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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Stem Cell Debate Cuts Off Cures For The Blind

Proven cures for blindness using adult stem cells are already available, says an advocate for the blind. But these cures are being held back by politics and the use of stem cells as a wedge issue in election campaigns, she says.

Helen Harris, founder and president of RP International in Los Angeles, says that even though the main controversy revolves around ethical use of embryonic stem cells, politics has infected the entire scientific field and has had a chilling effect on adult stem cell applications as well.

Acrimonious political campaigns have spread misunderstanding and discouraged funding of all stem cell research in the United States, says Harris. For example, she points to an adult stem cell transplant program at a Louisiana State University hospital that was quietly discontinued in the midst of public political rancor, even though it did not involve embryonic cells and had already led to a successful degenerative blindness cure back in 1984, according to Harris, who had been personally involved with the project.

Harris is herself blind, along with two of her sons, from retinitis pigmentosa. She started RP International more than 20 years ago and has raised million of dollars for blindness research, especially involving the Hollywood entertainment industry. Her organization's annual Vision Awards honor celebrities, scientists and other notables for outstanding creativity. The 2006 Vision Awards in Beverly Hills took special note ofadult stem cell research by honoring a patient who was able to regain sight thanks to the LSU technique after more than 20 years of blindness.
Harris announced today that her organization will establish a new fund-raising campaign to aid development of adult stem cell treatments for blindness and other disorders.

"I'd love to discuss with Michael J. Fox and others on all sides of this issue to find common ground and make sure programs like that at LSU get a chance to help millions afflicted by degenerative blindness along with other major disorders," says Harris.


Blogger Simon said...

Very interesting.

It really upsets me how cures/treatments are held back by politicians. Such decisions on stem cell research ect should be decided upon from a group of scientists/doctors, rather then a group of politicians who in most cases, know very little about what they are dealing with. I don't think religion should come into any decisions made for or against stem cell research.

I suffer from myopic degeneration, I'm 22 years old and need a cure before my left eye suffers the same fate as my right... it's a race against time for me and it's really upsetting when things get held back unnecessarily.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Mom to brown eyed kids said...

I suffer from RP as well and went to Mexico for a stem cell implant. I document my experience at

The stem cell issue has been warped and twisted due to political manipulation and ignorance on the part of the public. The sad result is people continue to die and go blind. I feel the best hope for restoring my vision will be overseas.

1:48 AM  

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