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Thread: Christopher Reeve: Israel is at center of world research on paralysis

  1. #31
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    Christopher Reeve calls for international cooperation on spinal injury research

    Christopher Reeve calls for international cooperation on spinal injury research
    By Jason Keyser, Associated Press, 7/29/2003 12:17
    REHOVOT, Israel (AP) Actor Christopher Reeve told an Israeli audience Tuesday he thinks there is a good chance he will walk again provided ''politics and religion'' don't interfere with scientific research.

    The ''Superman'' star, who has been paralyzed from the neck down since an equestrian accident in 1995, is on a five-day visit to Israel, visiting research facilities and hospitals to study advances in treatment for spinal cord injuries.

    Speaking to journalists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in the city of Rehovot, near Tel Aviv, Reeve said progress on research required international collaboration, but was being slowed by disputes over intellectual property rights and widely varying rules on stem cell research.

    Many scientists believe stem cells from human embryos could be used to treat a vast array of conditions, from spinal injury to diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

    Israel is a leader in the field of spinal injury treatment and in stem cell research, which has been limited in some countries because obtaining the cells involves destroying a human embryo.

    The U.S. government has limited stem cell research because of the embryo issue. Reeve has been critical of U.S. policy.

    ''My hopes are that politics and religion will not interfere with progress for a cure,'' Reeve said Tuesday. ''If those problems are overcome, I stand a good chance of walking.''

    ''Israel is one of the leaders in the world, and I came to pay tribute to the work being done here,'' he added.

    Reeve also is meeting Israelis injured in Palestinian terrorist attacks. On Tuesday he met Elad Wassa, a 25-year-old Ethiopian immigrant paralyzed from the waist down in a suicide bombing in May 2002.

    ''Welcome to Israel you are my hero,'' said Wassa, who wrote to Reeve during his convalescence and shared a stage with him Tuesday.

    Reeve saluted Wassa's courage and determination.

    ''Elad's story was particularly moving to me,'' he said. ''A young man and a victim of random violence in a country that has seen so much violence. His story just touched me.''

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  2. #32
    Senior Member Jeremy's Avatar
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    Interview With Christopher Reeve; Interview With Steve, Marlene Aisenberg

    Aired July 30, 2003 - 21:00 ET


    LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive. Christopher Reeve, living a medical miracle is not enough. Now he's made a difficult journey to the other side of the world for a cause at the center of his life. He will tell us why.
    And then, the disappearance of their baby girl wasn't bad enough; they became the suspects, accused of lying to investigators. Four years later, they're cleared. But Sabrina Aisenberg is still missing, six years after she vanished from her crib. And tonight, her parents, Marlene and Steve Aisenberg, speak out. All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

    Good evening.

    We begin tonight from Tel Aviv in Israel where our special guest is Christopher Reeve, actor, director, author, activist, chairman of the Christopher Reeve's Paralysis Foundation. Always good to have him with us.

    What -- what's with the hair, Chris? What's with the no hair?

    CHRISTOPHER REEVE, CHRISTOPHER REEVE'S PARALYSIS FOUNDATION: Yes, what happened to it? I -- I backed into a lawn mower. I took it off about three months ago. It was just too much trouble. So now I'm -- I've got my Lex Luthor look.

    KING: And it looks great, by the way. I like the look.

    REEVE: Thank you.

    KING: How about a quick update on how you're doing?

    REEVE: I'm doing very well, and it's a real pleasure to be here in Israel. I'm in the middle of a four-and-a-half-day trip to find out about the science that's going on over here and the rehabilitation, and it's been truly amazing.

    KING: All right. Before we talk about that and what they do there, what was the trip over like?

    REEVE: The trip over was very nice. I -- this is the second time I've made a long trip. The first was earlier in the year. I went to Australia, which is even further. And it's really been a wonderful experience. The Israeli people have just gone all out to make everything comfortable and to make a trip possible.

    KING: Now you flew commercially. Is that difficult for you? How do they handle the chair? How does the plane deal with it?

