Stem Cell Supporters Want Funding
July 19, 2001; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- Supporters of research using embryonic stem cells are pointing to two new endorsements as they urge President Bush to allow Federal funds for the work. A Federal health research report released Wednesday said "scientists should be free to pursue all avenues of research, including that involving human embryos." Also, Sen. Bill Frist, R-TN, the only physician in the Senate and a close Bush ally, announced his support for Federal funding of the practice. "I conclude that embryonic and adult stem cell research should be Federally funded within a carefully regulated, fully transparent framework," Frist said. Noting his opposition to abortion, Frist said he felt compelled to support research that could save lives. The 200-plus page scientific report from the National Institutes of Health does not make a specific recommendation, one way or the other, on Federal funding but does endorse research using embryonic stem sells.
Bush Ally Supports Stem Cells
July 19, 2001; PM; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- The Senate's only physician, who also is a close ally of President Bush, added new momentum to the drive for Federally financed medical research with embryonic stem cells. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Wednesday he opposed abortion but felt compelled to support research that could save lives. The senator -- who has often transformed the President's views into Senate proposals -- also proposed several limits to the new funding. Namely, he'd limit the number of sets of cultured stem cells to come from a single embryo. Frist offered a compromise that he said would allow stem-cell research to progress "in a manner respectful of both the moral significance of human embryos and the potential of stem-cell research to improve health." Bush, also an abortion opponent, is considering whether to allow Federal funds to pay for research on stem cells taken from human embryos. Stem cells are master cells that can generate body tissue.
Supporters Want Funding
Associated Press Writer
July 19, 2001; Washington, D.C. (AP) - "I strongly believe that we have measured the question carefully, and that it is time to move on," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, whose Senate panel oversees Federal health spending and held the hearing where the Report and Frist's opinion were made public. "The NIH report is clear on this important point: Embryonic and adult stem cells are different and both present immense research opportunities for potential therapies," Harkin said at the hearing. Harkin added he will push for legislation allowing the stem-cell funding, if Bush doesn't approve it.
"During the next several years, it will be important to compare embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells in terms of their ability to proliferate, differentiate, survive and function after transplant, and avoid immune rejection,'' said the report.
Bush is weighing whether to allow Federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, which is opposed by some because isolating the cells requires the death of a human embryo. Scientists believe they can learn to direct the development of embryonic stem cells to grow mature cells or tissues that could be used to treat disease. Some estimate that stem cells could benefit more than 100 million patients with such disorders as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.
Opponents of the research believe embryos should not be killed, even for the treatment of disease. Instead, they favor research using adult stem cells, which are taken from mature organs and then manipulated in the lab. The Federal researchers said embryonic stem cells can develop into all types of cells and tissue, a flexibility that may be lacking in so-called "adult" stem cells taken from mature tissue. However, the report concludes, "the answers clearly lie in conducting more research."
Frist offered a ten-point compromise that he said would allow stem-cell research to progress "in a manner respectful of both the moral significance of human embryos and the potential of stem-cell research to improve health."
Most of his points are consistent with the NIH guidelines, but he also calls for a limit to the number of stem cell lines that could be Federally-funded for study. That compromise that has been discussed among administration officials, but roundly rejected by most research scientists.
There currently are an estimated one-dozen embryonic stem cell lines. But researchers say it will take experiments with scores, perhaps hundreds, of embryonic stem-cell lines for scientists to be confident that basic biological discoveries are universal and not characteristics that are unique to the limited number of cell lines.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle called Frist's support of the research "very encouraging," adding that the senator "carries great weight and has a great deal of respect'' because of his medical expertise. Frist's statement "is an indication that support lies on both sides of the aisle."
A key abortion opponent, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also supported Federal funding for stem-cell research. But he added that he is troubled that some companies would create embryos in order to conduct this research. "This type of research is indicative of the problems we will continue to encounter if we don't allow Federal funding with strict guidelines for embryonic stem-cell research," Hatch said.
On the Web:
HHS Fact Sheet: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2001pres/01fsstemcell.html.
Scientists believe the cures for many diseases could be unlocked from research using stem cells. Abortion opponents say harvesting the stem cells requires the death of an embryo, which many regard as human life.
A Federal health research report released Wednesday said "scientists should be free to pursue all avenues of research, including that involving human embryos." Supporters also embraced the 200-plus page report from the NIH, though it did not specifically call for Federal funding.
Opponents favor research using "adult" stem cells, which are taken from mature organs and then manipulated in the lab. The Federal researchers said embryonic stem cells can develop into all types of cells and tissue, a flexibility that may be lacking in adult stem cells.
"The NIH report is clear on this important point: Embryonic and adult stem cells are different and both present immense research opportunities for potential therapies," Harkin said at the hearing.
Most of Frist's points are consistent with the NIH guidelines. He would also ban cloning of embryos for research. House lawmakers plan to take up that issue Thursday. Some research scientists have rejected certain restrictions, especially the limits on stem-cell lines.