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Experts Blast Stem Cell Veto

"You only have one choice; discard them," Sen. Tom Harkin, [D-Iowa] said. "Let's be clear, nothing could have been more pro-life -- if we want to get into that discussion -- than signing H.R. 810."
by Lisa Chun
Washington (UPI) Aug 04, 2006
Health experts said Friday they believe the lack of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research will stagnate progress for the medical community. "It's very difficult to think about a major breakthrough by state funding alone," said Dave Scadden, co-director of Harvard University's Stem Cell Institute, in a discussion Friday at the Center for American Progress. "In research generally, any funding that comes from the private sector is very short."

Scadden said most states do not strongly support stem-cell research and could not afford to fund the research alone.

President Bush's recent veto on Congress's stem cell bill caused outrage to advocates for federally funded stem-cell research. The bill, H.R. 810, would fund research using leftover embryos that people undergoing in vitro fertilization would agree to donate and would have been discarded otherwise.

"You only have one choice; discard them," Sen. Tom Harkin, [D-Iowa] said. "Let's be clear, nothing could have been more pro-life -- if we want to get into that discussion -- than signing H.R. 810."

Harkin said the research the bill would have funded would not create embryos and would have helped cure millions of Americans. Harkin, an advocate for federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research and a supporter of the vetoed bill said the president's veto took away a major potential in this vital study.

"So with one arrogant stroke of his pen, he stopped the bill and he stooped the hopes of millions of Americans," said Harkin.

John Gearhart, Director of the Stem Cell Program at Johns Hopkins University, said while the private sector and a few states have been great leaders in supporting stem-cell research, he disagrees with President Bush's belief that it will be sufficient.

"This [using private sector funding alone] is a very expensive proposition and it's just baloney," Gearhart said. "If this work had been funded more robustly, we would be, I think, much further along in our goals."

Gearhart said there is rarely an opportunity for such an enormous scientific breakthrough as there is with embryonic stem-cell research.

He said he also rejects the president's claims that embryonic stem-cell research destroys human life.

"This is completely wrong," said Gearhart. "I believe that someday that we were going to look back on this period and wonder how we ever rejected or impeded a pathway towards knowledge so imbued to life-saving technology."

Stem-cell research is not only beneficial to treating Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and juvenile diabetes but that a recent breakthrough at UCLA created mature T-cells using embryonic stem-cell research. This discovery could prove a major milestone in treating or curing AIDS.

Gearhart also said he is concerned that such discouragement from the federal government will drive away young, promising scientists. He said while students pursuing a career in stem-cell research are eager, the cuts in federal funding cause concerns with their income and entice them to find work elsewhere.

With recent polls showing 70 percent of Americans in favor of embryonic stem-cell research, Harkin said President's Bush's policy has not changed to meet growing stem cell concerns.

"His position is inflexible, ideological and uniformed," Harkin said. "Prior to vetoing H.R. 810, he refused to listen to other points of view, including the pleas of former First Lady Nancy Reagan."

Scadden dismissed President Bush's policy of using adult stem cells alone. He said such a restriction would not allow researches to view their research in the context.

"That is in general we all learn by virtue of comparing and contrasting," said Scadden. "And if you remove the ability to see things in the context and in the contrast that are provided by other views, that we really not only reduce the aesthetic dimension in sight, but actually are encumbered by the restrictions that that imposes upon us."

Source: United Press International

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US Stem Cell Firms Moving Overseas
Washington (UPI) Aug 08, 2006
President Bush's embryonic stem cell policy appears to be driving U.S. companies to move promising research in this field overseas. Geron, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., said Monday it was collaborating with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to conduct preclinical studies of cell types that had been derived from human embryonic stem cells.

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