    REEVE: Well, actually, I sit in a regular seat like everybody else, and, fortunately, I'm in good health now and have been for some time so that my skin is strong enough, and I can stay in a seat for 10 hours and recline and enjoy the regular food and be pretty much a regular passenger. It's really quite something.

    KING: Is there any effect if there's turbulence on the plane?

    REEVE: No, not at all. I can take turbulence just like anybody else. I've always loved flying. I was a pilot for 20 years.

    KING: That's right. I forgot.

    How about security arrangements? Do they have special things, or do they sort of let you through with all your equipment and stuff?

    REEVE: Well, everything was very carefully checked to make sure that it was compatible with the airplane systems -- the ventilator, for example, very important to make sure that it didn't interfere with the navigational equipment -- and they ran extensive tests to make sure everything was working.

    And it's all been going just fine.

    KING: OK. What are they doing in Israel that's exceptional?

    REEVE: Well, the whole attitude towards medical research is exceptional. I think it's the characteristic of the Israeli people that they are curious, and they are people who desire knowledge. And the scientists here are revered. They are not famous, but they are honored, because they are curious and courageous. They don't take the conventional path. They learn and do whatever they can to relieve human suffering, and as you know, in this country, they live every day with urgency. Every day, you never know what can happen here, and so there have been so many people who have been injured and suffered spinal cord injuries and other kinds of injury because of the terrorism, and I found that both in the medical research and the rehabilitation of people who have been injured, they are really trying their hardest to go as quickly as possible, and I think we lack a little bit that sense of urgency in the United States. It's not present all the time.

    But I saw something very, very extraordinary I'd like to describe to you. I met a young man who was an Arab Israeli, and he had been injured for two years, but he underwent surgery within two weeks of his injury, and his injury was just a little worse than mine. He was injured from high up in his chest, then paralyzed all the way down. And two years later -- I met him today -- he is able to walk with the use of parallel bars, and this is because of the surgery that has been done here in Israel. And it's the most remarkable case of a human recovery that I've ever seen. It moved me tremendously.

    KING: What, Chris, are they doing that doctors elsewhere are not doing? REEVE: Well, they have a very progressive atmosphere here. They have socialized medicine, so that doctors and patients do not have the problem of profit or of, you know, trying to make money or trying to get insurance companies to pay for treatments. That is one big advantage. And they also work very well together. They share their knowledge. This is a country of six million people, about the size of Long Island, and everyone works together, and doing it tremendously. There is very -- no ego here. There is great sharing, and the people of the country benefit from that.

    KING: We'll take a break and come right back with more of Christopher Reeve on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.


    KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve. He's in Tel Aviv, Israel. you say they exchange information very well with other physicians, other countries. Does that mean the United States will then pick things up?

    REEVE: Yes. In fact, there are some collaborations that are now being planned between research institutes here, like the Riceman (ph) Institute, for example, and rehabilitation facilities. We have one in Colorado, one in New Jersey, one in Atlanta, and that is a very progressive step forward to bringing these theories of cures to patients. That is -- that is the big thing now of how to take what has been done in animals and bring them into human trials.

    And Israel, along with other countries like Sweden, England, Finland, Singapore, China -- they're leading in the skill and the knowledge to move into human beings. We have -- a lot of that knowledge is -- it's coming in the United States, but the atmosphere in the States politically is more restrictive.

    And I hope that now I'm that sure there will be success with the collaboration between, say, the Israelis or the English or the Swedish with American facilities that, once we see success, then the political climate will change very rapidly.

    KING: Isn't it strange that in the medical area the United States would trail?

    REEVE: Yes. We've, unfortunately, done it a number of times before. If you go back to the first heart transplant, research was being done in the United States, and yet it was very, very difficult to get it approved. Then Dr. Christian Barnard was the first one to do it in South Africa.

    And, more recently, in the case of in vitro fertilization, we were working on it with government funding in the mid-1970s, until suddenly people were afraid of that word "test-tube babies."

    And so there was a protest, government funding was stopped, and the English were the first with government funding, full support of the government, and Baby Louise was born in 1978. And still, to this day, the whole area of in vitro fertilization is privately run. It's private industry. It was not done by our government, and it should have been.

