U.S. Must Lead In Adult Stem Cell Potential

The following report was filed by CCG Adviser Ambassador Raymond Flynn after his return from the first annual conferecen on Adult Stem Cells, which was held in the Vatican.

BOSTON, MA, November 17, 2011-- Last week I attended an International Conference at Aula Nuova Del Sibodo, The Vatican, with some of the world's leading scientists on stem cell research. Most of us attending the first International Conference on Adult Stem Cells: Science and The Future of Man and Culture, had never met each other before. The conference brought together many experts in medicine, research, science and religion. To round things out, former U.S. Secretary of Human Services, and Governor of Wisconsin Tommy Thompson, and I were the only two political leaders invited.

The conference was truly historic because it dealt with one the most important health and life saving issues of our generation, the use of adult stem stems to promote health and wellness. The term "historic" was not an exaggeration, because the Catholic Church was going on record for the very first time, to support the use of adult stem cells to help repair the human body. The word " miracle" was used by several of the medical experts who testified. The Church had strongly opposed the use of embryonic stem cells, even for research, because as Pope John Paul II had warned, "you can't take human life, to save life". But this statement only applied to embryonic stem cells, as adult stem cells do not imply the destruction of life. Nevertheless, the Church's opposition became a big moral and political controversy throughout the world. I personally heard the pope when he delivered the Church's position at The Vatican, so I was quite familiar with the controversy. Since then brilliant scientists and medical experts have confirmed that the use of adult stem cells to help heal and "regenerate" the body does not pose any ethical or moral conflicts.

Following a speech I gave to members of the Harvard University Catholic community, I wrote an op-ed piece, which appeared in The Boston Globe. The article generated more public attention than anything I ever wrote in more than 40 years in politics. I wrote about a rare neurological problem that my grandson Braeden O' Doherty was born with. The Globe followed up with a moving story about Braeden, now 5 years old, which also captured wide interest and support. Several families seeking medical help contacte me for direction, because just like Braeden's mother and father, they didn't have any.

My involvement with stem cell research began when I met a Canadian scientist, Christian Drapeau, who had developed a dietary supplement that supports the release of stem cells from the bone marrow. I rapidly learned that a lot of scientific research had been done on adult stem cells and that many significant breakthroughs had positioned adult stem cells as truly the medicine of the future. Well, Braeden and I have just begun to take this dietary supplement and I am, to say the least, hopeful.

But getting back to the conference, several experts and medical doctors from Poland to the U.K., talked about the medical progress that they have seen because of adult stem cells. Several patients also testified at the conference about some extraordinary results. “Finally, we have hope,” one young lady who has made a remarkable recovery said. “Maybe hope and science will help Braeden, and the millions of people today still hoping for a cure for their disease. With health care costs rising, and the country in financial chaos, we need a dramatic new approach in providing quality health care," I said.

Listening to these experts, I gathered that nothing new was actually presented at this conference. Even though some of the presentations were quite impressive, it was essentially a broad exposé on the state of adult stem cell research and even some aspects of adult stem cell research were not covered, as everything focused essentially on stem cell injections and no other treatment modalities. But it remains a historic conference because it tells the media and the world that there is an ethical way of doing stem cell research, lifting the negative perception that has surrounded stem cell research for years.

As a public figure, I believe that this conference will soon be seen as a turning point in the vast health care industry as well as an novel opportunity for the Government’s Health Care Reform, for the simple reason that with the development of adult stem cell research, for the first time in history we can now begin to talk about actual cures and not simply mitigation of diseases. Today, most degenerative diseases are simply controlled in a manner that increases the patients’ quality of life, but there is little cure. Diabetic patients must purchase insulin every month for the rest of their lives, and the same for so many diseases and so many drugs, and the consequence is an astronomical cost to society. If there were a way of actually curing diseases, it would completely transform health care and dramatically cut in the cost of long-term palliative health care.

It made me think that that now that faith and science have teamed up in finally eliminating a powerful misperception between embryonic stem cells and adult cells, it's time for our political leaders to take this new message directly to the public. This conference should be a strong signal for the US Presidential candidates to pay strong attention to the developments in adult stem cell research and include this topic in the U.S. Presidential debates. In fact, I believe that the candidate who can fully harness this issue will greatly influence the outcome of the 2012 elections. I certainly intend to bring it to the attention of our next President.

It is disconcerting to think that the one of the single most important forces standing in the way of fully integrating the potential of adult stem cells in health care is the lobbying industry serving the current health care interests. I only wish that consumers were as well organized as the health care and insurance industry lobby is. We have a long way to go to help these suffering people of God. Some say, we have the best health care system in the world. Well that is of little consolation for children like Braeden. It’s painful to look at the despair on the faces of so many concerned parents, who are frustrated and without a voice or an advocate.

I am grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for convening this historic conference.He has given so many people hope. Society works best, when faith and science work together. When the Holy Father addressed the conference at the Vatican on Saturday, and gave his complete support for adult stem cell technology, it marked a groundbreaking day for science in the world.

Maybe some day, parents will see their children grow up to live happy and healthy lives, and maybe Braeden's papa will one day see his beautiful 5 year old grandson running and playing with his friends.

On my way back home to Boston from the Vatican, I kept thinking about what my mother often said, "With God, all things are possible."

Raymond L. Flynn
Former U.S. Ambassador to The Vatican, Mayor of Boston and Braeden's papa.

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