Monday, January 25, 2016

A Book Review: Stem Cell Battles in California, a Pioneer's Perspective

(Editor's note: The following book review was offered by Raymond Barglow of Berkeley, who describes himself as a veteran of the Proposition 71 ballot campaign of 2004.) 

By Raymond Barglow

Don Reed's new book "Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond" (available at Amazon) gives us an insider's perspective on the historical whirlwind that today is driving forward medical research in California and elsewhere. The author, who has been called the "Grandfather of Stem Cell Research Advocacy" for his longstanding commitment to this cause, is intimately familiar with the community of scientists, politicians, and patient activists who first came together over a decade ago to advocate stem cell research. Their signature achievement has been passage of Proposition 71 in California, which established financing for the research to the tune of three billion dollars. Largely as a result of their effort, we stand today at the threshold of medical breakthroughs that will save millions of lives.

As Reed explains, the stem cell research mission is advanced out not only in laboratories but also in the centers of political power. The research requires funding and has to withstand attack from
Don Reed on right, left is Bob Klein, former
 chairman of the stem cell agency,  and center is
Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California
religious fanaticism that aims to shut it down. Standing staunchly against publicly funded embryonic stem cell research have been not only anti-government conservatives but also fundamentalist religious organizations and Catholic officialdom.

Claiming that the very earliest embryo, consisting of a few hundred cells and so small that it is invisible to the naked eye, has a sacred "right to life," opponents of embryonic stem cell research have organized to defeat funding in federal and state legislatures and have sued in court to make the research illegal. This has been and continues to be a hard-fought battle, with neither side clearly prevailing to date.

In the 1980s and '90s, AIDS activism united patient advocates with doctors and scientists to push forward the search for cures. Less well known is the stem cell research movement whose equally challenging path forward Reed chronicles for us. Although the story that he tells begins in California, many milestones have also been achieved in other states and abroad. Researchers in Canada, China, Singapore, Brazil, Japan and many other countries form a worldwide community to advance the search for deeper understanding of diseases and the invention of effective stem cell treatments to cure them. In a world torn apart by narrow interests and violent antagonisms, we have much to learn from the example of impassioned cooperation that the worldwide stem cell research community has set.

In brief, Don Reed provides in this book an inside view of the stem cell research saga, and he's done so with wisdom, spirit, and a sense of humor that combine to make the book entertaining as well as profoundly illuminating. Sphere: Related Content

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