U.S. Senate approves stem cell bills

Legislation to expand Federal research funding faces President's almost-certain veto; two 'alternative' bills also pass muster

By | July 19, 2006

In a largely symbolic victory for biomedical research, the Senate yesterday (July 18) approved a controversial bill (HR 810) to extend Federal research funding to newly derived human embryonic stem cells (hESC). President Bush, who opposes the expansion of funding on ethical grounds, has reaffirmed his promise to veto this legislation, possibly as early as today. "It would be a real shame for the President to issue his first veto against a bill that provides so much hope for so many people," said Sean Tipton, vice president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR). "But if so, we're not done. This issue is not going away," he told The Scientist. After 12 hours of debate that began Monday afternoon, the "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005" passed the Senate with bipartisan support by 63-37, four votes shy of the two-thirds necessary to over-ride a veto. Because the bill originated in the House it will be sent there first following Bush's veto for an over-ride attempt, which is likely to fail given the margin by which it originally passed last year. This means the bill will be dead for the year even if there had been enough over-ride votes in the Senate. "The President is not going to get on the slippery slope of taking something that is living and making it dead for the purpose of research," White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters yesterday. The President's veto, he added, "will be pretty swift." "We are very pleased with the Senate vote," said Leo Furcht, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). "This is a case where one would think the will of public opinion will prevail, but [Bush's] statements indicate he will take actions to the contrary, which is unfortunate," Furcht told The Scientist. The Senate also unanimously approved two less-contentious bills that the president supports. The "Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act," passed 100-0, directs the National Institutes of Health to support ways of deriving hESC without destroying human embryos -- something NIH already does. The "Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006," also passed 100-0, would prohibit trafficking human fetal tissue "gestated for research purposes." The House later yesterday voted to expedite approval of the fetal farming bill 425-0, but unexpectedly failed to win the two-thirds votes needed to expedite passage of the alternative therapies bill, in a 273-154 vote. Bush is expected to sign the fetal farming bill into law and veto the main stem cell expansion bill this week, possibly as early as today. The House may take up the alternative therapies bill later this week. The stem cell expansion bill would open Federal research funding to hESC lines regardless of when they were derived. Current Federal funding is limited to an approved list of stem cell lines that were derived from surplus embryos created for in vitro fertilization before Aug. 9, 2001 -- the date Bush announced the policy, making federal hESC research funding available for the first time. Over the past two days, both Democrats and Republicans took to the podium and told stories of illnesses, often personal and emotional. "I lost a beautiful young daughter some years ago to heart disease," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, (D-N.D.). "I wondered then, and I wonder now, and I will wonder for some long while, if there is anything that we could do to unlock the mystery of that devastating killer," he said, urging support for the expansion bill. "It is safe to say that no scientific issue is more divisive today than this discussion surrounding stem cells," said Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R- Tenn.), who spent months brokering the debate and votes. Frist, a physician and possible presidential contender in 2008, reversed his position last year to support additional Federal hESC funding. "I think the limit on cell lines available for federally funded research is too restrictive," Frist said Monday, kicking off the marathon debate on the Senate floor. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), a leading supporter of the expansion bill, compared opposition to hESC research to the criticism leveled against Galileo and Columbus. "A century from now, people will look back at this debate on stem cell research and wonder how we cannot possibly utilize all of the benefits of science to stop people from dying, to stop people from suffering, when we have these embryos which are either going to be thrown away or used," Specter said during the debate. "Do we use taxpayer dollars, Federal taxpayer dollars, to destroy young human life for research purposes?" countered Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who appeared with three children adopted by way of in vitro fertilization clinics. "If we had taken the half a billion dollars, $500 million, that we have invested in embryonic stem cell research in animals and humans, and invested that instead in adult stem cell research and cord blood research, we would probably have a lot more people in clinical trials today." Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), a physician who opposes hESC research, said problems relating to tissue rejection will complicate development of useful therapies. "Every disease save ALS has an adult stem cell or cord blood stem cell cure that has already been proven in humans," he said, arguing against the expansion bill. Democrats say they hope the stem cell issue will assume greater prominence in tight congressional election races later this year, as Republicans strive to hold onto majorities in both houses. Commentary on the debate even extended overseas. Martin Rees, president of the The Royal Society, said in a statement yesterday that "millions of patients across the world could suffer" if Bush vetoes the bill. Limiting hESC funding to current U.S. policy "would surely mean that the United States will continue to fall behind in this important and exciting area," Rees said. Ted Agres tagres@the-scientist.com Links within this article: "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005" (HR 810) thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:h.r.810: FASEB letter to Bush, July 17, 2006. opa.faseb.org/pdf/presidentstemcellveto7.17.06.pdf "Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act" (S 2754) thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:S.2754: Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006 (S 3504) thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:s.3504: K. Pallarito, "NIH stem cell chief resigns," The Scientist, April 21, 2006 www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23340/ NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry stemcells.nih.gov/research/registry The President Discusses Stem Cell Research www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/08/print/20010809-2.html T Agres, "U.S. Senate to OK expanded stem cell bill? July 10, 2006 www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23895/ "Patients worldwide could suffer if US stem cell Bill is vetoed," www.royalsoc.ac.uk/news.asp?id=4914
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Avatar of: Jim Ferris

