. And, conveniently, if something better comes along, the device can be removed.
To me as a non-scientist, it sounded great. If I had Parkinson’s, I would definitely investigate it.
But DBS does not solve the problem: it does not slow neurodegeneration– the breakdown of the nerves.
If you visit the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) website, you will find about two dozen approaches (at a cost of $44 million) attempting to defeat Parkinson’s.
https:// http://www.cirm.ca.gov/our-progress/disease-information/parkinsons-disease-fact-sheet
This is as it should be. PD afflicts millions of people around the world, an enormous burden to families and nations. We need to try many ways until we can find the cause, and implement the cure.
Remember Thomas Edison and the light bulb? He and numerous scientists went through thousands of substances, looking for a filament that would carry the light inside the bulb. They finally settled on—carbonized bamboo. When that worked, the world changed.

Everything depends on funding. Here is Dr. Jeanne Loring of Scripps Institution, and the Summit for Stem Cell Foundation. Dr. Loring has had CIRM grants in the past, and hopes for another, this one to challenge PD.

Here is how she would fight:
“…The idea is simple; we obtain skin cells from patients and turn them into pluripotent stem cells. Then these cells are made into neurons that make dopamine, with the plan to put those neurons back into the brains of patients to replace the cells that have died. Currently, we have a plan to obtain FDA approval for the therapy in two and a half years, and estimate that it will cost $7.3 million reach that goal …we are hopeful that there will soon be opportunities for us to apply for… CIRM funding.”—Dr. Jeanne Loring, personal communication.
Stem cells may help the body produce the dopamine, the natural chemical which makes motion smooth and coordinated.

For instance, Dr. Xianmin Zeng of the Buck Institute received a CIRM grant for “banking transplant-ready dopaminergic neurons…”
If there was a variety of healthy nerve cells ready to go, the right match could be available for someone in need. This would save time searching– and prevent the body from rejecting the transplant.
Or, stem cells could be used as a disease model: to test new therapies and medications, to find the cause and cure of the disease.
Dr. Xinnan Wang’s work at Stanford University begins with skin cells taken from a Parkinson’s patient. She then re-programs the patient cells back to an embryonic-like state. She turns these cells into the nerve cells affected by Parkinson’s—and here it gets exciting.
Dr. Wang’s idea is this: in a Parkinson’s-affected nerve cell, the mitochondria (the power sources of the cell) are damaged. A healthy body is able to sweep away the damaged mitochondria, as with an invisible broom. But if the “broom” is not working right, damaged mitochondria will just stay there, and essentially rot, spreading poison through the cell. When the nerve cells become intoxicated, the body can’t control itself, and the tremors and shakes begin.
But if you could fix the broom, the body might get rid of the poisons in the nerve cell—and maybe cure Parkinson’s.—Xinnan Wang, personal communication.
Do you see why scientists all across the world are excited about the California stem cell program?
Here, thanks to the vision of the California voters, it is possible to take the risk of making a mistake—to try new ways—to challenge incurable disease.
Edison needed thousands of tries to get the light bulb right; what if he had only had the money to try five or six? The world might still be groping in the dark.
If we want to save lives and ease suffering, we might consider California’s example, and make funding available to pay for the research. If every state had a department of regenerative medicine, imagine the progress we might make!
And Ronn Owens? He is recovering nicely. I am sure you will join me and the San Francisco Bay Area in wishing him a speedy and full recovery.

Don C. Reed is the author of the forthcoming book, “STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease”, available for pre-order now at Amazon.com.

Stem Cell Results from California Program: New Book Points to Progress
What: Book Launch on October 14th, International Stem Cell Appreciation Day
Where: California stem cell agency, 210 King Street (across from AT&T Park) San Francisco

When: Wednesday, October 14th, 2015, 11 AM till 1 PM
Who: Contact Don C. Reed, diverdonreed@pacbell.net, (650) 812-1011
Is California getting its money’s worth from the $3 billion stem cell program, begun as a citizen’s initiative, Proposition 71, eleven years ago?
“Overwhelmingly!”, says Bay Area author and long-term patient advocate Don C. Reed, pointing to progress made by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in more than two dozen “incurable” diseases, including:
• Diabetes: CIRM helped develop a credit-card sized device to be placed under the skin, where it would distribute cells to potentially eliminate the need for insulin injections;

• Cancer: research sponsored by CIRM offers a way to strip off the camouflage of the cancer cells, so the body’s own immune system can detect and eliminate the danger;

• Paralysis: CIRM-funded stem cells may “re-insulate” damaged nerves in a paralyzed spine, allowing the brain and body to communicate again.
“Step-by-step scientific progress towards cure is not always headline material”, says Reed, “But medical research from the California stem cell program may rescue the quality of our lives: providing benefits that will last, saving lives and easing pain, after the political squabbles and movie star shenanigans have long since been forgotten.”
The first 25 attendees at the Oct 14th book launch will receive a free copy of “STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease”, from World Scientific Publishing, Inc.

JOIN US– OCTOBER 14TH—at San Francisco Stem Cell Headquarters!

From Don C. Reed

Look at your calendar. Wednesday, October 14th, eleven in the morning—join us at the California stem cell agency headquarters.

As you know, Roman and I have been fighting for research funding for 21 years, ever since my son was paralyzed in a college football accident. You know the story: how paralyzed rats walked again after being injected with stem cells, and how that led to human clinical trials, the first in the world, continuing today.

But though “Roman’s Law” raised a total of about $102 million for research from both state and national sources, that was nothing compared to California’s tremendous $6 billion effort, Proposition 71.

I wrote my book,  “STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of  Chronic Disease”, for two reasons: to show the stem cell program’s  tremendous success, and to encourage more such funding. I won’t make a lot of money off it—there are almost no bookstores left—but this is the story of how California became the stem cell capitol of the world, and that is worth knowing.

Have you been to the California stem cell agency headquarters? If not, October 14th  is just about your last chance, as we are relocating in November. It will be a great new home, I am sure, but San Francisco is where it all began.

Join us, won’t you? Oh, one more thing—the first 25 attendees will receive a FREE COPY. Please share this message with your lists. Let’s jam the place one last time!


When: Wednesday, October 14th, 2015, 11 AM till 1 PM

Where: California stem cell agency headquarters, 210 King Street (across from AT&T Park) San Francisco.

Contact: Don C. Reed, diverdonreed@pacbell.net, (650) 812-1011

The book “Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond How Ordinary People Can Fight Back against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease — with a Posthumous Foreword by Christopher Reeve” is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.   More information can be found at:




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