By Don C. Reed

If you, or someone you love, are one of America’s forty million citizens with a disability, Florida’s Senate race matters to you.

But you don’t live in Florida? Even so, it matters, big time. Ask yourself this:

Do you care about government programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, the Americans with Disability Act, etc.

If so, which political party will maintain such programs, and which one would cut or eliminate them? There are many votes ahead in Washington, close ones, and the loss of a single Senator’s vote could be crucial to your needs.

Such decisions can ruin — or improve — your life.

For instance, what about stem cell research, the kind approved by President Obama, the National Institutes of Health, and federal law?

Running in Florida’s Senate race this year will be an admitted enemy of that research, Republican Rick Scott, and Democrat Bill Nelson, a strong supporter.

The Republican party would ban it.

The GOP’s official position, adopted most recently at the Republican National Convention, July 18th, 2016, “called for banning embryonic stem cell research.

Why does this matter to me?

My son Roman has been paralyzed since he broke his neck in a college football game, September 10th, 1994.

Since then, he and I have been deeply involved in supporting medical research. Roman even had a research-funding law named after him. The Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999 funded some of America’s earliest stem cell research, which led to  a therapy later administered to six newly-paralyzed people.

All six gained improvements in the clinical trials sponsored by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), administered by Asterias Biotherapeutics.

The stem cells injected oligodendrocytes (to re-insulate the damaged nerves)  derived from embryonic stem cells: microscopic tissues left over from the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure, which would otherwise have been discarded.

The therapy will not help folks with “old” injuries (the spinal cord develops a scar), but it did help those for whom it was designed.

One young man recovered the use of his hands and arms, so that he can now use a computer, brush his teeth, exercise, sign his name, and in numerous ways exert his independence.

Experimental stem cell therapy helps paralyzed man regain use of arms and hands

The weightlifter in the picture above has no connections to my political opinions. He is mentioned only because he received improvement from the therapy mentioned in this article.

The research which helped him — would be against the law — if Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott has his way.

Rick Scott, Republican candidate for Senator, would “place a permanent ban on embryonic stem cell research”.

And Democrat Bill Nelson, where does he stand on the research?

Here is part of a public letter Senator Nelson sent to then-President George W. Bush. It was later read into the Congressional Record.

“Who among Americans has not been touched by diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and cancer? … Now, scientists tell us, by growing these stem cells, we have (an) opportunity for enormous medical breakthroughs. …This ray of hope — like a sunburst coming through the clouds — we cannot turn our face from it. We have to give hope to those people who are suffering…”

The Florida Senate battle will be tough.

The Republican has access to extreme wealth; his and his wife’s fortune add up to roughly half a billion dollars. With access to essentially unlimited cash, Nelson can flood the airwaves with radio and TV commercials, stuff the state’s mailboxes, hire armies of professional door-knockers to contact every voter in the state, jam the phones with endless robo-calls — in a no-limits anything-goes campaign.

Bill Nelson cannot match that mountain of money — but he brings compassion, courage and foresight to the table.

Example: Nelson strongly supports space exploration — and at the age of 44 decided to become an astronaut himself. He started running 4 miles a day, got in the best physical shape of his life — and was selected to be part of the Columbia space shuttle mission, January 12–18, 1986, the first member of the House of Representatives to experience outer space. The danger was real. Senator Nelson escaped death by days; the very next rocket to leave Earth was the Challenger, a tragedy in which the space ship exploded and seven astronauts died

Who does America need in the Senate? Someone who has promised to ban advanced medical research?

Or someone who will, as Roman says: “Take a stand, in favor of medical research. Take a stand — so one day, everybody can.”

For more information, check out his website.

Don C. Reed is the author of the new book “CALIFORNIA CURES: How the California Stem Cell Research Program is Fighting Your Incurable Disease!”, from World Scientific Publishing, Inc., publishers of the late Stephen Hawking.

Visit the author’s website!

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