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Roman Reed honored for stem cell advocacy

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Roman Reed honoredThe World Stem Cell Summit honored five champions of stem cell research Thursday evening. They are: Philanthropists Denny Sanford and Malin Burnham; stem cell researcher/blogger/patient advocate Paul Knoepfler; medical journal publisher Mary Ann Liebert, and patient advocate Roman Reed.

For this blog post, I’m writing about Reed, because he gave arguably the most memorable speech advocating more stem cell research.

A spinal cord injury from a college football accident left Reed mostly paralyzed. He’s recovered use of his arms, but cannot walk. Reed and his father, Don, were among the foremost proponents of Prop. 71, the initiative that set aside $3 billion in bond money to fund stem cell research and disease treatments in California.

Video clips from his speech taken by me at the awards follow. They are shaky in portions, but the words are clear. I’ve prefaced them with a brief description of their contents.

By Reed’s admission, he was on his way to becoming a “dumb jock” when paralyzed. Nearly helpless, he had to choose between surrendering to despair and feeling victimized, and fighting back. Reed choose the latter.

Roman Reed on fighting back
Roman Reed describes how he fought back after being partly paralyzed.

Reed helped raise funds for stem cell research for spinal cord injuries, led by researcher Hans Keirstead of UC Irvine. Keirstead has cured spinal cord injuries with embryonic stem cells — in rats. How long for people?

From rats to people?
Who’s jealous of a rat? Patient advocate Roman Reed, that’s who.

Living with hope of a cure keeps Reed going, but he admits it’s a rough struggle. It’s especially rough when seeing someone else suffering, such as a young girl Reed met who’s dying from spinal muscular atrophy.

Who’s the bravest? Roman Reed tells
Roman Reed, paralyzed patient advocate, tells who is the bravest person he has ever met.

Reed liked what Prop. 71 did for stem cell research in California, and labored to clone in in other states. He gained many friends and allies, among them Holly Huber, who has multiple sclerosis. Huber says stem cell treatments have relieved her symptoms.

Spreading the Prop. 71 model
Patient advocate Roman Reed discusses spreading California’s model for state funding of stem cell research.

By Bradley J. Fikes

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