It’s not often that a TV cartoon show that is described as “Sick, twisted and politically incorrect” makes an interesting observation about stem cell research. But then, The Family Guy is not a typical TV show. It describes itself a show about how “a dysfunctional Rhode Island family strive to cope with everyday life as they are thrown from one crazy scenario to another.”
So what does that have to do with stem cells? Well, in a recent episode the “crazy scenario” in question had to do with the lead character, Peter Griffin, suffering a horrible disfiguring medical emergency, stumbling into a stem cell clinic and walking out five minutes later perfectly normal. Or as normal as you can be in a cartoon sitcom.
As he walks out he asks the guard outside the clinic “how long was I in there?” “5 minutes” the guard says, to which Peter replies “Why are we not funding this?”
He’s referring, of course, to funding of stem cell research, which has been a matter of some political debate and one recent lawsuit (which we blogged about here). Federal agencies can fund stem cell research, including research with certain embryonic stem cell lines derived from left over embryos from in vitro fertilization, but cannot fund the creation of new stem cell lines.
Here in California, not only do we fund all types of stem cell research, but we also have an entire round of funding dedicated to creating new lines. According to a survey last year, those lines are being used by researchers working toward new therapies.
Perhaps we’re not quite as far along as The Family Guy shows – it is a cartoon after all – and none of our grantees have yet found a way of reversing horribly disfiguring emergencies in five minutes, but we are certainly making important strides on a number of different fronts like heart disease, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.
Recent research – and some of our recent blogs – have highlighted advances being made in using stem cells to restore damaged muscles in injured soldiers, to repair spinal cord injuries in rats, and to restore hearing in gerbils. We clearly still have a long way to go but, in California at least, we are heading in the right direction.
It’s good to know that we have some fictional cartoon characters supporting our work and our mission. Now if only we could get Homer Simpson on board we’d really be making progress.