The importance of stem cell research is evidenced by a Langley (on the outskirts of Vancouver) couple who are hoping stem-cell treatments will help in treating their daughter’s cerebral palsy.
I have to give two disclaimers before I comment on this article. First, unlike another writer here, I am not a health economist, and so I approach this as an amateur. Second, my brother was also born three months premature and also has cerebral palsy and my mother is the executive director of the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta.
Cerebral palsy is a physical disability caused by damage to the brain during pregnancy and birth which limits motor skills. The condition ranges from a slight impediment to speech, dexterity and walking ability, to complete physical disability where one is unable to perform even simple tasks such as chewing. Cognitive functions are in no way limited.
Since the condition is caused by damage to the brain, the hope is that stem cells will allow the damaged portions to be repaired and motor skills restored.
However, these therapies are still under experimental testing, so I have to side with the BC Children’s Hospital’s reluctance to opt for the treatment at this point.
With experimental treatments comes hope, however, there are also always risks (both known and unforeseen ones), which is why we rely on strict testing before administering a treatment to the greater population.
I hope for the best for young Savanna, and with luck these treatments will prove successful and after further testing will be available to even more families – especially those without the means to travel great distances and pay for expensive treatments – but until then we need to continue to support funding the fundamental research and to make available as many stem cells as possible.
And while our current regulatory structure seems favourable toward such research, funding is key. As election speculation ramps up, keep in mind our current governments past attempts to stifle academic research in this country.