Stem-cell initiative offers best hope for cures

Saturday, September 23, 2006

By Dr. Neil H. White

I write in support of Amendment 2 and the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. As a physician and pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in the care of children with diabetes and works toward finding better treatments and a cure for these children, I believe early, or embryonic, stem-cell research provides one of our best hopes for curing diabetes and many devastating chronic diseases.

As we explore the potential for early stem-cell research to provide cures for these otherwise incurable diseases, it is vital that researchers in Missouri are able to participate in this research and patients from Missouri have the opportunity to benefit from the advances that develop from this research.

As part of their efforts to make people think that research involving early stem cells is not worthwhile or necessary, opponents of the stem-cell initiative often make claims that adult stem cells are already providing cures for many human diseases and injuries. However, the research to which they refer only indicates that adult stem cells may have the potential to provide treatment for these medical conditions.

The truth is that adult stem-cell treatments are approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat only about 10 diseases and injuries -- not 69. And so far the only proven value of adult stem-cell therapy is in blood disorders.

Their argument goes on to state that early stem-cell research has not yet provided any cures. Although this may be true, it should be noted that early stem-cell research has only been developed for a few years and has been limited by government policy during much of that time.

Based on recent studies, an overwhelming majority of medical experts and patient health-care advocacy groups believe that early stem cells have the potential to effectively treat and possibly cure many diseases including diabetes, Parkinson's, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries.

These disorders are devastating to individuals and their families and costly to our society. I see the impact that diabetes mellitus has on the children and families in my practice every day. I also watched as multiple sclerosis slowly destroyed the nervous system of my own mother over more than two decades, while physicians and health-care providers were powerless to stop the process.

This is why I join 2,000 medical professionals who are working to ensure that doctors and patients in Missouri will have the same access to federally approved stem cell therapies and cures as other Americans. We in Missouri should have the same rights as other Americans to benefit from the treatments and cures that will be developed through early stem cell research.

I urge all Missouri voters to get the facts for themselves at Vote yes for Amendment 2 in November to assure that all Missourians have access to these lifesaving treatments and cures as they are developed.

Dr. Neil H. White is a professor of pediatrics and medicine and co-leader of the Pediatric Patient-Oriented Research Unit at Washington University's School of Medicine.

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