Researchers are now using donor stem cells on coronary patients after a heart attack. That discovery suggests donor stem cells can be banked for treatments just as blood is today. It's also noteworthy because it involves adult stem cells, not controversial embryonic stem cell research, which many citizens oppose on moral grounds.
This year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was given to a pair of scientists whose work showed cells taken from adults could be refashioned to duplicate embryonic cells that can then be developed into any type of cell. Such discoveries are kicking open the doors for potential medical treatments. They also show the wisdom of the Legislature in funding such research here in Oklahoma.
Thanks to the 2009 efforts of state Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust committed $5.5 million over several years for adult stem cell research; the Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research exists as a result. The center's scientific director, Paul Kincade, notes OCASCR has already awarded 26 research grants and will soon present 10 more. Those grants have funded research to repair lungs injured by smoking, strengthen bones softened by osteoporosis, and reverse conditions like atherosclerosis, dementia, blindness and diabetes.
In the past legislative session, Enns worked to create a Cord Blood Bank in Oklahoma to provide a supply of stem cells for researchers — again, without embryo destruction. As a result, this year's state budget included $500,000 to launch that effort.
Enns, who has taught college courses on microbiology, is confined to a wheelchair due to an accident. Although a potential beneficiary of future stem cell therapies, his moral opposition to embryonic stem cell research led Enns to focus on alternatives. That's been to Oklahoma's benefit.
Thanks to Enns, Oklahoma could now be on the forefront of revolutionary medical advances that benefit patients worldwide.