TONY COX, host:
So, as we heard, the decision on embryonic stem cell research has been welcomed by scientists and researchers working in a number of medical fields. Joining me now is Dr. Jerry Tolbert. He is a spokesman for the American Diabetes Association and member of the East Harlem Diabetes Center of Excellence. Doctor, welcome.
Dr. JERRY TOLBERT (Spokesman, American Diabetes Association): I'm happy to be with you.
COX: President Obama's announcement on stem cell research. Good news for diabetics?
Dr. TOLBERT: I think it's good news for the scientific community and those people who are suffering from diabetes. Certainly, the American Diabetes Association applauds President Obama's lifting these restrictions so that we have an opportunity to find a cure for this devastating disease, particularly Type 1 diabetes.
COX: How can this help exactly when there are arguments that existing research is sufficient?
Dr. TOLBERT: Well, existing research is not sufficient, number one, because we have been restricted from being able to do much of this work that we need to do and some of this work that has been done in the world. And we know the value of beta cells. We know that when we transplant beta cells, for example, talking about diabetes, that we can help patients tremendously in terms of controlling this disease and its complications. So, for those who made those types of statements, we need the opportunity to do the research and to sort this out and see what works and what does not work. But we now have the opportunity to do so.
COX: You know, as we know, African-Americans represent a disproportionately large number of diabetics. But type 2 diabetes is exacerbated by poor diet and a lack of exercise. My question, doctor, is this. Is there a danger that people will think that they can do what they want to with their bodies and then the stem cell therapy will work it out later?
Dr. TALBOT: Well, we - certainly, we'll try to make sure that no one has that mind thought because it's absolutely not true. This is very specific. When we talked about beta cell and the need for rejuvenating and creating beta cells, we basically are talking about those individuals with diabetes who are not able to secrete insulin. And those, by in large, are the type 1 diabetics, including children and adults. And they are the individuals who will benefit the most. Ninety percent of those individuals who have diabetes are type 2 diabetes. About eight percent of African-Americans have type 1 diabetes, but it can be a devastating disease with a decrease in the life span of those individuals who suffer from it.
COX: I want to go back to one other quick point with you before we end the conversation and I appreciate your coming on. I want to talk about the research issue because as we just heard from our NPR correspondent, research with embryonic stem cells has been going on outside this country, and yet, there hasn't been apparently a breakthrough.
Dr. TALBOT: There has been a breakthrough because it takes a lot of intensive effort to understand exactly how to advance this technology and this information. And I think that as we are able to put more funding to get our bright minds in our universities and research centers that in my mind, I think that we are definitely going to have this breakthrough that you are talking about and a potential cure for diabetes. I certainly believe that. I think the American Diabetes Association believes that. It's something that we have talked about, and that's one of mottos of the American Diabetes Association, is to find a cure. A lot of times, we have to put a lot of work into the research to come up with the answers and with the breakthrough and we can't say well, because it's been done - in some places, for example, I heard a reference to the stem cells from adults from the bone marrow and the Japanese have demonstrated that they have been able to use those stem cells effectively. So I think that we have to be very careful in saying that well, because it hasn't been done in other countries outside of the U.S. that may be we shouldn't put so much faith in it. I think that that's not the way we should be thinking…
COX: We have to stop here, unfortunately, doctor. Our time has run out. I appreciate your answer, though. That was Dr. Jerry Talbot, a spokesman for the American Diabetes Association and a member of the East Harlem Diabetes Center of Excellence in New York.
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