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Adult stem cell procedure used on Perry could face restrictions

November 4, 2011 | 12:50 pm

Rick PerryAn experimental adult stem cell procedure used to treat Texas Gov. Rick Perry is among those that could be restricted under rules considered Friday by the Texas Medical Board.

Some researchers have questioned the safety of such experimental procedures, saying they may violate federal rules and put patients at risk of developing blood clots and cancer.

But Perry sent a letter to the board in July urging them to remember the "revolutionary potential" of stem cells extracted from adult tissue. He opposes embryonic stem cell treatments, which use cells extracted from embryos.

"Texas is a leader in innovation in many fields," Perry wrote. "It is critical that we continue to foster an environment that encourages technological advancement in the health care arena."

Perry wrote that he understood the need to protect patients, but that "we need to ensure that physicians in this state can continue to pursue new technologies and treatments that will benefit all Texans." Perry noted in his letter that adult stem cells have been used to treat different types of cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved use of the cells in licensed treatments, but doctors still experiment

Perry's treatment last July for a bad back was also very experimental. It used adult stem cells taken from his own fat that were then cultured in a laboratory; the result was injected into his back and bloodstream in an attempt to build bone.

The medical board's 19 members are volunteers -- and Perry appointees.

Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed told The Times on Friday that Perry expects the board will "make the appropriate decision regarding the use of this promising technology in Texas."

"Gov. Perry has said he supports making Texas a leader in adult stem cell technology in order to find cures for cancer and other diseases, and supported legislative efforts in Texas to ensure an adequate framework is in place to ensure patients who take advantage of this technology in Texas are protected," she said.

The new rules would require an accredited body to review procedures involving stem cells, access research trials and ensure patient safety, a spokeswoman told The Times. The rules also would require that such therapies be done by physicians according to state and federal laws.

At the board's Friday meeting in Austin, board members appeared to favor requiring an accredited body to review procedures, but postponed consideration of the new rule until their next meeting in February.

They want to be able to "tweak the language so it doesn't have any unintended impact on anyone," board spokeswoman Leigh Hopper told The Times via email. She said the earliest the rule could be approved would be April 13.


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--Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston

Photo: Presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Credit: Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images