Our own cells are part of our identity as much as a passport, or a driver's license. However, time and time again, it is questioned whether we have the right to make our own decisions involving them.
Back in the 1950s, Henrietta Lacks' cells were taken from her without her consent. She was a poor, black farmer receiving treatment for cervical cancer, when cells were taken from her cervix. Named the "HeLa" strain after their place of origin, these powerful cells have been used in countless biomedical research studies since then. Henrietta's family was unaware these cells were even being used until years later.
Recently, a paper was published that revealed the genetic information of the "HeLa" strain of cells. It caused an uproar due to its exposure of Henrietta's genes, which could additionally prove insight into the genetic information of her family.
Who really should have ownership of the HeLa strain? The true answer is Henrietta's surviving family.
Yet, the FDA believes that it has the right to control the use of stem cell therapy where patients use their own cells.
The company Regenerative Sciences has developed a revolutionary therapy that is currently the subject of a controversial lawsuit. Regenexx is a powerful treatment that allows patients to repair their bones through an injection of stem cells from their own blood and bone marrow. For a long period the therapy was extremely successful in healing patients.
The FDA is now fighting the company claiming that these stem cells qualify as drugs as they are "intended to treat, cure, and mitigate disease and to affect the structure and function of the patient's body." Furthermore, the FDA feels obligated to regulate these "drugs."
While this may be true, at their core these stem cells are all just cells. The building blocks of our bodies. Part of our identities. Our cells give insight into who we are, our unique genetic codes.
By asking for prescreening of the cells used for these therapies, the government is violating the fourth amendment which prevents unwarranted search and seizure. The FDA's decision to prescreen these cells could be catastrophic to those who need treatment. Slowing down the process to get stem cell therapy may leave some patients dead by the time they recieve clearance to use the cells. The government does not have the right to our bodies.
In the era of our information, our privacy is constantly invaded. Whether it be at airport security, or social networking, it's hard to fly under the radar. While we make the deliberate choice to over-share on social media, that is our choice, not a government mandate.
When trying to fight disease the choice is ours too. Two different cancer patients could be treated successfully in two radically different ways.
In the end, it is not the FDA who chooses how we fight our battles, it's us. It's our choice what we do with our own cells.