Right Turn: No passport required for new animation on stem cell tourism

Author: Ben Paylor, 06/20/14

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Following the initial success of our award-winning StemCellShorts animation project, we are happy to launch the next video in the series. This video features Prof. Timothy Caulfield narrating a response to the question: “What is stem cell tourism?” We were lucky to be able to record the narration with Tim in the idyllic Rocky Mountains at last fall’s Till & McCulloch Meetings in Banff, and are very proud of the final product shared today.

This video adds to the growing repertoire of content designed to inform and educate the public about an issue that is notoriously difficult to combat. Prof. Caulfield is one of the foremost scholars on the topic of stem cell tourism and has extensively studied how both local and foreign media impact patient decisions surrounding cell therapies.

This week, the 2014 ISSCR Public Service Award highlighted the continued prevalence of the problem of foreign clinics offering unproven stem cell therapies. Awarded to a group of Italian academic – Dr. Paolo Bioanco, Dr. Elena Cattaneo and Dr. Michele De Luca, this recognition rewarded their dedication to exposing the dangers of stem cell therapies that have not passed through proper regulatory processes. Tanner Jones, one of our Grade 11 StemCellTalks bloggers in attendance at the ISSCR conference, had this to say about the award:

These phenomenal scientists have been championing the cause to halt the introduction of a new cell treatment in Italy. The Stamina Foundation in Italy has been treating patients with unproven stem cell therapies that have not been tested in rigorous clinical trials. The Foundation claims that by using mesenchymal stem cells, they can treat Parkinson’s disease as well as Spinal Muscular Atrophy; however, there is no evidence that mesenchymal stem cells can aid in the treatment of either of these diseases. One of the potential dangers of this therapy is the possible generation of bone or fat in organs. These public figures have been tirelessly debating the medical standards and regulatory oversights associated with the Stamina Foundation. As Dr. Bianco humbly accepted his award, he stated that researchers and physicians should be protecting patients from the physical harm, the financial exploitation and the moral illusion that can be produced by these illegitimate clinics.

The importance of having academics take a lead in debates surrounding health policy such as this cannot be understated, and we are happy to profile Canada’s own Prof. Caulfield in this role with this newest instalment in the StemCellShort series. Next to launch later this year will be John Dick, answering the question: “What is a cancer stem cell?”

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Ben Paylor

Ben Paylor

Ben Paylor completed a Bachelor of Medical Science at the University of Western Ontario, which included a 1-year research exchange to Umea in Northern Sweden. Following his Bachelors, he completed a 2-year Masters of Philosophy in Cardiovascular Biology and Medicine at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Experimental Medicine program under the supervision of Dr. Fabio Rossi at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on understanding the role of tissue-resident mesenchymal progenitors in repair processes of the heart. Outside of science, Ben is an avid pianist and tennis player, as well as being very interested in the field of science communication and policy.  The writer and director of several award-winning science films, Ben is also the co-founder and director of InfoShots (www.infoshots.com), a science-based animation studio that is currently producing the Stem Cell Network's StemCellShorts series. Ben is the Chair of the Trainee Communications Committee at the Stem Cell Network, sits on the National Advisory Committee of the high school outreach program StemCellTalks and is a 2012/13 Action Canada fellow.
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One Response

  1. kebhariads says:

    The importance of having academics take a lead in debates surrounding health policy such as this cannot be understated.

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