The pro-embryonic stem cell activist and liberal actor Michael J. Fox is having a change of heart on the controversial bioethics topic.
During the 2006 midterm elections, Fox endorsed then-Senate candidate Claire McCaskill of Missouri in a controversial commercial. Fox endorsed McCaskill primarily because she supported embryonic stem cell research. Fox said this research "could provide a cure for his Parkinson's disease" even though studies indicating rats injected with embryonic stem cells showed signs of developing malignant tumors in their brains.
According to the New Scientist, The Michael J. Fox Foundation has shifted its emphasis in recent years from embryonic stem cell research, because, as the Foundation's chief scientific adviser Gene Johnson of Washington University in St. Louis said, "using stem cells as therapeutic agents is a very complicated process." Some of these complications include:
Obstacles include working out how to get transplanted cells to integrate into the brain, and developing “off-the-shelf” cell lines that can be used for any recipient.
Meanwhile, other avenues are speeding towards clinical trials. These include neurotrophic factors – proteins that promote the survival of nerve cells – as well as antibodies that target the alpha-synuclein protein, which may be a cause of the brain damage seen in Parkinson’s.
Fox recently told ABC News that "there have been some issues with stem cells" and that even though "an answer may still come from stem cell research, it is more than likely to come from another area."
What now seems like a misguided endorsement of McCaskill without the facts in 2006 has already done damage, as the Senate gained one more liberal politician. It seems safe to assume Fox will not cut a similar advertisement on behalf of McCaskill when she is up for reelection this fall.