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HUMAN STEM CELL RESEARCH

Media reports, 2003 & 2004

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bullet2003-MAR-7: MI: Youth recovers after stem cell treatment: Dimitri Bonnville, 16, had been accidentally shot in the heart with a nail gun. During open-heart surgery, he suffered a massive heart attack. His only two options were to go on a waiting list for a heart transplant, or try an experimental stem cell procedure. He chose the latter option. He has since obtained "substantial recovery of cardiac function." The stem cells were harvested from his own blood. Scientists hope that this was not a fluke, and that the treatment may be able to help other children and youth. However, there are doubts that this option would help older patients. William O'Neill, chief of cardiology at Beaumont Hospital said: "We know that based on age, older people have less recovery of heart function. It's very possible this is age-dependent." Dr. Sam Dudley, a cardiologist and stem cell researcher at Emory University in Atlanta, GA said that it may be hard to know if the patient's improvement was due to the stem cell therapy, and, if so, how it worked. He said: "I think this is a wonderful thing that they did. We have to (proceed) judiciously because we need to know a little bit more what we're doing." 1
bullet2003-MAY-9: USA: Few useable stem cell lines remain: According to the Family Research Council, only 11 of the original 70 stem cell lines are still useable for research. The rest appear to have died off or spontaneously converted to one of over 200 types of human cells. 2 The remaining 11 lines are expected to become useless in the near future.
bullet2003-OCT-13: Australia: Country becoming an international leader: The Australian Broadcasting Commission reported that:

"Australia is fast becoming an international leader in the field of stem cell research. While legislators in Europe and the US continue to restrict embryonic stem cell research, Australia is seen as comparatively liberal in its approach. And some of the world's leading stem cell researchers, currently meeting in Melbourne, say that Europe's loss will be Australia's gain....Australia is poised to pick up new researchers, and research, that might otherwise have been done overseas."

After an extended debate in 2002, culminated by a free-vote, the Australian Parliament authorized the use of new human embryos in stem cell research. 3

bullet2003-DEC-10: MA: Scientists converted stem cells to working sperm -- in mice: Scientists at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, MA, working with others at Boston hospitals and Harvard University, took stem cells from a region of an early mouse embryo and coaxed them to develop into sperm capable of fertilizing a mouse ova. This experiment could eventually lead the way to allow infertile men to produce viable sperm, and thus have the option of fathering a child. By isolating the right type of embryonic cells, they were able to produce a self-replicating line of germ cells in their laboratory. These were injected into mouse eggs, and the first stages of fertilization took place in about half the cases. In about 20% of the experiments, a blastocyst was formed. However, there is no indication yet that the blastocyst could mature to produce a viable fetus and a live birth. 4
bullet2004-JAN-4: NJ: New Jersey becomes second state to permit stem cell research: Governor James E. McGreevey signed a stem cell research bill into law. Such research is now permitted in both New Jersey and California. Bills are pending in Illinois and New York. Accompanied by Christopher Reeve, Governor McGreevey said: "Today we celebrate the possible in our state. It is our obligation as a people and as a state to move the frontiers of science forward." Reeve noted that many people had asked what stem cells could do to cure his spinal cord injury. He said:  "It is not about what stem cells will do for one individual. What it's about, this legislation, is about whether or not we have the courage to protect the freedom of ethical and responsible scientific inquiry." Marie Tasy of New Jersey Right to Life said: "We were hopeful that perhaps he would take the expert opinions and concerns into consideration before formulating his final decision, which unfortunately he did not." 5
bullet2004-JAN-8: U.S.: Senate Majority leader urges review of stem cell policy: Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, MD urged a review of the President's three year old restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research. Fifty eight senators -- including 14 Republicans -- sent a letter to President Bush this week urging the use of unused, spare frozen embryos for stem cell research. A similar letter was issued by 206 representatives during May. Former president Ronald Reagan's death due to Alzheimer's Disease gave new impetus to the expansion of stem cell research in order to find a cure for that and other diseases. Steve McConnell, of the Alzheimer's Association said: "We're getting increasing signals from Capitol Hill that there's strong interest," in changing Bush's policy. Laura Bush, interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America program said: "We need to balance the interest in science with moral issues." She said that there are alternatives to "abusing embryos" in research. "There are stem cell embryos ready that people can use for research, but it's a very delicate line," she said. Tony Mazzaschi of the Association of American Medical Colleges says, referring to the suffering of Ronald Reagan and his family, said: "I expect the pressure on the president to adjust his policy to continue building."

