Stem Cells, Alzheimer's, the Search for Hope (cont.)
Right now the effect of stem cell research on patients with diabetes is to give
them hope that one day they will no longer have to inject themselves with
insulin, no longer have to measure their blood levels, that they can live a free
and unencumbered life. Hopefully, within a few years stem cell therapy will
offer them the reality of a cure.
In your opinion what happens to stem cell research under a second Bush term or
first Kerry term?
John Kerry, in a phone conversation before the Democratic convention, promised
me that his first act as President, if he was elected, would be to sign an
executive order reversing the Bush administration's policy regarding stem cell
research. I assume that in a second Bush administration we would simply see more
of the same.
Besides supporting candidates who support stem cell research, what can we do as
individuals to push this issue forward?
Supporting candidates, at this point, is probably the best thing you can do.
Scientists, citizens, certainly people with a variety of illnesses, are already
on board with stem cell research. It's the politicians who, as usual, are
Isn't stem cell research going on in the major drug companies, if not here then
Drug companies are interested in embryonic stem cell therapy, but generally
speaking, they only look about two or three years down the line. We're about
five years out from stem cell therapy becoming a reality, and that's just a
little too far over the horizon for corporate America. Sad, but true.
Ron, how much federal funding would be requested?
I couldn't put an exact dollar figure on it, but it would cost a lot less than
sending humans to Mars or prosecuting an unnecessary war in the Middle East.
Would funding for this take away funding for things like Alzheimer's?
There's no reason why it should, though it may take away funding for unnecessary
wars, and wouldn't that be a good thing.
As someone with multiple health problems I can honestly say when you speak on
this you are speaking for me and all of us who are ill and very tired of living
this way. Thanks for all your efforts!
You're quite welcome.
Dear Ron, although I agree with your position on the stem cell issue, as a
libertarian I completely disagree with government funding on this issue (eg --
California wants to spend hundreds of millions of state tax payers money). Your
How do you feel about government subsidies of oil companies and other energy
producers? The government funds all sorts of programs that the public would have
trouble funding itself. In the hierarchy of worthwhile programs, embryonic stem
cell research has to be near the top of the list.
Isn't it logical to expect stem cell therapy would solve many of the health
problems being funded today through NIH and specific grants, and perhaps at an
overall cost savings?
That is quite likely, but we'll have to wait for the research to bear fruit.
Have you thought of approaching researchers outside the U.S. for stem cell
research if the U.S. doesn't seem like it would change their policies?
Researchers outside of the U.S., in Europe, for instance, are proceeding at full
speed ahead. The issue here is federal funding for stem cell research in the
During your father's presidency the perceived lack of response to the AIDS
epidemic lead to a more active, vocal, and politically savvy type of medical
advocacy. Do you see any irony in your role as this type of advocate?
I see no irony whatsoever, but perhaps I just don't have the right frame of
Some say we should not use embryonic stem cells, but could do the work with
adult cells. Your response?
Embryonic stem cells, according to everything I've heard from researchers in the
field, hold out far more promise than adult stem cells. Research should continue
in both areas.
Is Alzheimer's going to benefit in any way -- even by association?
It is unlikely that stem cell therapy, in the near term, will be used to help
Alzheimer's patients. However, any discussion of Alzheimer's that draws
attention to the disease may be helpful.
Why are you and your mother so interested in this if it won't assist
Because it will help so many other people. How small do you think we are?
While you haven't made the connection between stem cell therapy and Alzheimer's,
your advocacy of one has drawn attention to the other. Can we talk about what it
was like to have a family member with Alzheimer's disease?
I didn't actually live with my father, but Alzheimer's is a terrible tragedy,
not just because it is a terminal illness, but because it robs people of the
ability to communicate with loved ones during the last years of their lives.
Physical pain is bad enough, but the inability to communicate with one's family,
with one's loved ones, must be an unbearable pain.
How is your mother holding up these days?
She's adjusting; she's doing quite well. She has a new dog, a Charpei named
Duchess, and that helps. She continues to be interested in embryonic stem cell
Will she be speaking out about Alzheimer's or stem cell research in the near
I'm sure she will.