By Reshma Kirpalani
For Reporting Texas and KUT News
Even as the state moves toward establishing standards for stem-cell research and therapy, Mario Salinas, director of Texans for Stem Cell Research, said that there’s still a lot of misunderstanding and stigma surrounding its use. Stem-cell procedures are controversial because they can involve the cultivated cells of recently conceived embryos.
“The more people understand, the better they know, they’ll realize that it’s about saving lives,” Molinas said on Friday during his group’s daylong symposium at AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the University of Texas campus. “It’s not about any questions about when life begins.”
It’s the second year the group has held the event, which fits in with its goals of educating the general public.
“We do this for free to try to get as many people in here as we can so that they get a better understanding of stem-cell research and it won’t be such a negative stigma attached to it because of all of the politicizing that occurs,” Salinas said.
Stem-cell research has been in the local news since summer. In June, state lawmakers passed a health care bill that allowed the creation of a state adult stem cell bank. Then Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is against embryonic stem-cell research, received his own stem cells during back surgery on July 1. On Friday, the Texas Medical Board proposed its first set of regulations in the state, which were posted on the Texas Register website. The public has 30 days to comment on them before the board’s Nov. 4. meeting.
Lee Hopper, the medical board’s public information officer, said that board members have “any number of options to choose from before they actually become rules.”
“The medical board may officially adopt the current rules, with or without changes,” Hopper said. “They may also pull down the current proposal altogether to re-work another draft of rules for stem cell regulation.”
Salinas said that Texans for Stem Cell Research provided input in the initial drafting of those rules, which he hopes might be the first step in getting stem-cell research past the controversy and into mainstream acceptance.
“Some day, the whole framework, the whole basis of medicine is going to have a paradigm shift,” he said, “and people will be receiving stem cells for many devastating diseases that there are no cures for right now.”