August 3, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Right wing chicken myths about stem cells: why it will come back to bite them

Why do right-wing folks including otherwise “moderate” Republicans seemingly hate stem cells so much?

Why do they spread so many myths?

These anti-stem folks are, despite some Democrats arguments to the contrary, human beings after all.

What this means is that they and their loved ones get sick, injured, and die prematurely just like the rest of us. In turn, this also means that they need medical treatments and that they and their families also suffer greatly when they are faced with a condition for which there is no treatment. The number of conditions for which there is no truly effective medical treatment is large and collectively there are 10s of millions of people in the U.S. alone facing that situation. Probably about half of them are Republicans.

How can we make progress to help treat these supposedly untreatable conditions?

Surgery (often primitive forms) and medicinal therapies based on herbs have been around for thousands of years.  If you include antibiotics in this mix, which one should, these “treatments” have saved countless hundreds of millions of lives. However, I would argue that the lifesaving and life-improving impact of surgery and chemical drugs is plateauing.

We need a fundamentally new approach to medicine and we have one in germinal form: cellular therapy.  The most promising form of this new therapy is stem cell-based cellular therapy. So instead of just surgery or chemical drugs (I say chemical drugs because the FDA views cell therapies as drugs too including stem cells), we now also have a new tool to heal. It is a far more natural one because you see nature uses our stem cells to fix us up when we get sick or hurt. It’s just that our own stem cells are sometimes not up to the task when the injury or disease is severe enough. They need reinforcements from transplants.

Getting back to our right wing friends, by doing everything they can to undermine stem cell research they are actually shooting themselves in the foot or wing so to speak.

From a political perspective, it is inevitable that stem cell therapy will become mainstream and I believe in our lifetimes that we will all know someone who has had a stem cell-based transplant. If Republicans have a solid track record against stem cells, they will come out looking pretty dense. It would kind of be like being a strong opponent of antibiotics and how they might feel nowadays when antibiotics save millions of lives.

From a personal perspective, right-wingers are actually delaying the development of treatments that undoubtedly could have helped them or their families.

I believe that most Republicans do not oppose ES cell research for moral reasons, but rather for political ones. But the political game they are playing is a risky one and I think it will come back to bite them. I’m not saying that there are no Republicans who oppose ES cells based on their morals, but I think most are doing it for politics. These folks who publicly argue against ES cells, would privately want their loved ones to get the best treatment available and if necessary I think they would use a ES cell-based treatment.  This is of course hypocritical and by opposing ES cell research in public they are being chickens, afraid of going against the right wing.

This is why I have to commend Republican Representative Mark Kirk of Illinois for his public support of codifying the legality of federally funded ES cell research. That took guts to take that position publicly. Way to go! That’s leadership.

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