Advertisement

Scientist scolded for supporting Santorum

Jaenisch insists his help on the conservative senator's stem cell bill does not discourage embryonic stem cell work

By | June 21, 2006

Several noted scientists in the field of human embryonic stem cells (hESC), including Rudolf Jaenisch, ventured to Capitol Hill last week (June 15) to lend support to a compromise Senate bill co-authored by conservative senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), designed to break the political logjam blocking additional Federal hESC research funding. Their appearance, however, is being criticized as potentially jeopardizing other legislation (HR 810, S 471) that would expand Federal funding to newly derived hESC cell lines in addition to the 22 currently eligible cell lines. "Dr. Jaenisch is a leading scientist, and with him standing next to Sen. Santorum, there's a risk that some senators might have the mistaken impression that [his bill] is a total substitute for the bill that would lift funding restrictions," Bernard Siegel, executive director of the Genetics Policy Institute, told The Scientist. Santorum's alternative research bill (S 2754), co-authored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), would direct the National Institutes of Health to promote ways of deriving hESCs without destroying human embryos, while permitting other research to continue. Neither this bill nor the bill to expand funding for ESC research has been brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Jaenisch, a biology professor at the Whitehead Institute and MIT, spoke with other scientists at a panel organized by Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, to discuss alternative methods of deriving pluripotent or embryonic-like stem cells without destroying human embryos. Jaenisch and colleagues at Whitehead last year successfully demonstrated in mice a technique known as altered nuclear transfer (ANT), in which stem cells are extracted from non-viable embryos. First proposed by Stanford University professor William Hurlbut, who also serves on the President's Council on Bioethics, ANT has been called a possible "ethical alternative" to somatic cell nuclear transfer. "The point of this bill is that there may be ways to both advance science and find at least one small island of unity in a sea of controversy," Hurlbut said at last week's panel discussion. While endorsing the Santorum-Specter bill, Jaenisch said he supported other bills to increase Federal hESC research funding. "It would be highly unfortunate if implementation of [the Santorum-Specter] bill would be used to delay or even block ongoing promising cell research," Jaenisch told the panel. In a subsequent email to The Scientist, Jaenisch expressed hope that his appearance on the panel would not be misconstrued. "I strongly back the [bill to expand federal funding] for human stem cell research and I surely hope that this position [will] not be misunderstood by senators," Jaenisch wrote. Other scientists on the panel included Markus Grompe, a genetics professor at Oregon Health and Science University, and Alan Russell, director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Grompe, who conducts research using adult stem cells, told the panel he opposes embryo destruction. Russell expressed skepticism that the adult body contains cells equivalent to embryonic stem cells, but he declined to specify where he stood on the issue. "I advocate for patients, rather than for cells," he told The Scientist. Ted Agres tagres@the-scientist.com Links within this article: Rudolf Jaenisch http://www.wi.mit.edu/research/faculty/jaenisch.html T. Agres, "Prospects murky for US stem cell funding," The Scientist, June 8, 2006 http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23595/ "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005" (HR 810) http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:h.r.810: "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005" (S 471) http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:s.471: NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry http://stemcells.nih.gov/research/registry Genetics Policy Institute http://www.genpol.org/ Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act (S 2754) http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:S.2754: Whitehead Institute http://www.wi.mit.edu/about/index.html Santorum panel http://santorum.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressOffice.View&ContentRecord_id=1866&Region_id=0&Issue_id=0 D. Monroe, "Cloned, fertilized stem cells look the same," The Scientist, January 17, 2006 www.thescientist.com/news/display/22971/ William Hurlbut http://www.stanford.edu/~ethics/Site/Main.html President's Council on Bioethics http://www.bioethics.gov/ Markus Grompe http://www.ohsu.edu/genetics/grompe/index.html Alan J. Russell http://newsbureau.upmc.com/Bios/BioRussell.htm McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine http://www.mirm.pitt.edu/
Advertisement

Comments

Avatar of: Kathy Krassa

Kathy Krassa

Posts: 2

June 21, 2006

Surely Jaenisch is not naive enough to think that in this politically charged atmosphere, his support of Santorum will not be presented as support of the government's effective ban on embryonic stem cell research. One has to wonder,then, if Jaenisch, having pioneered work that supports Hurlbut's politically motivated faux ethical alternative to removing the Bush ban on scientific research, sees an opportunity to benefit his reputation and finances, if Santorum's attempt to appear to support stem cell research, while actually blocking it, prevails.

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement
Mettler Toledo
Mettler Toledo

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
BioCision
BioCision
Advertisement
Life Technologies