We’re asking each of the participants in The World Transformed to give us their thoughts on one major coming transformation. Here are Dr. Terry Grossman’s answers:
If you were to pick just one current or coming transformation that you would advise people to focus on, which one would that be?
As a practicing physician I tend to focus on health-related issues and for the immediate future I feel stem cell therapies will offer enormous promise for transforming our health.
What should we be doing about it?
Much of the emphasis during the years of the Bush administration were characterized by ethical debate over whether embryonic stem cell research should receive government funding. It now appears that adult stem cells – the stem cells present in our own bodies throughout life – have enormous potential. Consequently, much of the debate over embryonic stem cells is now moot. Numerous centers throughout the world are conducting clinical trials where a patient’s own stem cells are being used to treat conditions ranging from congestive heart failure to emphysema to degenerative arthritis as well as numerous aesthetic applications. We should be funding these studies to a much greater degree than we are.
What’s in it for us if we get it right?
Adult stem cells have the potential to regrow organs. Stem cells have already been used to regrow an esophagus in a patient who accidentally ingested lye. They have also been used to generate a beating heart in a mouse. Having the ability to regenerate failing organs – hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, eyes, ears and more – can potentially add many years to our collective life expectancy.
What are the risks if we don’t?
Just two diseases, heart attacks and cancer, are the cause of more than half of all deaths. In experimental trials stem cells have already been shown able to reduce the damage from heart attacks in humans and to deliver chemotherapy drugs to tumors in animal experiments. If we hasten the research , adult stem cells will be able to allow many people to survive diseases that are killing us today.