State of the Stem Cells: Bush’s Vow
But President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address offered encouragement to those hoping to impose a federal ban, regulate the experimentation and stop the cloning tidal wave.
Bush vowed in his Feb. 2 address to work with Congress to ensure that “human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought and sold as a commodity.”
he was pretty clear — he is committed to the dignity of human life and not
exploiting one person at the expense of another,” said Jennifer Lahl, national director of the Center for Bioethics and
White House official said Bush will “lay out the details of a broader bioethics
agenda in the near future.” That agenda will move beyond the current
restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research implemented in
2001 and the proposed ban on all cloning in the
“The president’s concern is that we have biotech labs with private funds that are working night and day to create human embryos they can grow and kill,” Douglas Johnson, National Right to Life Committee legislative director, said.
trying to make body parts or new people. We are trying to carry out experiments
that will move us in the direction of new fundamental understanding and affect
the health of people,” Keith Yamamoto, executive vice dean of the
The university is closely associated with the newly created California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and also conducts embryonic stem-cell research.
State after state is considering legislation or passing legislation that would fund embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning for experimentation, lured by the promise of biotech money and the hope of miracle cures — even though it kills a human being who is already a boy or girl in the first eight weeks of life — and no cure has yet been traced to the research.
At the same time, scientists are experimenting with merging human stem cells with embryonic animals, creating so-called chimeras. There is no national law regulating either human-animal experimentation or cloning.
Supporters of embryonic stem-cell research are gearing up to fight restrictions.
Scientists hope they can create new organs and cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, by building from the early 100-150 cells that compose a week-old embryo. They hope clones will avoid the rejection problems of embryos formed during in-vitro fertilization attempts, but so far they have also run into rejection problems there, too.
In February 2004, South
Korean scientists reported growing the first human embryo clone, destroying it
after seven or eight days. Dolly the sheep was the first animal cloned, in
National Right to Life’s Johnson predicts the president wants to regulate “rogue scientists,” including those who have created chimeras, named for the mythological monster that had a lion’s head, goat’s body and serpent’s tail.
“The president’s remarks and his actions in focusing on this brave new world is very important. It’s very helpful,” Johnson said.
The U.S. House of
Representatives passed a national cloning ban by a vote of 241-155 in February
2003, but it stalled in the Senate. Since last fall’s elections, Republicans
hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate. However, several Republicans, including
Orrin Hatch of
A Wilson Research Strategies poll conducted in August found 69% of Americans oppose all human cloning. The poll, conducted for National Right to Life, interviewed 1,000 adults and had a 3.1% margin of error.
Massachusetts Gov. W. Mitt Romney, a Republican, weighed in on the issue Feb. 10, sending a letter to the state Legislature stating his opposition to legislation that would allow human cloning and stating he could only support embryonic stem-cell research using in-vitro fertilization embryos that would already be discarded. Romney, whose wife has multiple sclerosis, has voiced support for stem-cell research in the past.
“My wife has MS, and we would love for there to be a cure for her disease and for the diseases of others,” he told the New York Times. “But there is an ethical boundary that should not be crossed.”
Valerie Schmalz writes
Embryonic Stem-Cell’s First Cure?
News out of
Still, no one will be standing up and walking anytime soon.
The ethical stumbling block of killing tiny humans for their spare parts remains, as do persistent medical obstacles of malignant tumors and organ rejection that have plagued embryonic stem-cell efforts.
these cells can be directed to be this specific type of neural cell,” said
results they report are not as tantalizing as the news reports would suggest,”
said Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk
Embryonic stem cells differentiate after the first few days of life, eventually creating about 220 different types of cells. So far, no method has been discovered to harness this potential outside of the living embryo. The developing cells tend to form random and often fatal tumors elsewhere in the body, and the body also rejects the cells as foreign matter.
“The tumor issue — that’s a potential safety issue absolutely,” Devitt said. “It would be unethical to attempt to use them in humans. There is a lot of basic science that needs to be done before they can be safely moved to the clinic.”
research was also funded by the National Institutes of Health under federal
funding guidelines laid out by President Bush in 2001, which restricted federal
funding to about 60 existing embryonic stem-cell lines derived from killed
embryos created via in-vitro fertilization. The first lines were developed at
- February 20-26, 2005