Scientists, Nobel Laureates convene in SA for World Stem Cell Summit

Patients, their families also in attendance to remind scientists why their work matters


SAN ANTONIO – Among the Nobel Laureates, scientists and fundraisers, some patients and their families are attending the 10th-Annual World Stem Cell Summit at the Marriott Rivercenter to remind the great minds what is at stake in their groundbreaking work.

Roman Reed is wheeling around as fast as he can in his old, scratched and dirty wheelchair. Paralyzed in 1994 in a football accident, he was instrumental in getting "Roman's Law" passed, which paved the way for stem cell research for paralysis patients. 

He said he is not buying another wheelchair because he feels he will not need it in the future.

"We will have a cure. I will walk again, and so shall 5.6 million Americans," he said.

Reed said even if you are not in a wheelchair and do not know anyone who is, you should still be concerned with the costs associated with people like himself, noting we spend $1.65 trillion a year in health care costs for paralyzed Americans.

He won the Inspiration Award at last year's World Stem Cell Summit, and continues to hope that these gatherings of great minds will continue to bring about great things.

"You never know when three or four or five wonderful people come together what the outcome will be of these talks. We've had an amazing ripple effect. When we have the best minds together, anything is possible," he said.

Another advocate watching and waiting is this year's Inspiration Awards winner, Katie Jackson, vice president of Help4HD International.

She is trying to educate the world about Huntington's disease, a debilitating, genetic disease that results in the patient being initially unable to control movements.

Later on, patients are immobile when their muscles can no longer operate. Her husband was diagnosed with it, and their children now have a 50 percent chance of developing it.

While the gene that causes it was identified 21 years ago, nothing has been developed yet to treat it yet.

"I fight for my husband and my children, my grandchildren, and literally all future generations of my family to come," she said.

Her husband is now in the first-ever stem cell clinical trial treatment of Huntington's. Her youngest child's placenta and umbilical cord were also the first to be donated for research into a cure.

The founder of the summit says these stories and more serve as the best motivation for the scientists working in their labs to find answers and develop treatments. He says while other stem cell gatherings offer brainstorming sessions, this one is the only that includes patients who are stakeholders in the success.

For more information on the summit, visit worldstemcellsummit.com or www.genpol.org

For more on Help4hd, visit Help4HD-International.org.

For more on Roman's Law, visit romanreedfoundation.com.