Jim Ferris

Posts: 1

July 19, 2006

In this article, talking about the passed Embryonic Stem Cell Bill: "a lot of hope for a lot of people", "utilize all the science we can... to stop suffering", if Bush vetoes this Bill, many patients will suffer.....\nPlease, everyone-- let's get back to the real FACTS in this Stem Cell Research debate.\n If you have a live human embryo:\n1.) It is a human being, not something else.\n2.) It is alive.\n3.) To sum it up, AN EMBRYO IS A LIVING HUMAN BEING!\n4.) It is wrong, immoral, a sin, to deliberately terminate the life of an innocent human being.\n5.) Therefore, Embryonic Stem Cell research as it is now is wrong and unacceptable, and should not receive any money--especially tax money.\n\nIt is heartening and refreshing that President Bush has today vetoed the ill-advised, dangerous Bill attempting to advance ESC research. \n\nThese are NOT embryos "with potential to become human beings" as one TV news reporter wrongly said around July 18. \nThey ARE unique human beings from the minute a new life starts from fertilization--in a womb or anywhere. That's plain and simple the way human reproduction works!\nNormally, everyone knows that fact by high school age or younger. However, facts are often lost in the shuffle of Liberal politicized rhetoric; it's sometimes "Don't confuse me with the facts".\n\n>>> For those who posit that these are not human beings yet: there are a lot of lies, brainwashing, and misinformation spreading around.\nCan any of the Liberal Democrats or others step forward and say with a straight face that these embryos are anything other than Human Beings??? If so, What are they? Can anyone say that they are not living; not fully alive??? The clear answer is NO.\nThere is no "transition stage" or gray area where the organism is not quite human yet or whatever.\n\n>>> For those who bring out the sob stories (for which we all are sorry and hopeful for improvement) to try to convince govt. to kill other humans so ESC can cure many diseases and save + help a lot of ppl: \nThere is ongoing discussion about the comparative merit, usefulness, efficacy of ASC and ESC. However, Let's look at the unavoidable track record--\nADULT Stem Cell research/treatment has so far brought healing or improving to at least 71 humans, including one paralyzed woman made able to walk again. (Citizens, doctors, politicians, media, foundations/orgs, and others-- are you listening?)\nEMBRYONIC Stem Cell research/treatment has not resulted in ANY cures or improvements in humans.\nIn fact, I understand in ESC research on animals and cells, the results have been cancerous growth and other negative things. To reiterate-- there have been no positive results in humans over the years from this immoral, disgusting research.\n[Source: Christian Medical Association and others.]\n\n>>> For those who say these leftover embryos are just going to be wasted, we might as well use them:\nSay we find 20 abandoned children living on the streets who very likely will die (this is used here just for illustration purposes). \nAre those that advocate embryo killing going to say someone should kill these kids because going to die anyway and harvest their stem cells, organs, eyes, tissue, hair, to help other people????\n(These embryos should not be over-produced to cause so much excess in the first place; and more "Snowflake Adoptions" should happen for existing little microscopic people.)\n \n>>> For those of the public who say the govt. should put more money toward this immoral research: Some "scientists", politicians, and others are hyping and promoting the potential for ESC far beyond honesty and reality (with huge help from Hollywood, Liberal media, and others). A primary motive for some is to get huge amounts of $$$ to keep research programs alive. I think there have been deliberate falsifying or distorting research results for the purpose of hyping the alleged potential.\n~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~\n\nSignificantly more attention, money, and effort should go toward Adult Stem Cell research ( "non-lethal"); and not a penny more should go to Embryonic S.C. research unless find a non-killing way to do it.\n\nPlease get down to the "nitty-gritty" and realize an embryo is a God-given human life to be protected. We all (except Adam and Eve) were once embryos and fetuses; and we each had our own human personhood and unique personal identity from that first moment, in spite of any statements to the contrary. \nA human embryo is not someone to be put to death and exploited, no matter how good the intentions.
Avatar of: Bob Sagett

Bob Sagett

Posts: 1

September 20, 2007

stem cell research is a gift that god gave us, the fetus may look like a child but in fact it will help save others from pain. i can think now, and i would gladly give up my life to save others especially the ones i love. think about the lives you could save by maybe erasing one others.

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