Family Guy stroke episode blows it on stem cells

A Family Guy stroke episode has raised some red flags. It touches on the idea of stem cell therapies for stroke.

Do experimental treatments based on stem cells for stroke work and are they safe?

We simply do not know yet. There’s hope for the future, but more data are needed. I’m still hoping to do a post with an update on the science in the next month or so, but have been busy with grants and papers.

Family guy stroke episode

The animated show Family Guy weighed in on stem cells when main character Peter Griffin has a stroke that is then shown to be miraculously healed by a stem cell research facility of some kind that sure looks like a stem cell clinic.

Peter Griffin Stem Cells Stroke, Family Guy Stroke

In fact, the vague treatment of stem cells for stroke in the cartoon takes only 5 minutes we are told.

The character then asks, “why we aren’t funding this?”

It is possible that the show had good intentions in promoting stem cell research funding. However, the careless and inaccurate way it portrays stem cell treatments in general and in particular for stroke (which remain unproven and with sizable risks) is bad for the stem cell field and could put patients at risk.

Maybe the stroke Family Guy episode isn’t meant to be taken literally?

5 thoughts on “Family Guy stroke episode blows it on stem cells”

  1. This episode is fairly old, it aired in 2008 and most episodes take about a year to make it to the air. Given the time frame and the comment “why aren’t we funding this,” the joke was most likely written in response to the Bush era hullabaloo concerning ES cells. At that time these unregulated clinics were not nearly as prominent as they are today and much of what was discussed about stem cells was their promise rather than actual application. Still, the majority of that episode is in poor taste.

  2. We all lol´d at the moment he said “how long was I in there?” and the answer came, “5 minutes.” For us this was a subtle dig at unregulated clinics offering a “quick fix”, which most people will understand is impossible. It was the modern day equivalent of the snake oil pitch.

    1. @Miranda – Of course it was. But @admin’s interpretation demonstrates how bias for his narrative clouds his judgement. Or maybe his sense of humor is lacking…? 😉

    2. On the surface it might seem funny, but not so much for me. I’ve had spouses of stroke patients & a few stroke patients contact me and ask if the unproven stem cell “stuff” out there being sold is worth a try for them. They are in many cases desperate. The idea of a 5-minute miracle is kind of what some of the clinics sell. I don’t know if it was a dig at clinics, especially because the character then says “why aren’t we funding this?” Finally in the context of the Gordie Howe case last year and the other celebs who got unproven stem cells for strokes, the # of people considering following suit overall is very large. Paul

  3. They should have shown him walking in with a stroke, seeing a gaggle of academics doing basic stem cell science in microscopes and then walking back out (still with his stroke symptoms). He could return 10 years later (still with his stroke symptoms), walk in and see the same guys working on the same stuff. He could then walk out (still with his stroke symptoms) and the cartoon could say, “We are so glad we spent $6,000,000,000 of taxpayer money on this.”

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