Stem cell research has been seen by biochemists as holding potential for extending life, for curing a multitude of diseases, and as a breakthrough development in fusing spinal cords that have been traumatized, extending even to a cure for paralysis. Stem cell research has focused on the morally questionable harvesting of cells from aborted fetuses, the use of umbilical cord stem cells, and finally, the no-longer-controversial use of donor cells from the individual undergoing the treatment.
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells. Since they have not developed specifically into any differentiated (specific) cell type (kidney cells, heart cells, liver cells, cells within the nervous system, and so on), they can become new, young and growing cells wherever in the body they are needed. These cells could make a dramatic difference to human life in the future. Optimists suggest that (barring accidents) a person might live forever. The common cold could be easily cured. Diseases seen as being treatable by the application of stem cell therapy include cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and a wide range of other impairments. Less optimistic speculators see a risk for new cancers, and currently a risk for blood clots.
In late June of 2011 Texas Governor Rick Perry, according to reports available today, was able to utilize stem cells taken from his fat, grown in a laboratory, and returned to him in the hopes of achieving enhanced spinal fusion. The Governor and presidential candidate has had spinal problems, and wears a brace. In spite of ongoing experimentation with this type of treatment, the usage hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Indeed, the Texas Medical board is now meeting to determine whether this procedure will be allowable in the state in the foreseeable future. Specifically, Texas Medical Board members will discuss the need for an independent review committee. Perry referred to the “revolutionary potential” of this stem cell research in addressing the 19-member board, of which he himself appointed every member.