Stem Cell :: Consumer Advocates praise Congress for approving Stem Cell Research Funding Bill

News that scientists have derived cells that behave like stem cells from the skin of a mouse is a major scientific breakthrough that underscores the need to continue human embryonic stem cell research, The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said.

The consumer advocacy organization also praised today?s congressional passage of a bill supporting stem cell research.

Word of the scientific breakthrough came the day before Congress passed a bill that would ease federal restrictions on funding embryonic stem cell research. The vote in the House was 247-176, short of what?s needed to override an expected veto by President Bush. It would be the second in two years on the issue.

“Someday, perhaps sooner rather than later, this technique of reprogramming skin cells so they are able to become virtually any cell in the body — just like stem cells — will be done in humans,” said John M. Simpson FTCR’s stem cell project. “But to understand those cells completely, it’s imperative that work continue on stem cells derived in the traditional way. It’s outrageous that President Bush continues to stand in the way of potentially lifesaving research to play to the prejudices of his perceived political base.”

Scientists believe embryonic stem cells hold tremendous potential for curing and understanding diseases because the cells are capable of developing into any of the more than 200 cell types in the body. Because very early stage embryos are destroyed when the cells are derived, some people object to the research. Proponents note the embryos used to derive the cells are left over from fertilization clinics and would otherwise be discarded.

“The new technique described this week may ultimately be the way most stem cells are derived, or adult stem cells may prove to be best for some cures,? said Simpson. “But we will never know unless scientists — with appropriate oversight and accountability to the public — are free to pursue their research.”

A result of the ban on most federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is that many states have begun their own programs, FTCR noted. California under Proposition 71 created a $6 billion program to fund $3 billion in research by selling bonds. A lawsuit challenging the program was just turned aside and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has awarded $210 million in grants for training, research and laboratories.

“We believe strongly in the importance of stem cell research, and because the people are paying for it, they must be ensured affordable access to any of the discoveries they have financed,” said Simpson. “FTCR’s stem cell project is an effort to make the public funding of the research completely transparent and accountable to the people who are footing the bill. Stem cell research is vital and must go forward, but it cannot become a blank check for biotech.”

A possible danger of a variety of state programs, FTCR noted, is that regulations will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Representatives of 10 states recently met in Irvine, CA, to discuss areas of common concern. The meeting was held under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences and one of its staff members barred the public from attending.

“We completely support efforts to foster co-operation among the states, but the notion that the National Academy of Sciences would close such a meeting to the public is absolutely outrageous,” said Simpson. “It is the outmoded, elitist, public-can’t-understand-science attitude, that ultimately undermines the public’s willingness to fund research. It’s time NAS moved into the 21st century. Their current behavior is exactly what prompts the know-nothing attitude of our president and his right-wing base.”

Leave a Comment