Stem cell advocate has ‘no doubt’ in his cause

Sarah White

After the death of his father from heart failure and diabetes, David Bales began advocating responsible stem cell research for the health benefits which it promotes. He is now the chairman of Texans for Stem Cell Research, a charitable pro-life foundation which encourages adult stem cell research.

Texans for Stem Cell Research sponsored a speech by Dr. Emerson Perin, an expert in heart treatment through stem cell therapy at the AT&T Conference Center on Tuesday.

“Our primary goals are to encourage collaboration between experts, to promote discussion about stem cell research and to educate the public about the issue,” Bales said. “[The event] furthers all of these goals in the Austin community.”

Bales said as a leader in stem cell research, Perin was well equipped to discuss this issue. Perin has been an expert in the field of heart treatment, and he was the first investigator to be given permission by the Food and Drug Administration to inject stem cells into the hearts of patients suffering from cardiac failure, Bales said.

During his speech, Perin said he had great confidence in the functionality of stem cells.

“We would not be here without stem cells. There is not a doubt in my mind that stem cell therapy will work,” Perin said. “However, the problem is that though it does work, we understand very little about it.”

Perin said there are many types of stem cells, including those found in bone marrow, hearts and embryos. The fact that they each have varying functions complicates the research and treatment process as new discoveries are made, he said.

“From the standpoint of clinical use, we have found that we cannot even use embryonic stem cells because we cannot make them stop growing,” Perin said. “Scientists have discovered that all you get once you inject them is a bunch
of tumors.”

He said even though new findings are being uncovered, scientists still know very little about stem cell therapy.

“In the nineties, we discovered that stem cells do not just exist in embryos but also in adults,” Perin said. “But this is just a small portion of the discoveries that need to be made.

It took us almost 100 years to discover exactly how aspirin works. [Stem cells] are not molecules or chemicals. They are cells with proteins and complex functions.”

The talk was put on in conjunction with the Austin Forum, a premier monthly speaker series which focuses on developments in science and technology and their effects on society, said spokeswoman Faith Singer-Villalobos.

“Having an event like the Austin Forum is essential to the fabric of UT and the Austin community,” Villalobos said. “By providing not only information on these topics but also allowing experts an opportunity to network and collaborate, this event really fills a niche in the community.”

Printed on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 as: Heart expert supports stem cell research