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Oklahoma Forum Sunday Apr. 20 @ 12:30pm
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The New Frontier in Medical Research

Written by Dick Pryor on Friday June 12, 2009

When we first starting talking about this week’s big topic on Oklahoma Forum, Producer Mickie Smith and I decided we wanted to have a program that was about medical research, and the ethics involved, but without injecting emotion and politics into the discussion. The challenge was in making the program interesting, without acrimony, and understandable while still needing to toss around medical terms. I think we found the right tone.

Dr. Stephen Prescott, President of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, provided a good explanation about how human embryos are used in research, pointing out that the eggs used are not the product of an abortion. Dr. Kincade told us there are many kinds of stem cells, each with differing characteristics that contribute to their efficacy in research. Dr. Donovan concurred with them that much of the heat generated over embryonic stem cell research is caused by a lack of understanding of the scientific terms involved. In fact, as Dr. Kincade pointed out, stem cell research has been going on for decades, and there is no embryonic stem cell research being conducted in Oklahoma.

It was a fast-moving program. We didn’t have time to get into all of the treatments being developed through medical research, but I found the prospects fascinating. Whether it is embryonic or adult stem cells, great advances are being made. In Australia, for instance, coating contact lenses with the patient’s own stem cell material has proven to reverse blindness. Imagine that! American clinical trials on a similar technique using embryonic stem cells are expected to begin this year.

A company in Rockville, Maryland is trying to get permission from the FDA to conduct trials on neural stem cells to cure Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Meantime, a California company is moving toward using embryonic stem cells to develop insulin-producing cells for diabetics. And, at OMRF, Dr. Kincade is conducting stem cell research to work on treating various forms of cancer and autoimmune diseases, and Dr. Jordan Tang is conducting ground-breaking research that could lead to a drug to treat Alzheimer’s.

I was surprised at just how much is actually going on in the research community. And, Dr. Prescott reminded us how important medical research is, not only to improve quality of life, but as a driver that creates jobs and stimulates the economy. As I told our guests after the program, we were hoping it would provide more light then heat. Watch it on the air on OETA OKLA or OETA OKLA (times are listed on the Oklahoma Forum website) or catch it on-line at http://main.oeta.tv/okforum.html. Let us know what you think.

Until next time,
Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Dr. Stephen Prescott, Dr. Paul Kincade. Dr. Kevin Donovan is not pictured.)


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