Friday, August 02, 2019

Embedding the Power of Stem Cell Therapies: California's Efforts and the Quest for $5 billion More

Everett Schmitt, photo by Meg Kumin
California's $3 billion stem cell agency has financed a lot of research that winds up as dense, inaccessible articles -- at least to the general public -- in costly scientific journals with imposing pay walls.

Sometimes, however, stories of hope and stem cell progress do emerge that are likely to resonate with the state's citizens. They are the folks who voted to create and finance the agency in 2004 and who are expected to be asked again for more billions next year.

One such example involves the cases of Evangelina Padilla-Vaccaro of Corona, Ca., Ronnie Kashyap of Folsom, Ca. From birth they suffered from what is known as the "bubble boy" disease.

Both children were born with severe combined immune deficiency (SCID) that is ordinarily fatal. But as the result of clinical trials that were backed with millions from the stem cell agency, both are still alive today. (See here and here.)

The agency is formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). It has a blog called The Stem Cellar. Today it published an evocative piece written by the mother of another child with the "bubble boy" affliction. 

In her case, the work that has saved her son's life was not financed by CIRM. But the agency carried her story as a powerful affirmation of the importance of stem cell research, wherever and however it is supported. 

Kevin McCormack, director of communications for the agency, wrote, 
"CIRM's mission is very simple: to accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs. Anne Klein's son, Everett, was a poster boy for that statement. Born with a fatal immune disorder Everett faced a bleak future. But Anne and husband Brian were not about to give up. The following story is one Anne wrote for Parents magazine. It's testament to the power of stem cells to save lives, but even more importantly to the power of love and the determination of a family to save their son."
Anne Klein's article is just what supporters hope will be embedded in the hearts of voters come November 2020 when the next round of financing for CIRM will be on the ballot. 
These sorts of stories, however, have received little attention in the mainstream media, whose reporting resources are ever-diminishing. The media are hard-pressed financially and otherwise nowadays as their once highly profitable business models have been hard hit by the impact of the Internet. 
Nonetheless the agency is assiduously pumping out information and stories on what it calls its value proposition. Here is the final line in the item that CIRM published today:
"You can read about the clinical trials we are funding for SCID herehere, here and here."
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