One of the young men in my congregation is at Northwestern University in Chicago this week, starting an experimental stem cell treatment for multiple sclerosis that is his only hope of living beyond his twenties. Frustratingly late diagnosis, rapidly worsening symptoms, and disappointingly ineffective drugs had all combined over the past 12 months to produce a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
Then through a member in our church listening to the radio one afternoon, Trent found out about the extremely rare but revolutionary treatment that the brilliant Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern is trialling on a very few select patients. A number of amazing, we might even say miraculous, providences followed that have resulted in Trent not only being accepted for the trial but the $150,000 cost being met – partly by a generous donor, partly by a phenomenal church collection, and partly by a group of young girls in our church who caused a state-wide shortage of cookie dough!
The treatment involves “re-booting” Trent’s diseased immune system with a transplant of healthy adult stem cells harvested from his own body. Dr Burt hesitates to call the procedure a cure, but does say that it represents “a paradigm shift in medicine,” especially in the relatively short treatment times and in that no medications are required thereafter.
Which all raises a big question: When was the last time you prayed for medical researchers? For sure, we pray when someone gets MS, Crohn’s, and other autoimmune diseases. We pray for their healing, or for their drugs to slow down the disease, or for patient endurance, and for faith throughout.
But why do we so rarely pray at the “front end,” for the thousands of doctors and scientists who are daily engaged in research into cures for the vast range of human ills. They spend hours and years peering down microscopes, running computer models, experimenting, testing, writing, questioning, consulting, conferring, and thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking.
And where are our prayers? Prayers for perseverance, prayers for funding, prayers for breakthroughs, prayers for ethical procedures, prayers of thanksgiving for every “discovery.” Because that’s what these gifted men and women are doing. They are not inventing or creating so much as discovering what God has already invented and created.
Dr. Burt’s “eureka” moment, when he realized that stem cell transplants could be used to treat MS by re-programming bad cells to lose their memory, was really a “revelation” moment; God revealed what He already knew to him, God shared His knowledge with Dr. Burt for the good of His suffering creatures. And who knows how many more “eurekas” would be heard in labs and hospitals around the world if more of us prayed for these amazing pioneers. Maybe someone is working on the cure for the disease that will eventually invade your life. Why not pray for them today?
And why not share this short video about the remarkable Dr. Burt with your friends and family and prayerfully worship Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord who heals (Ex. 15:26).
Here’s one of the MS success stories:
You can find our more about the significance of this research for MS, Diabetes, Crohn’s, and other autoimmune diseases at Dr Burt’s Website, Division of Immunotherapy And Autoimmune Diseases. Or watch this three-part 25 minute presentation on how stem cells are being used to treat MS: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Finally, here’s a short news report on the treatment.