Wednesday, August 14, 2019

WebMD and the Rising Framework for a $5.5 Billion Stem Cell Request in California

USC researchers Mark Humayun (right) and Amir Kashani,
CIRM-funded scientists. Click here to go to their research video.
WebMD, a heavily used Internet health and medical site, this week assessed the state of the stem cell field in a two-part series that highlighted much of the clinical work backed by California's $3 billion stem cell agency.

The first installment by Kathleen Doheny offered a national overview, declaring that stem cell research has been underway in significant way for three decades. "Where are we now?" was the headline on the article. Perhaps the key sentence declared,
"While proponents say all this groundwork is finally coming to fruition, others call progress slow and plodding."
WebMD is a go-to site for the public when it looks for medical information. In 2016 it reported that it had nearly 180 million unique visitors per month. Today, it says one out of every four Americans uses its site every month.

The series led with work at USC that is being assisted with millions from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM), as the stem cell agency is formally known. It also noted CIRM's 56 clinical trials and its clinical dashboard

CIRM grantees were mentioned, including Andy McMahon, Amir Kashani and Mark Humayun, all of USC and recipients of CIRM awards.

The second part of the series, authored by Karen Weintraub, focused on the unregulated and dubious "stem cell" treatments that are the target of both federal and California state regulators.  The headline said, 

"Stem Cell Clinics: Effective or Pricey False Hope?"

One might ask whether readers of the piece are distinguishing between those sorts of sketchy clinics and California's Alpha stem cell clinics, which are very much the pride of the state research effort. 

The WebMD coverage is part of the framework that is taking shape as the California stem cell agency sees its funds coming to an end. It is hoping for a $5.5 billion infusion from voters via a ballot measure in November 2020. How the public perceives stem cell treatments overall and how voters perceive the success of the state effort are likely to be critical in winning approval of more stem cell cash in California. 

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