by Larry Smith
In one of his now infamous "Sith Lord" videos posted online, fashion mogul Peter Nygard is shown injecting himself with a hypodermic needle while exclaiming to awed onlookers at his Lyford Cay pleasure dome: "Ah, it feels so good - and you can see it's working."
That minute or so of hilarity demonstrates precisely what opposition leader Dr Hubert Minnis was seeking to convey in the current stem cell debate. It is the type of 'science' that could be attracted to the Bahamas rather than the object of that science which concerns the good doctor.
Unfortunately, the growing public confusion over this issue has been fuelled by Nygard's in-your-face involvement, which has turned the whole affair into a political circus. And as a result, politicians are sending conflicting messages. It also takes a lot of effort to focus on the complexities of the subject, and most of us do not have the time or interest for that. So here's the score.
By all accounts, there is big money to be made in stem cell medicine based on unproven junk science treatments that target desperate patients and thrive in a lax regulatory environment. For example, in his search for the fountain of youth Nygard claims that "anybody whose body is at 60 years can get back to 25 years.” And at one point he was talking about establishing a stem cell facility in China.
But that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of good work being done by reputable scientists, and that includes age-reversing research. Commenting on a lab study earlier this year, Professor Danica Chen of the University of California said: “The question is whether we can understand the process well enough so that we can actually develop a molecular fountain of youth. Can we actually reverse aging? This is something we’re hoping to understand and accomplish.”
The difference between Nygard's claim and Chen's comment on longevity is clear.