By Don C. Reed
October 14th is World Stem Cell Awareness Day. Hold that thought, please.
There was a couple in Vietnam who lived in a cave, their home and village having been bombed out in the war.
The husband was a quadriplegic, paralyzed in both arms and legs. The woman was a quiet heroine.
Every morning she would pick up her husband and drag him outside, lean him against a tree, so he could see what was going on.
Then she would go out and try to find them something to eat for the day.
In every nation there are families devastated by chronic disease and disability from whatever cause; most of their stories we will never know.
But we are not excused from our human obligation, which is to help.
I cannot bring a cure for paralysis to that family. That is for the national and international communities.
But I can at least work so there may one day BE a cure, which right now there is not. And that is something both you and I can influence.
In California we have a program that is dedicated to finding cures: not only for paralysis, but for all forms of “incurable” illness and injury. Our weapon is stem cell research and therapy. The program is titled the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM, for short) and it is amazing.
For those who have a family member who is paralyzed, (like my son Roman) the California stem cell program has spent more than $52 million fighting spinal cord injury. To see exactly where the money went, go to:
Newly paralyzed young people have been helped by stem cell therapies supported and funded by CIRM. Further research is being done to help those with long-term injuries.
That is just the tip of the iceberg. The California program has saved the lives of 50 children, all diagnosed with the “bubble baby” disease. This was previously a death sentence, having “Severe Combined Immunodeficiency”, or SCID.
But these children did not die.
Neither did Brenden Whitaker, who had the usually fatal granulomatous disease.
Nor did the baby who was operated on inside his mother’s womb — first in the world — and whose life was saved from beta thalassemia.
Two FDA-approved treatments to fight blood cancer are available, thanks to Dr. Catriona Jamieson’s CIRM-funded work at UC San Diego.
More than 90 clinical trials are underway or completed, some that California directly paid for, (64) or helped with the research in earlier stages.
The California stem cell program has literally saved lives, eased suffering, and changed the face of medicine forever. It is the pride of our state, the glory of our nation, and a friend to all the world.
But after 16 years of carefully funding research, CIRM is running out of money. If we do nothing, the program will die. This must not be allowed.
Bob Klein, the man who inspired the original stem cell program in 2004, is now leading the fight to renew its funding. It is a citizen’s initiative, to be paid for by the sale of tax-exempt government bonds.
October 14th is Stem Cell Awareness Day. I can think of no better way to celebrate this fabulous medical advance than to speak up for the California stem cell research program. Remember, the folks who run the program cannot advocate for its continuation. Only we, the patient advocates, can do so; which we must.
Tell your friends– and total strangers you meet on the street — to vote YES on 14!
Tell somebody every day. That adds up — people will care if you care. This morning I told the person tallying up my groceries — why not?
For California residents, when you step into the voting booth November 3rd or as you fill in your mail-in ballot, vote a thundering YES! for Proposition 14, the California Stem Cell Research, Treatments and Cures Initiative of 2020.
That will bring $5.5 billion to the program, the critical funding CIRM needs to continue its life-saving and life-changing research and therapies.
But don’t take my word for it — do two easy things:
First, listen to three of the world’s most brilliant people — all of whom were awarded the Nobel Prize for their contributions. These are personal communications. Their full messages can be found on pages 296–298 of my second book, CALIFORNIA CURES, World Scientific Publishing, Inc., 2018.
Paul Berg: “The creation of CIRM was a bold initiative by the citizens of California…an exceedingly promising scientific breakthrough for improving the health of Californians.
“(CIRM-funded) scientists achieved world leadership…exploring opportunities for human cures or treatments. Many clinical trials for treating a wide variety of human afflictions are in progress or imminent.
“Now is not the time to slack off support… we are near the top of the mountain, but we need continued support to reach the pinnacle — providing cures for the ills that still plague humankind.”
David Baltimore: “CIRM money has allowed California to be in the vanguard of stem cell research…Compared to Federal support of work in this new and highly promising area of research, CIRM support has been wide-ranging…a model for the country.”
Shinya Yamanaka: “CIRM is a global leader of stem cell-based basic research and clinical application, providing great hope to patients with intractable diseases. I believe CIRM’s initiatives will deliver innovative therapeutic options to solve the patients’ most pressing needs.”
“The California stem cell program (CIRM) has been helpful to many scientists during a time when obtaining funds for research has been increasingly difficult. Without such funding, research cannot go forward.”
“It is my hope that the people of California will choose to continue this useful institution.”
Second, share this message!!! Tell your friends to vote YES! on Prop 14.
Don C. Reed is the author of “REVOLUTIONARY THERAPY: How the California Stem Cell Program Saved Lives, Eased Suffering and Changed the Face of Medicine Forever”, from World Scientific Publishing, Inc., 2020.