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Nobel Laureates' Letter to President Bush - www.washingtonpost.com
We the undersigned urge you to support Federal funding for research using human pluripotent [= embryonic] stem cells.
Some have suggested that adult stem cells may be sufficient to pursue all treatments for human disease. It is premature to conclude that adult stem cells have the same potential as embryonic stem cells -- and that potential will almost certainly vary from disease to disease. Current evidence suggests that adult stem cells have markedly restricted differentiation potential. Therefore, for disorders that prove not to be treatable with adult stem cells, impeding human pluripotent stem cell research risks unnecessary delay for millions of patients who may die or endure needless suffering while the effectiveness of adult stem cells is evaluated.
While we recognize the legitimate ethical issues raised by this research, it is important to understand that the cells being used in this research were destined to be discarded in any case. Under these circumstances, it would be tragic to waste this opportunity to pursue the work that could potentially alleviate human suffering. For the past 35 years many of the common human virus vaccines -- such as measles, rubella, hepatitis A, rabies and poliovirus -- have been produced in cells derived from a human fetus to the benefit of tens of millions of Americans. Thus precedent has been established for the use of fetal tissue that would otherwise be discarded.
The Truth About Stem Cells
But the number of researchers in this area is still small, as is the amount of grant dollars needed to fund the research. And sadly, embryonic stem cells have been held up as the panacea for disease and a fountain of youth, despite the advantages of adult stem cells both scientifically and ethically. Given that adult stem cells have shown themselves to be scientifically more successful than embryonic stem cells, and ethically palatable, much more needs to be heard and said about adult stem cells, and much more funding needs to go to adult stem-cell research.
One distinct advantage of using our own adult stem cells is that there will be no transplant rejection, since it is our own tissue. Use of human embryonic stem cells will require lifelong use of drugs to prevent rejection of the tissue. Or, the patient will have to be cloned (a second ethical issue!), and that embryo (the patient's twin) sacrificed to obtain the embryonic stem cells for the tissue (essentially creating a human being whose only purpose is to be "harvested").
There are several excellent alternatives to embryos, and they are actually better potential sources of stem cells for numerous reasons. The best sources are from our own organs termed "adult stem cells" or "tissue stem cells." Another excellent source is cord blood; the small amount of blood left in an umbilical cord after it is detached from a newborn is rich in stem cells. In the last two years, we've gone from thinking that we had very few stem cells in our bodies, to recognizing that many (perhaps most) organs maintain a reservoir of these cells.
Stem-cell Research and the Catholic Church - www.americancatholic.org
Catholic leaders, including Pope John Paul II and U.S. bishops, had implored the president to reject such funding. In the end, Bush allowed research funding only for those stem cells that already had been extracted from destroyed embryos. He prohibited further destruction of embryos for stem-cell research.
Stem-cell research in itself is not wrong, but creating and/or destroying human life in order to "mine" stem cells is, according to Church teaching.
When President George W. Bush met with Pope John Paul II at Castel Gandolfo, Italy, on July 23, 2001, the President was surprised that stem-cell research was on the pope's agenda. Yet the pope sees the United States as pivotal in setting moral social policies worldwide.
Cutting-edge researchers are making unheralded breakthroughs with stem cells from umbilical cords—but have a hard time breaking through the NIH funding wall. "I think people who want embryonic stem cells just don't want [alternatives] to work"
The National Institutes of Health has shunned her grant applications three times. In one grant review, a fellow scientist commented that her stem cells come from tissue inside umbilical cords, not days-old embryos.
"We already have a good source of stem cells," the grant reviewer wrote. "Why do we need another?"
Frequently, the scientists supporting the popular culture are the ones deciding which research projects receive grants from the NIH.
If a research proposal goes against the flow of popular science, it will have a hard time getting through the peer review process, Dr. Faustman says.
With the five-year grant they received from the NIH, Dr. Kurtzberg and her colleagues successfully treated other children with ALD, leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and severe combined immune deficiency, also known as bubble-boy disease. The same year President Bush set rules for federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, the NIH chose not to renew the cord blood transplant grant.
"The NIH said, 'Congratulations, cord blood transplants work. We fund basic research. You are now beyond that. You now need to get funding from somewhere else,'" Mr. Barsh said. There was no money left for Dr. Kurtzberg to do clinical trials, but so much left to discover.
The NIH . . . has funded only 30 projects involving stem cells from umbilical cords. In contrast, it has funded 634 projects involving embryonic stem cells.
Embryonic stem cell research as an obsession
The scientific breakthroughs and the medical therapies have all come from adult stem cells and none as yet have come from embryonic stem cells. Rather than welcoming the results and pursuing support for what works, there are paradoxically increasing demands for the recognition and funding of embryonic SCR.