    KING: Last time you were with us, it was amazing. You had some movement. How are you doing in that area?

    REEVE: I'm doing well. I've maintained the movements that I had, I think, since last time we talked but increased them. Everything is getting stronger, and that's what tends to happen. When you open a pathway and you then -- you keep working it, it's just like someone fully able bodied, that the pathway and the muscle, the nerve gets stronger and stronger with repetition.

    So, actually, my strongest movements now are in my legs, which I can't demonstrate for you, obviously, sitting in a wheelchair, but I could in a swimming pool or lying in a bed, and my arms as well. So I am very grateful that the progress that started five years after the injury is continuing.

    KING: Well, what is Israel doing in the area of stem cells?

    REEVE: Israel has a policy in which researchers are allowed to conduct research on stem cells derived from any source. That means adult stem cells. That means embryonic stem cells.

    And it also means what's called therapeutic cloning, but is more accurately, more properly known as nuclear transfer in which an unfertilized egg is injected with a patient's DNA to get a match so that you can create new tissue, for example, for a damaged heart.

    They're allowed to do all of that here and are progressing very well with it.

    KING: Are you confident the United States will follow suit, or do you think those restrictions about embryonic stem cells will continue?

    REEVE: Well, unfortunately, we have no federal public policy now, and that -- that is something that's very disappointing to all of us who -- certainly many of us in the category of people living with disease and disability.

    The House of Representatives has twice banned everything except adult stem-cell research, and the Senate is in absolute gridlock. There's a bill that would allow it, and there's a bill that would not only ban it but criminalize it, and I think that neither bill is going to make it to the Senate floor this year or even next year.

    So we have no public policy and that has a very -- a very bad effect on our scientists because they don't know what to do because the door might be slammed in their face. So that's why research is proceeding certainly in the stem-cell area much more quickly abroad.

    KING: You have accused this -- you have said they're caving in to the religious right. REEVE: I have. Unfortunately, religion influences politics in the United States. It's a fact. There are lots of influences on politics in the United States, and that is difficult.

    KING: We'll have more with Christopher Reeve about influences and other things on his historic trip to Tel Aviv on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why me? There must be a reason why I was sent to this planet.

    REEVE: You won't find the answers by looking to the stars. It's a journey you'll have to take by looking at yourself. You must write your own destiny.




    UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The blood on your shoe, and the fact that you were seen coming and going, not to mention the threat.

    REEVE: With insanity, even in victory, she's going to be locked up.

    UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, she only goes away until she gets better, which from what doctors are telling us, could be soon.

    REEVE: This is a circumstantial case. What she did and what they can prove are two very different things. You said so yourself.


    KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve in Tel Aviv, Israel.

    By the way, this trip was facilitated by Israel's Consul General Yuval Rotem, and Rotem said, quote, "Israel's very excited to welcome Christopher Reeve, a true superhero who inspires us all in his fight and struggle to achieve his motto Nothing Is Impossible."

    Do you still have that motto? Do you still think you will walk again?

    REEVE: I certainly have the motto that nothing is impossible. I think the question of whether I will walk is going to depend on politics. It's going to depend on collaborations between scientists around the world. It will depend on economics, a lot of factors that I knew very little about when I was injured eight years ago.

    And I think my purpose when I was 42 in saying that I would walk by the time I was 50 was to be provocative, to be a voice saying why can't we do this, don't tell me the reasons why not. Well, now I understand some of the difficulties not only in terms of the science but the other forces I was just mentioning. But I do think that these can be overcome. I just can't put a specific date on it.

    KING: Do you plan to continue to work? I saw you last Sunday on "The Practice." You were terrific in a script that you had written with a nice twist at the end. Do you plan to continue to both act and direct?

    REEVE: Yes, absolutely. I've been an actor for a very long time, and, also, I've loved directing now that I've started doing that in "The Gloaming" for HBO back in '96.

    Right now, I'm very involved in the world of politics. In fact, you know, I don't want to feel guilty for turning away and saying, OK, I'm going to go off and direct something now for seven months.

