Rick Perry's Surgery Was Experimental

Correction appended

Rick Perry, governor of Texas and potential Republican presidential candidate, underwent an experimental operation last month using adult stem cells.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Stanley Jones, an orthopedic surgeon and personal friend of Perry, according to The Texas Tribune. Jones became a strong advocate of the procedure after he and his wife had the procedure performed on themselves by a South Korean company.

Arthritis in his hands was so severe that Jones would have been unable to perform Perry's surgery if he had not had the procedure himself. Jones was so impressed with what he saw while in South Korea that he felt “moved by his faith” to call Perry and ask him to become an advocate for the procedure in the United States.

The stem cell procedure performed on Perry has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is not covered by insurance. The only stem cell procedure that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration is one that regenerates bone marrow.

Medical use of adult stem cells does not carry the same controversy as embryonic stem cells. To use embryonic stem cells for research or medical purposes, an embryo, an unborn human baby in the first eight weeks after conception, is destroyed. Procedures using adult stem cells take the stem cells from the patient themselves and the patient, in this case Gov. Perry, is not destroyed in the process.

For the operation, fatty tissue was taken from Perry's hip. Stem cells were recovered from the tissue and those cells were injected in Perry's spine and bloodstream.

Pro-life advocates, such as Perry, have been strong supporters of adult stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research, besides being immoral, is unnecessary due to the advances in adult stem cell research, they argue. In a speech last month, Perry accused Obama of “turning the remains of unborn children into nothing more than raw material” for his support of embryonic stem cell research.

Perry had long been an advocate of adult stem cell research even before his procedure. In 2005, the Texas legislature created the Emerging Technology Fund to provide grants for cutting edge research. Research on the medical use of adult stem-cells received some of those grants. Three weeks after his procedure, Perry sent a letter to the Texas Medical Board asking them to take great care in crafting regulations for the medical use of adult stem cells. Perry also signed a bill last month, SB 7, that encourages adult stem cell research.

Perry's July 1 procedure was the first ever performed by Dr. Jones. Perry had no qualms about being the first. He had done so much research on the topic that he was confident it would work, Jones told The Texas Tribune. Perry announced the procedure a success on his Twitter account. He wrote, “Little procedure went as advertised. Blessed to be married to the world's best nurse. Thanks for all the prayers!!”

Perry is widely expected to enter the presidential race sometime mid-August. Polls show Perry tied, or nearly tied, with frontrunner Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, if he were to enter the race.

Correction: Thursday, August 4, 2011:

An article on Thursday, August 4, 2011, about Texas Governor Rick Perry’s experimental surgery, incorrectly stated that embryonic stem cells used for research or medical purposes are taken from embryos in the first eight months after conception. The time period should read eight weeks, not eight months.

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