Texas Gov. and possible GOP presidential contender Rick Perry got everybody talking about stem cells again when he announced that he received an injection of his own stem cells during spinal fusion surgery last month. He was quick to point out the obvious--that his own stem cells are not of the embryonic variety, which he vehemently opposes using on religious grounds. There are three main angles to this story: Political, economic and, of course, medical.
First, the political: Natasha Lennard puts it best in the last paragraph of her story in Salon: "Perry's adult stem cell success story will no doubt serve as a useful weapon in the highly politicized fight against" embryonic stem cell research. Those who oppose ESC research argue that breakthroughs in induced pluripotent stem cells, derived from adults, make ESC unnecessary. Most medical experts say that the two are not mutually exclusive and there are still many hurdles to overcome before iPS stem cells can make it to prime time. Then, the economic: Perry, along with his friend, Dr. Stanley Jones, who performed the governor's surgery, have been working with another lawmaker to create an adult stem cell bank in Texas. Perry's procedure gave the effort just the kind of public relations push it needed. Last month, Perry wrote a letter to the Texas Medical Board, which is considering new rules regarding adult stem cells, saying that he hoped the state would "become the world's leader in the research and use of adult stem cells," according to a report in the Texas Tribune.
Last, the medical: The procedure undergone by Perry is experimental, not approved by the FDA and, according to some medical experts, may only have a placebo effect. MedPage Today was one of the few publications covering the issue that at least hazarded a guess as to what exactly was done to the governor. Experts not involved in the procedure guessed that Perry had his own mesenchymal stem cells concentrated in a lab and then re-injected onto a scaffold device implanted in the spine. "The procedure is similar to spinal fusion surgery using a piece of bone harvested from the patient's own iliac crest to fuse two or more vertebrae," MedPage Today reports.
- read the medically oriented story on MedPage Today
- and more in the Texas Tribune
- Salon filed this report, which focused more on the political
- and the Star Telegram focused more on stem cell economics