Currently, 78 lines of stem cells are listed in a federal registry. However, only 19 are usable for research. All contain contaminants that make them useless to treat humans. 6
bullet2004-JUN-12: U.S.: John Kerry endorses research using embryo stem cells: John Kerry, the presumed Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2004-NOV endorsed Nancy Reagan's efforts to help find a cure for Alzheimer's. (See next item). He challenged the Bush administration to relax restrictions on stem cell research in order to pursue potential cures for this and many other illnesses and disorders. He said that ethical questions can be resolved through "good will and good sense." He said that researchers can find cures:

"if only they are allowed to look." Kerry said that Nancy Reagan "...told the world that Alzheimer's had taken her own husband to a distant place, and then she stood up to help find a breakthrough that someday will spare other husbands, wives, children and parents from the same kind of heartache." Kerry said: "If we pursue the limitless potential of our science, and trust that we can use it wisely, we will save millions of lives and earn the gratitude of future generations." 7

bullet2004-JUN-13: U.S.: Bush administration defends prohibitions on stem cell research: President Bush's campaign spokesperson, Scott Stanzel, said that present prohibitions and restrictions on stem cell research are conducted "in ways that respect human dignity and help build the culture of life....Under President Bush's thoughtful leadership, for the first time federal dollars are supporting human embryonic stem cell research consistent with the ethical guidelines." 8
bullet2004-JUN-14: U.S.: Nancy Reagan advocates the use of embryo stem cells: In the words of the Daily News: "The family of former President Ronald Reagan declared political war on the White House yesterday over President Bush's ban on stem cell research." Former president Reagan died a slow death due to Alzheimer's; the disease took over a decade to kill him. Apparently many in the ex-president's family agree with researchers in the field that embryo stem cell research offers a very promising future in the treatment or even cure of Alzheimer's, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, ALS, and dozens of other degenerative diseases and disorders which harm -- or will harm -- hundreds of millions of Americans. Ronald Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, wrote in Newsweek that her mother:

"...has emerged as a central figure in the effort to get the federal government out of the way....If that phrase about the government sounds familiar, it should. I grew up hearing my father say often that the government should get out of the way." She called Nancy Reagan "the voice for stem cell research now." She feels that this role has "placed her firmly against the White House - at least those currently in residence there."

Reaction was swift:

bulletSenator Arlen Specter (R-PA), a moderate Republican agrees with the Reagan family. He said on CBS' Face the Nation TV program: "The real pro-life position here ... is to use these stem cells....We ought to give scientists a free hand."
bulletJames Dobson, founder of the Fundamentalist Christian group, Focus on the Family, compared freedom of research using stem cells to the atrocities committed by Nazi scientists who experimented on living individuals during World War II. Dobson said: "The people that are demanding this are ... using a grieving widow to try to make this case to the American people."

Daily News reports that during the week of 2004-JUN-6:

"...58 senators from both political parties sent Bush a letter asking him to ease his hard stance. Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY) introduced the Ronald Reagan Memorial Stem Cell Research Act in the House." 8

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bullet2004-JUN-20: NJ: State may fund of embryonic stem cell research: Governor Jim McGreevey is expected to announce funding of embryonic stem cell research worth 6.5 million dollars. This would make New Jersey the first state in the U.S. to use public funds for this purpose. McGreevey cited Nancy Reagan's comments in favor of research. He said:

"Nancy Reagan's courage and dignity in calling for stem cell research will hopefully be the foundation for the White House changing its position. In New Jersey we clearly understand that stem cell research offers the greatest amount of hope and possibilities for thousands of citizen that suffer from Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and other diseases....This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. This is an issue of providing hope and opportunity for a potential cure for our citizens, their families and their friends."

State Senator Bernard Kenny said:

"Stem cell research has become an issue of national significance, and New Jersey has taken the lead. This is an effort to advance the science and technology, which can improve the quality of life of people. The governor and this legislature have seized a historic initiative." Assemblyman Louis Manzo (D-31st Dist.) said: "This is not about politics, it is about life and health. The governor and our state will take the lead in providing hope to people who have Alzheimer's disease, Sickle Cell disease or Diabetes. No one can realize the impact and benefits this research will produce. And this stand will resonate long after the ink has faded on the legislation....Potentially this research will unlock the door, and will give us a savings in human life and will reduce people's pain."

Hoboken Councilman Tony Soares suffers from conditions associated with dwarfism. He said:

"I hope that one day soon, the people across the country will be able to benefit from research that will derive from Governor McGreevey's stem cell legislation. The fact is, with so many couples having in vitro fertilization, the rise in extra embryos makes hope available. If a couple donates their eggs it's their personal choice to help a person in need of a cure, and they are the true heroes in all of this."

