Misc Published May4, 2019 By Ernest Hamilton

Has California’s Stem Cell Gamble Paid Off?

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A few years ago, California made an ambitious move to extensively fund stem cell research that it hoped would revolutionize the future of healthcare across the Golden State. While stem cell research has proven to be controversial, the alluring promise of regenerative medicine continues to lead much of the public across the Golden State to support the initiative. The initial funding ponied up for California's stem cell gambit is about to dry up, however, prompting authorities to ask for more. This is an excellent time to analyze whether the state's stem cell pursuits are turning up any positive results.

Has California's stem cell gambit paid off? Here's everything we know about the Golden State's efforts to become a pioneer in the field of regenerative medicine.

Billions have been spent

After Proposition 71 passed in 2004, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) was created with the help of billions of funding dollars that aimed to tap into the power of stem cells for next-generation medical breakthroughs. While stem cells have long been considered a viable source of medical cures for a wide array of ailments, ethical controversy and a lack of adequate research made it impossible for regenerative medicine to really take off until well into the 21st century. CIRM has now had many years to dive deep into the issue of regenerative medicine, however, and given that it will soon be asking for more public money it's worthwhile to ask whether its stem cell gamble has paid off.

When it comes to analyzing the results of years of scientific inquiry, a simple yes or no answer won't suffice. The only way to truly determine if California's stem cell gambit paid off is to analyze the entirety of the results generated thus far and juxtapose them against what we'd know if we hadn't dedicated billions of funding in this area in the first place. According to CIRM's website, California has become a worldwide leader in the field of regenerative medicine, but it's worthwhile to scrutinize these claims to see if they're really true.

CIRM predominantly works by offering grants to scientists to encourage them to research stem cells in a useful way. It also operates many cutting-edge medical facilities that expedite the research process, luring in young scientists who want experience working in advanced laboratories focused on innovative fields. After an overhaul in 2015, too, CIRM has been much more efficient when it comes to allocating funding to nascent projects and stressing the economic implications of their research.

As an analysis from Fortune indicates, however, California is dotted with stem cell research facilities, and the number of impressive, expensive buildings committed to regenerative medicine isn't the only factor that should be considered in this debate. It's worth asking how patients have been impacted by the rise of regenerative medicine, for instance. Regenerative rehabilitation, for instance, wherein stem cells help patients rehabilitate from a previous injury, is showing serious signs of promise according to a federal prospective on the issue.

Private actors are abusing stem cell research

One thing is abundantly clear when it comes to California's Proposition 71, however; it wasn't entirely honest when it came to how private actors were likely to abuse paid research studies. In the years since regenerative medicine has enjoyed billions in funding, and entire private sector of shady practices has sprung up to cater to patients who are desperate for any way to mitigate their pain or save their endangered lives. These so-called merchants of hope have become the focus of investigative journalists because they frequently peddle dubious claims to their patients in an effort to get them to purchase expensive stem cell-based procedures.

While California's CIRM has indisputably helped push some new medical breakthroughs into the mainstream over the past few years, it's also supercharged a predatory industry that's yet to prove it can safely offer positive patient outcomes at scale. This is reason enough for voters to reconsider additional funding, though doubtlessly additional safeguards will be put in place should more dollars be sought by CIRM officials. Medical experts who find the field of regenerative medicine to be promising will have to step up and clarify with the public how their research is producing positive results that can't be abused by private sector merchants.

An extensive foray into the issue of stem cell politics by the San Francisco Chronicle illustrates that many Californians feel betrayed by the state's tax-payer-funded focus on regenerative medicine. Others continue to insist it has promise, however, and some medical breakthroughs produced by researchers speak for themselves. It may be impossible to conclusively say whether California's stem cell gambit has paid off, but it's increasingly clear that this issue isn't going to be resolved soon enough to prevent future funding disputes from breaking out across the Golden State.

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