Since adult stem cell therapy saved his life last year, an Otis Orchards man with congestive heart failure has become popular among groups opposed to embryonic stem cell research.
On Wednesday, Doug Rice, the 61-year-old beneficiary of a treatment not offered in the United States, will be at the White House for President Bush’s expected veto of the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. He said he’s traveling courtesy of the anti-abortion Family Research Council.
Rice was the subject of an April 2006 story in The Spokesman-Review after he flew to Thailand to have his own reproduced adult stem cells injected back into his heart by a biotech company called TheraVitae.
Since returning to Bangkok in January for a second procedure at a cost of $40,000, Rice’s ejection fraction – the measure of how well his heart is pumping blood – has risen from a low of 15 percent to 40 percent.
But while adult stem cells have helped people with heart disease and some cancers, the far more versatile and longer-lasting embryonic stem cells hold the promise of treating such diseases as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, according to the National Institutes of Health.
When he’s not jetting to the Far East for treatment that hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Rice is flying around the United States, speaking on behalf of groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
His message: “It’s like kicking a dead horse when you talk about embryonic stem cells,” which have yet to be used to treat a human.