Several Roman Catholic bishops have stated that they would not issue Holy Communion to the governor and other legislators who voted for the bill. Senator Kenny responded:

"This is about using our intellectual abilities to improve the delivery of health care services. This is the humanitarian position to take. We need to find a cure for the insurable. This is not political. It is simply the right thing to do." 9

bullet2004-JUL-28: Ron Reagan supports embryonic stem-cell research: In a speech before the Democratic National Convention, Ron Reagan, the son of the late former President Ronald Reagan said, in part:

"It does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many. And how can we affirm life if we abandon those whose own lives are so desperately at risk? 'The tide of history is with us. Like all generations who have come before ours, we are motivated by a thirst for knowledge and compelled to see others in need as fellow angels on an often difficult path, deserving of our compassion.''

Democratic candidate John Kerry has said that he would rescind President Bush's ban on research if elected. 10

bullet2004-AUG-28: Stem Cell laboratory firebombed: Police revealed that an explosion that blew out a number of windows at Amaranth Bio in Watertown MA was caused by a pipe bomb. The lab specializes in therapeutic cloning. Nobody was injured. Watertown police have identified a "person of interest" who may be involved in the explosion. The FBI is assisting in the investigation. 11
bullet2004-NOV-02: CA: Proposition 71 on the ballot: If passed, Proposition 71 would allow the state of California to invest 3 billion dollars of state funds in embryonic stem cell research. It has the support of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, many Nobel Prize winners, the late actor Christopher Reevertly before his death, the California Chamber of Commerce, actor Michael J. Fox, and George P. Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan. Some feminists are opposed; they fear that the demand for embryos will create "egg farms." Social and religious conservatives are generally opposed, mainly because they regard 5 day old embryos as human persons. State funding may be the only way that stem cell research will produce cures. Venture capital is generally not available, because of the time line: medical treatments may be decades away. Investors generally want faster return on their money. 12
bullet2004-NOV-03: CA: Proposition 71 approved: California voters approved Proposition 71 by a relatively wide margin: 59 to 41%.
bullet2004-NOV-15: WI: Governor announces plans to build research facility: This week, Governor Jim Doyle (D) announced plans to spend $750 million to build an embryonic stem-cell research institute on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He said: "Other states, like California, are trying to play catch-up and build from scratch what we already have here." He added that Wisconsin has the "best scientists in the world and first-class research institutions." The money will come from both state and private sources. 13

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Related essays on this web site:

Cloning and stem cell research are unrelated lines of research. However, they both start with an ovum and initially use some of the same techniques.

bulletWhen does human personhood begin?
bulletHuman cloning
bulletPre-implantation genetic diagnosis
bulletTherapeutic cloning

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References used in the above essay:

  1. Kristen Philipkowski, "Stem Cells Heal a Broken Heart," Wired News, 2003-MAR-7, at: http://www.wired.com/
  2. "NIH Demand: Kill more embryonic humans," Family Research Council Washington Update report, 2003-MAY-9.
  3. Ben Knight, "Australia ahead in stem cell research," Australian Broadcasting commission, 2003-OCT-10, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  4. "Embryo made using lab-built sperm," BBC News, UK Edition, 2003-DEC-10, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  5. Krista Larson, "N.J. 2nd State to OK Stem Cell Research," Associated Press, 2004-JAN-5, at: http://www.newsday.com/
  6. Andrea Stone & Dan Vergano, "Congress looks again at stem-cell research," USA Today, 2004-JUN-8, at: http://www.usatoday.com
  7. Siobhan McDonough, "Kerry promotes stem cell research," Associated Press, 2004-JUN-13, at: http://www.theolympian.com/
  8. James Meek, "Gloves off in Reagan stem war. Patti to W: 'Get out of way'," Daily News, 2004-JUN-14, at: http://www.nydailynews.com
  9. Al Sullivan, "A bold move: NJ gov to fund stem cell research," Jersey City Reporter, 2004-JUN-20, at: http://www.zwire.com/
  10. Pete Winn, "Not a Galileo Moment," Citizen Link, Focus on the Family, Daily Update, 2004-JUL-28.
  11. "Police Confirm Pipe Bomb Blast at Stem-Cell Lab," Reuters, 2004-AUG-27, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  12. Ceci Connolly, "California Puts Stem Cells to a Popular Test. $3 Billion Plan Would Bypass Bush Policy," Washington Post, 2004-OCT-25, Page A01, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  13. "As California goes, so goes the nation?," Citizen Link daily update, 2004-NOV-19.

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Copyright 2003 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-NOV-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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