The treatment has been around for years, it’s received plenty of funding, but as it is, stem cells have failed to enter the mainstream of clinical practice in the UK and the United States.

The reasons for this are complex and politicized and have a lot to do with the way in which the American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) classify stem cells; since the Bush administration autologous stem cells, stem cells derived from the person who intends to use them, have been classified as drugs, meaning that they have to go through the same snail-paced process of bringing new drugs to market. reason for doing this is as yet unclear, why classify autologous stem cells as drugs instead of simply a new clinical procedure (which would make more sense)?

The reason, unfortunately, has to do with the proposed use of embryonic stem cells and the heated political debate surrounding their use; in the perceived eyes of Bush’s voters, or people on the right in general, there is a strong undercurrent of anti-abortion sentiment and therefore also against anything that could appear to ‘promote’ abortion.

As such ‘stem cells’, autologous or not, has now become a political buzzword in the United States which, in certain parts of the country, is all too often juxtaposed with the idea of ‘promoting abortion’.

It’s little surprise then that instead of bringing this treatment with all it’s incredible potential to market as soon as possible in the US, the Bush administration decided to sweep the whole thing under the carpet of the protracted process of testing and quality controls that is the FDA’s system of monitoring the quality of new drugs.

It’s a shame that it had to happen this way because, as with many things, medical research included the United States are the leaders and the rest of the world are followers, so we are impacted as well.

By Sam Cottle