    For example, right now, I'm shepherding a piece of legislation. It's the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act that was introduced in both the Senate and the House in May. And we now have about 45 co-sponsors in the House. We've got 15 co-sponsors in the Senate.

    And it's a bill that would create centers of research and centers of rehabilitation research and also centers that would improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, accessibility, transportation, all of that. So I'm working -- working to help to get that bill passed, hopefully, this year.

    KING: Do you think 9/11 curtailed advances in your area?

    REEVE: No, I don't think 9/11 is responsible for the political climate about medical research today. I don't think those two things go together.

    I think that politics in the United States is very difficult, and I've talked to many representatives, you know, who feel one way and yet know that it would be politically difficult for them to vote that way, and as long as that's a fact, in my opinion, until we have real campaign-finance reform, there's always going to be compromises that will be disappointing.

    And I think that the more -- the more that we can keep special interests out of the picture and let politicians who do the greatest good for their constituents and for not only the local people they serve but for the country as a whole, then we're going to regain the preeminence that we deserve.

    KING: What keeps you going?

    REEVE: Sorry. Didn't -- didn't mean to sound like a sermon there.

    KING: Oh, that's all right. It's right on the mark.

    What keeps you going?

    REEVE: What keeps me going is -- well, the possibilities of the future, change, the fact that I'm getting better, that technology is improving, that we do have the really brilliant, dedicated people who want to help, and that, also, I have the opportunity to learn so much.

    I mean take a trip like this. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to come here, and just today I, as I said before, saw a young man who was cured of his spinal cord injury with a surgical procedure, something that would have been impossible when I was injured in 1995, and here it was, he was operated on in 2001, and he's walking, and...

    I mean I've seen it. I've seen it, and there's more to come. It's going to be difficult, but that's what keeps me going, is knowing that it can be done.

    KING: How do you afford all of this?

    REEVE: Well, fortunately, the trip to Tel Aviv was underwritten by private sponsorship, and I'm very grateful for the Jewish Federation of L.A. and to the consul general in Los Angeles. They were primarily behind it. And, also, about three Israeli film producers have been very, very generous in their -- in arranging the trip. So that was a gift that was given to me.

    But, fortunately, I am still able to work, and to support my family. I'm glad that my oldest has graduated from college, so I'm not paying that tuition anymore. But I do have a daughter in college and a son in school, and those tuition bills and taxes are, you know, something that are an issue for me like everybody else.

    KING: Your general health, though, paralysis aside, is good?

    REEVE: Yes. I would say better than good. I would say it's, you know, good plus. I wouldn't say excellent because there are limitations, but, fortunately, because of all the physical therapy I've done over the years, I've been able to beat the problems that would otherwise keep me from doing what I'm doing.

    For example, skin breakdowns from sitting still for so long, the problems of lack of good circulation because of paralysis, osteoporosis where you lose bone density, blood clots. All these things plague people who live with paralysis.

    But, with exercise, with repeated exercise and physical therapy, which should be affordable and made available to everybody -- with that kind of therapy, I've been able to manage, and I can come and go and do all kinds of things that I never thought would be possible when I was first injured.

    KING: How about the breathing progress? You have less need of a ventilator, right?

    REEVE: Yes. Actually, I had a special procedure done. I'm only the second patient -- actually, there's three now -- but this is done out in Cleveland at Case Western University and Metro Hospital of Cleveland, and electrodes were planted on my diaphragm that are activated very much like the cardiac pacemaker, and they stimulate the diaphragm, and then I can take the hose off and breathe normally.

    And I'm able to do it for increasing periods of time, although, because it's an FDA experimental procedure, investigational procedure, it's not yet authorized for the general public. I still have to have nursing care 24 hours a day, and I still have to have the ventilator as a backup at all times.

    But I have to tell you to be able to breathe without this necktie attached to my throat is really, really a very liberating experience.

    KING: When are you coming home?

    REEVE: I'll be home on Saturday.

    KING: Thanks, Chris. Always good seeing you, and the best of luck.

    REEVE: Larry, thank you so much.

    KING: Christopher Reeves, our guest for the first half of the program, in Tel Aviv.

