Could Stem Cells Have Saved Leonard Nimoy?

leonard nimoySpock was always my favorite Star Trek character.

Even if Leonard Nimoy was not Spock, it seemed to me that there was much of Nimoy in Spock.

And for many of us scientists there was some of Nimoy and Spock in us too.

The news of Nimoy’s death was a bit of a shock to me. I had no idea he wasn’t well and had kind of assumed that he would be with us for a very long time.

It seems that Nimoy died at least in part due to issues related to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a disease that more than 10 million Americans battle. Nimoy lost that battle.

Already several people have asked me the same question:

Could stem cells have saved him?

There is a great deal of excitement as well as hype surrounding the idea that stem cells may be an effective, totally new way to treat COPD.COPD stem cells

Eighteen months ago I wrote about the buzz of using stem cells for COPD.

I described the three main ways stem cells for COPD in theory might work, but I was skeptical (and still am) that we are close to a reality of using stem cells to safely and effectively treat COPD. Maybe some day in the future.

So unfortunately I don’t think that stem cells could have saved Nimoy unless he could have somehow otherwise hung on for another decade or so. Interestingly, Nimoy narrated a documentary film on stem cell research.

The number of stem cell clinical trials for COPD have more than doubled since I first wrote that COPD post, going from 7 to 18, but notably some are questionable as they are not what I would consider traditional clinical trials.

Spock was my hero as a little kid when I watched Star Trek re-runs before I even really understood much of anything about the man behind him. The more I learned of Nimoy, the more impressed I was with him.

Rest in peace, Leonard Nimoy.

5 thoughts on “Could Stem Cells Have Saved Leonard Nimoy?


  1. If given the chance or opportunity,he might of tried stem cells.After all,what did he have to lose? He should, at the very least, have that right.


  2. Here are the facts on COPD research. Many patients with the disease, myself included, have opted for experimental stem cell treatment and have experienced many quality of life improvements. I would be elated if more attention was given to the disease by researchers and “traditional” clinical trials were abundant, but the reality is that COPD research does not seem to be a priority in this country.

    Nimoy may or may not have been helped with stem cell therapy. It’s just not a question anyone can answer at this point.

    COPD Digest
    Vol. 10, No. 4
    2014

    The NIH supports nearly $30 billion dollars in medical research with over 80% of those funds going directly to researchers to improve treatments and discover cures. They are one of the nation’s largest sources for research funding (your tax dollars at work) and support funding for 237 diseases in 2014. Yet, despite affecting nearly 30 million Americans, COPD is 122 out of 237 diseases that receives research dollars. While nearly 40 diseases enjoyed funding in the billions of dollars, COPD, the second cause of disability received only $102 million in NIH funding in 2014.

    Furthermore, no Congressional funding is directed solely to COPD, which means minimal federal COPD research and no coordination between federal agencies, like the CDC, the FDA, or NIH to tackle COPD on a national scale. Other diseases like cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS have funded, coordinated federal programs, which allows the CDC, NIH and other agencies to work together to develop prevention and research programs dedicated exclusively to treatment and prevention initiatives.


    • Thanks, Barbara, for the comment.
      I agree that COPD research is woefully underfunded, which is illogical (channeling Spock) and harmful.
      I don’t get why given the tremendous negative impact of the disease.
      How can that be changed so there’s more research on COPD?


  3. Unfortunately, groups like the American Lung Association are taking a “wait and see” how stem cells work for other diseases before moving towards “further consideration of these approaches in lung diseases.” Their programs remain focused on smoking cessation programs, improving air quality and educating about asthma.

    The disease itself does not have the type of universal appeal that something like cancer has because many people believe it is a disease only smokers get (and therefore deserved) and most of them are elderly. In truth, COPD can affect anyone, even those who have never smoked. It is a major worldwide problem.

    I am at a loss as to why the various lung disease organizations are not coordinating efforts to get Congressional funding for more research, especially research that includes stem cells, but quite frankly, they may not be very visionary considering the statement I mentioned above. What if all research for every disease was based on a “wait and see” approach? I guess we would all be waiting forever and seeing nothing as far as progress.


  4. I am a retired nurse with COPD and have recently been investigating the possibility of stem cell therapy. It is very expensive for the average person and i don’t know why medicare n BCBS won’t pay for it??? It costs a lot more when I’m hospitalized with exasperation of COPD. Or on several occasions given O2 above 3 liters and ended up on a vent. Are there any organizations that help pay for these procedures???

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