October 19, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Texas Guv Perry visits human embryonic stem cell lab at Scripps Institute

Please note that this is one of the only instances in the history of this blog that I have retroactively edited a post for what I believe was an error on my part related to what I feel was overly extreme verbiage. I have also subsequently been informed confidentially of more of the facts of this case that have important bearing on the content I’ve now chosen to include in this post.

In a surprising move, Governor Rick Perry of Texas just visited a lab at the highly esteemed Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. That lab, that of Jeanne Loring, is particularly well known for their human ES cell (HESC) research. This is unexpected because Perry is known for being an opponent of HESC.

A video (above) was made of the visit. What concerns me most about this turn of events is not Perry’s visit itself per se, but rather the  other worldly, campaign ad-style video of the visit.

Below the video is the following text:

Pursuing his significant interest in non-embryonic stem cell research, Governor Perry visited the Loring Laboratory at Scripps Research in San Diego. In addition to meeting personnel and Dr. Jeanne Loring and Dr. Suzanne Peterson of the Loring lab, he met with Dr. Michael Marletta, the new CEO of Scripps Research Institute. The tour was arranged by Michael Thorsnes, as well as Jerry Henberger and Ron Hendrix of the Parkinson’s Association of San Diego. The event was photographed by Michael Thorsnes. San Diego is one of the top centers in the country for stem cell research, and the Governor looks forward to a close collaboration between the work being done in Texas and California. His visit was well received by those making significant gains on a variety of fronts in San Diego.

Scripps Research Institute

But wait, Paul, you might say, weren’t you the one just last week blogging about how within the stem cell community we need to reach out for dialogue with those we might not agree?

Yes, I did an interview with ICMS President Rodriguez and then posted my advice to them. Heck, I even invited the two founders of Celltex, which is linked to Perry, to do an interview with me under very fair and impartial terms (no response yet BTW).  I hosted a dual debate/interview of sorts between Dr. Chris Centeno of Regenerative Sciences, Inc. and Doug Sipp.

Forming bridges is extremely important, but to me the video of his visit seems very political, which raises warning flags for me. Perhaps others interpret it differently.

I asked Dr. Loring about her perspectives on this, which I found very interesting. She said:

“I think that scientists have an obligation to educate the public. I welcome visits from both stem cell proponents and opponents, so I have a chance to clarify any misconceptions about what it is that we really do. We have to figure out how to deal with our opponents as well as our friends. I have a policy of welcoming opponents so I can teach them. It works. Education wins minds.

Dr. Loring added:

“I wish that the Vatican meeting had not been cancelled- what an opportunity we would have had to educate those who misunderstand our research!”

Dr. Loring is of course referring to the ill-fated, now cancelled 2012 Vatican stem cell meeting that is now the center of a Vatican/Pro-life scandal. I also wish the Vatican meeting hadn’t been cancelled.

I would also add that I greatly admire Dr. Loring not only for her work as a scientists, but also for her willingness to advocate and educate. A lot of scientists won’t do that.

So, in closing, some might legitimately ask me: what would you do if  you had the chance to meet with Perry and show him your lab or even do an email interview with him?

I would do it and I hope that some good would come out of such a meeting, but no video!

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