House Majority Leader Steve Scalise is undergoing a stem cell transplant as part of his treatment for multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. The announcement has sparked controversy online, with social media users accusing Scalise of hypocrisy for receiving a treatment that he allegedly fought against. However, the stem cell treatment Scalise is receiving has no relation to embryonic stem cell research, and he has never voted to restrict research into the form of treatment he is undergoing.
Multiple myeloma attacks a patient’s bone marrow, and stem cell transplants are often used to replace damaged marrow with healthy marrow. In Scalise’s case, his own hematopoietic stem cells will be extracted and frozen before treatment, which involves intensive chemotherapy followed by a transfusion of healthy stem cells to restore bone marrow functionality. Unlike embryonic stem cells, the hematopoietic stem cells used in this treatment are extracted from a patient’s own body or from a voluntary donor and can only develop into a limited range of blood cells.
Scalise has not taken any notable votes against stem cell research and has even voted in favor of bills supporting stem cell therapy and research. Allegations of hypocrisy have been dismissed by experts, noting that the treatment Scalise is receiving does not involve embryonic stem cells. Scalise’s office declined to comment further on the controversy.