Debate gets local

Nation's largest adult stem cell lab opens in Sugar Land amid contentious debate

Nation's largest adult stem cell lab opens in Sugar Land amid contentious debate

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Stem cells remain a hotly contested issue and Celltex was careful to highlight its political and ethical standing at its ribbon-cutting event. Photo by Tyler Rudick
News_Tyler_stem cell clinic_Sugar Land
Stem cell research is still in its infancy. As of now, the FDA has not licensed any type of treatments involving cultured stem cells. Photo by Tyler Rudick
News_Tyler_stem cell clinic_Sugar Land
Photo by Tyler Rudick
News_Tyler_stem cell clinic_Sugar Land
The Celltex Therapeutics facility in Sugar Land will be the largest adult stem cell lab and bank in North America. Photo by Tyler Rudick
News_Tyler_stem cell clinic_Sugar Land
News_Tyler_stem cell clinic_Sugar Land
News_Tyler_stem cell clinic_Sugar Land
News_Tyler_stem cell clinic_Sugar Land

Celltex Therapeutics — a biomedical company headed by Stanley Jones, the doctor behind Rick Perry’s recent experimental stem cell procedure — recently unveiled its new Sugar Land laboratory. The massive 15,000-square-foot facility will be the largest adult stem cell lab and bank in North America, offering clients an advanced culturing process licensed from Korean firm RNL Bio to reproduce mass quantities of healthy cells that can be stored for potential future use.

Fees start with an introductory charge of $4,873 plus an annual fee of $150. Clients can withdraw 50 million stem cells for $1,759.

“The Houston area has an international reputation for its willingness to test and develop new ways to help those who are ill,” Celltex chairman and CEO David Eller told a crowd of about 30 guests at the ceremony in mid-December. “The adult stem cell treatment used at Celltex will prove enormously beneficial to many, many people.”

 Celltex was careful to highlight its political and ethical standing at its ribbon-cutting event which involved a flag-raising ceremony, the reading of a congratulatory letter from Rick Perry, a Bible story and a group prayer.

 A typical adult stem cell treatment involves extracting stem cells from a patient's fat tissue. The cells are cultured at a lab like Celltex and then reinjected back into the patient. Treatments are thought to allow stem cells to replace damaged tissue, potentially helping conditions like Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis.

Research is still very much in its infancy. As of yet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not licensed any type of treatments involving cultured stem cells.
 
Stem cells remain a hotly contested issue and Celltex was careful to highlight its political and ethical standing at its ribbon-cutting event which involved a flag-raising ceremony, the reading of a congratulatory letter from Rick Perry, a Bible story and a group prayer.
 
Since the 1990s, the debate over stem cell use has split into two camps roughly along political party lines.
 
On one side are those who champion research using embryonic cells — the biological building blocks drawn from human embryos that can develop into any type of cell. Embryonic stem cell research struggles with rejection issues when cells are introduced into a patient’s system.
 
On the other side of the debate are those who favor research using adult stem cells, which are extracted from fully-grown consenting patients. Adult stem cells have a more limited use, but face virtually no patient rejection problems, a fact Celltex officials mentioned on several occasions throughout the opening ceremony and subsequent facility tour.
 
Both adult and embryonic methods have potential. Federal funding restrictions, however, have limited embryonic studies, which opponents question from a moral standpoint based on their use of discarded embryos from private fertility clinics.
 "I think there's a happy medium for all of us. I don't care where the source comes from. I'm a Christian and have ethical values. If there aren't results, though, I'm ready to admit to that. Those people are misleading the media in a way." 
 
"People who don't like us tend to be embryotic researchers," Celltex vice president Donna Lee told CultureMap. "Their projects are getting cut left and right because of safety reasons. Without a doubt, they're very protective of their field and that's why we don't bother them at all."
 
"I think there's a happy medium for all of us," she continued. "I don't care where the source comes from. I'm a Christian and have ethical values. If there aren't results, though, I'm ready to admit to that. Those people are misleading the media in a way."
 
Texas emerged as a battleground for stem cell research this summer, with Rick Perry promoting millions of Texas dollars in adult stem cell research initiatives as the FDA attempts to regulate a growing number of unapproved stem-cell treatments.
 
Perry, who opposes embryonic research on moral grounds, sees economic and biomedical opportunities for his state through adult stem cell research. Though excited about the funding possibilities, scientists and physicians have voiced patient safety concerns about approving stem cell treatments too quickly.