At an emotional news conference this week, patients who have benefited from stem cell research and those who benefit from future breakthroughs, pleaded with lawmakers to not pass a bill that would prevent human cloning.
Researchers at the U of M said they have no interest in cloning a human, but the ability to clone human cells is what could lead to cures for crippling diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and rare conditions like EB.
I had never heard of EB until Wednesday when I met 5-year-old Charlie Knuth and his mother, Tricia.
She described how from her birth her son’s skin would slide off, blister and bleed both inside and outside his body.
In pictures from last fall he looks like a burn victim. Then just three months ago, Charlie had an adult stem cell transplant. The results for Charlie (and 20 other children with EB who have had the procedure) have been nothing short of miraculous.
For the first time in his life the blisters and sores are lessening. For the first time in his life Charlie can wear shoes. Tricia Knuth described how before the transplant, she would have to give Charlie baths of bleach and vinegar, poured over his open sores to prevent infection.
At this point I looked around at the news conference and more than one reporter was in tears. Researchers say it was only because of the breakthroughs in embryonic stem cell research that the adult stem cell transplant that has changed Charlie’s life could be possible.
Charlie’s progress in three short months seems miraculous. But it’s not a miracle. It’s science. And it’s science at the U of M that is saving lives and leading to breakthroughs.
While cloning of embryonic stem cells is not happening right now at the ‘U’, someday it might.
The ‘U’ is doing other research with embryonic cells. The reproduction of embryonic cells, according to researchers, is the best and brightest hope for creating therapies that can be tailored to individual patients.
Looking at Charlie Knuth, it’s hard to argue that breakthroughs are happening and someday maybe it will be you or me or our children whose lives may be saved.