    In the second half, we'll meet Marlene and Steve Aisenberg. Their 5-month-old daughter Sabrina went missing from their home back in 1997. They were originally indicted for conspiracy. Those charges have been dropped. An incredible story. They're next on LARRY KING LIVE.

    We thank Christopher Reeve.

    We'll be right back.


  3. #33
    Senior Member mk99's Avatar
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    Jeremy, thank you very much for the transcript. An excellent read.

    I found many things interesting.

    "They have socialized medicine, so that doctors and patients do not have the problem of profit or of, you know, trying to make money or trying to get insurance companies to pay for treatments. That is one big advantage."

    Also I couldn't agree more about Religion & Politics holding us back. I am so happy that the situation is quite different in countries like Israel, Sweden, Britain, Finland, Singapore, China & Russia.

    Regarding the patient who had experimental surgery 2 years ago and now walks in parallel bars. I am assuming that was the macrophage trial run by Proneuron... great to hear of such a recovery.

    I look forward to hearing many more great things out of Israel in the near future. Excellent!

  4. #34
    Senior Member Rick1's Avatar
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    Israel, Sweden, Britain, Finland, Singapore, China, and Russia, and Canada for that matter, are hardly model societies; even in the area of socialized medicine.

    Would Israel be so involved with SCI research if it's political policies hadn't brought it face to face with such a disproportionate number of SCI's?

    The interrelationship of politics and science (and I suppose, religion) is inherent in an orderly society. When policy makers start doing science and scientists start making policy - that's when I'll start to worry.

    In an insane world, a sane person will appear insane.

  5. #35
    Banned Acid's Avatar
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    ... Simplified, with CR with limbs,
    impressions here were,
    right arm, yes,
    right leg, maybe,
    left arm, not now, no long time judgement,
    left leg, nah, so far ain't think so.

    (But from my perspective with the right arm is important something takes place, that seems so far not to have sufficiently, due to his attitudes, to do with right C1 correlations.

    But has seemed not taken serious, when I tried to communicate this.
    Figured, without this, chances seem way down, but ain't my arm.


  6. #36
    Banned Acid's Avatar
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    Rick: What do you find criticism worthy about Swedish society?

  7. #37
    Banned Acid's Avatar
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    Is an "Arab Israeli" some Jewish person from some northern African region for example ... Or is he calling some Palestinian an Israeli?

  8. #38
    Great interview with a very hard working man.
    I think it deserves a sitting/standing ovation.

  9. #39
    Senior Member mk99's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    toronto, canada
    Rick, good points.

    I am not so sure either that Socialized medicine is any better for stimulating research & development of new drugs and/or therapies than a profit-driven medical system. It seems almost counter-intuitive because the profit potential seems necessary to encourage innovation and risk-taking. I guess that as long as companies are "spun-off" from Academic research, things should happen relatively quickly.

    I don't think there are any model societies out there. Each has good/bad and do some things better/worse than others. I guess overall I would rate The Netherlands as probably having their "shit together" more than most but it's all very subjective.

    "The interrelationship of politics and science (and I suppose, religion) is inherent in an orderly society. When policy makers start doing science and scientists start making policy - that's when I'll start to worry."

    That's the real problem with ESC in the US isn't it? We are at a point now where there is a serious clash between science & those afraid we are "going too far" or "playing God". I fear that many future advances will clash more and more with politics & religion. (at least under the current regime). In the end science always wins... but it sure can be delayed.

  10. #40
    Banned Acid's Avatar
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    Defiler, was it you who criticized CR and his foundation?

    The criticism reminded me of clicking through some of this foundation's e-pages.

    It kept reading alike "gimme your cash".

    So for example I clicked something as "join our e-team".

    In German culture under a "team" might be understood several people in sort of juncture working together on something.

    This could be physically, as in sports. Or mentally, as in some project, with differing people joining knowledge, ideas and mental work.

    So from the "team" concept here,
    with "join our e-team",
    one might have expected some e-site,
    where differing people can exchange SCI correlated experiences, opinions, research, data ... .

    But instead it just read like the next version of "give me your cash".

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