Apparently Texas Governor Rick Perry put his money (and his backside) where his mouth is and underwent an adult stem cell procedure of the sort he has been calling for Texas to take the lead in. I am hazy as to why this might be a scandal, but the reporting is pretty breathless:
When Gov. Rick Perry emerged from back surgery on July 1, he tweeted that his “little procedure” — a spinal fusion and nerve decompression designed to treat a recurring injury — had gone “as advertised.”
The possible presidential contender didn’t reveal that he’d undergone an experimental injection of his own stem cells, a therapy that isn’t FDA approved, has mixed evidence of success and can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.
Well, more research is needed and the Governor stepped up as a guniea pig. To be clear:
The governor’s procedure did not involve embryonic stem cells, which he and many other conservatives ardently oppose using for medical research on both religious and moral grounds. His treatment involved removing his own adult stem cells from healthy tissue and injecting them back into his body at the time of surgery, with the belief that the cells would assist tissue regeneration and speed recovery.
As they eventually note, this sort of technique is developmental but promising:
The infusion of adult stem cells to repair tissue and organ damage is highly controversial. For every Bartolo Colon, the New York Yankees pitcher whose near-miraculous comeback is being attributed to the procedure, researchers say there are botched jobs and patients who spend tens of thousands of dollars with no results.
Perry picked up the tb for everything not covered by insurance. If this procedure might help and probably won't hurt, what is the big deal?
But researchers say that despite the great potential adult stem cells may have, so far they’ve seen nothing more definitive than the so-called “placebo effect” — patients who convince themselves they’re feeling better simply by nature of having had the procedure. In some lab tests, stem cells that have been effectively deprogrammed to help regenerate a particular organ have appeared to turn cancerous. In others, patients have traveled around the world, spending $10,000 to $50,000 for stem cells that simply die off, with no effect on health.
“Most of this stuff is pretty experimental at this point,” said Heather Rooke, the science director for the International Society for Stem Cell Research. “People are pushing these things into the clinic before there’s real evidence of safety or an indication that they’ll work.”
First of all, what's the matter with the placebo effect, as long as it is long-lasting? One might note that the sensation of pain is largely a mental process - a compressed nerve obviously has a physical reality, but the signals it sends are just signals. If Perry has convinced himself that a slightly lighter wallet is helping him feel better, well, good for him.