[ExI] Foes of stem cell research now face tough battle

John Grigg possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com
Mon Nov 24 07:05:28 UTC 2008

It's about damn time!

John  : )


Foes of stem cell research now face tough battle

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer Kevin Freking, Associated
Press Writer – Sun Nov 23, 12:05 pm ET

Claudia Castillo who has received the world's first tailor-made
trachea transplant grown using her own stem cells poses in an undated
photo Reuters – Claudia Castillo from Colombia poses in an undated
photograph. Castillo, 30, has received the world's …

    * Stem Cell Research Slideshow: Stem Cell Research

WASHINGTON – When the Bush presidency ends, opponents of embryonic
stem cell research will face a new political reality that many feel
powerless to stop.

President-elect Barack Obama is expected to lift restrictions on
federal money for such research. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,
also has expressed interest in going ahead with legislation in the
first 100 days of the new Congress if it still is necessary to set up
a regulatory framework.

"We may lose it, but we're going to continually fight it and offer the
ethical alternative," said Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa. "I don't know what
the votes will be in the new Congress ... but it's very possible we
could lose this thing."

Stem cells are the building blocks that turn into different kinds of
tissue. Embryonic stem cells,e unlike more mature versions, are blank
slates. If scientists could control them, they could direct
regenerative therapy, perhaps allowing a diabetic's pancreas to begin
produce insulin, for example.

Harvesting stem cells from four- or five-day-old embryos kills the
embryo, which outrages opponents of this type of research. But
supporters say hundreds of thousands of embryos stored in fertility
clinics eventually will be destroyed anyway and that people should be
allowed to donate them for research that could help others.

"I believe that it is ethical to use these extra embryos for research
that could save lives when they are freely donated for that express
purpose," Obama wrote during the campaign in response to 14 questions
from scientists, doctors and engineers.

Under President George W. Bush, federal money for research on human
embryonic stems cells was limited to those stem cell lines, or
families of constantly dividing cells, that were created before Aug.
9, 2001. No federal dollars could be used on research with cell lines
from embryos destroyed from that point forward. Federal regulations do
not restrict embryonic stem cell research using state or private

John Podesta, head of Obama's transition team, strongly hinted that
the president-elect would deal with stem cell research soon after
taking office Jan. 20. "As you know, he has said something specific
about stem cell research, so I think you can expect that what he said
in the campaign will be fulfilled once in office," Podesta said.

Obama made it clear during the campaign he would overturn Bush's directive.

"As president, I will lift the current administration's ban on federal
funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August
9, 2001, through executive order, and I will ensure that all research
on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight," he

Opponents of such research say they will press their case on several fronts.

The main argument is that life begins at conception — that once
fertilization occurred in the lab, so did a human being.

Secondly, they will argue that scientists are having success using
other methods — adult stem cells that form specific tissues, or
reprogramming skin cells to act like stem cells — so money should be
directed where the biggest scientific breakthroughs have occurred. For
example, this past week, doctors gave a woman a new windpipe with
tissue grown from her own stem cells, eliminating the need for
anti-rejection drugs.

"We still intend to try and talk about the real facts that it's the
adult stem cells providing the actual treatments," said David
Prentice, senior fellow at the Family Research Council.

Added Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America: "There's
a lot that's happened over the seven years that includes some
remarkable scientific discoveries, which really should have made the
issue of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research moot."

But Sean Tipton, director of public affairs at the American Society
for Reproductive Medicine, took aim at those arguments.

"It's a little disingenuous for opponents who have effectively blocked
federal funding of the work to then cite a lack of progress," Tipton
said. "You hold someone at the starting line then you criticize them
for not getting very far."

Dr. Chi Dang, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine, agreed there have been tremendous advances with
adult stem cells. But he said it is not yet clear that they have
enough flexibility to be used in all the ways that an embryonic stem
cell could be.

"From a scientific viewpoint, we would be cornering ourselves into
generalizing things that may not be true," Dang said.

Dang also said these embryos would otherwise be discarded.

"The question is: Is it ethically more acceptable to destroy these
embryos by pouring acid on them, or do you deploy these clusters of
cells to create new cell lines that could benefit us in the future?"

Samuel Pfaff, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biologic Studies,
said he also supports greater embryonic stem cell research to
understand what makes them so special that scientists can endow other
cells with similar properties.

"I think it's very fair to say that the long-term trajectory for this
area of science is to understand embryonic stem cells so well that we
don't have to use them anymore." Pfaff said.


On the Net:

Stem cell information at the National Institutes of Health:

Candidates answers on embryonic stem cell research:

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