BIOTECH/POL: Stem cell research, legislation, and public opinion

From: Max More (
Date: Wed Feb 07 2001 - 01:17:29 MST

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Stem Cell Supporter Thompson Approved by Senate, Sworn in, as HHS Secretary
The Senate unanimously confirmed Tommy Thompson to lead the Department of
Health and Human Services.
One question Thompson will have a say in as secretary is whether federal
money can be used for stem cell research, which shows promise in the
treatment of catastrophic diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Thompson told an audience of HHS employees at his swearing in ceremony that
he will review federal policy over use of embryonic stem cells for medical
Without divulging specifics, Thompson responded to questions by HHS workers
by saying that he would review policy on use of stem cells, many of which
come from discarded human embryos.
The cells are being used in research toward a cure for Parkinson's,
Alzheimer's and numerous other diseases. President Bush has implied that he
opposes this sort of research, but Thompson, as governor, heaped praise on
University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers who codiscovered the vital cells.
When asked about his earlier comments on stem cell research, Thompson said
his position may have to change. "I found out that I'm a cabinet officer
now," he said.
It has been reported that Bush may issue executive orders that would
nullify the federal stem cell research guidelines, in addition to helping
AIDS drug manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline PLC, hurting RU-486 "abortion pill"
sponsor Danco Group, and making it easier for smaller construction bidders
like Custom Comforts USA Inc. to avoid union labor.
Anti-abortion activists have asked Bush to reverse Clinton administration
decisions that allowed federal funding of research that uses stem cell
tissue from embryos and aborted fetuses.
Bush does "not have to wait for Congress to act to begin to fulfill" his
"pledge to protect the lives of unborn children," the Christian Defense
Coalition and Generation Life wrote Bush.

Bush Stance on Stem Cell Research a Little Fuzzy
It is still unclear whether President Bush will seek to rescind NIH
guidelines on federally funded stem cell research. He did say, however,
that he is opposed to research involving aborted human fetuses. Bush said
that federal money should not be used for research on fetal tissue or on
so-called stem cells derived from abortions.
"I do not support research from aborted fetuses," Bush said.
He did not say whether he would move to block federal research funding, an
act that many scientists say could stop promising research into therapies
for numerous diseases. Aides said afterward he was signaling his intent to
do so.
Bush had indicated his opposition to such research during the presidential
campaign, but the remarks in late January were his first on the topic since
taking over the White House.
"I will let you know when I decide all policy decisions, but the answer to
your question is no," Bush said when asked whether he believes federal
money should be spent on fetal-tissue and stem-cell research from abortions.
After a presidential campaign in which anti-abortion conservatives were a
cornerstone of his support, Bush moved on Monday, two days into his
presidency, to restore restrictions on US foreign aid to family-planning
organizations involved in abortion. His administration also promised a
review of the government's approval of the RU-486 abortion pill.
Bush did not specifically address embryonic stem cells.
"I believe there's some wonderful opportunities for adult stem cell
research," Bush said. "I believe we can find stem cells from fetuses that
died a natural death, but I do not support research from aborted fetuses."
He commented in a question-and-answer session during a meeting with
Democratic and Republican governors.
Bush stopped short Friday of saying whether or how he might block the NIH

Bioresearch Orgs Appeal to Bush to Keep Funding Stem Cell Research
One hundred and twenty-three life sciences research and advocacy groups on
January 17 sent a letter to then President-elect Bush asking him to
carefully consider the issue of stem cell research and asking him to allow
this research to move forward with federal support.
The letter made the point that "adult" stem cell research is not a viable
alternative to embryonic stem cell research.
NIH guidelines on the conduct of federally funded stem cell research offer
careful federal oversight for the research, the letter said. HHS Secretary
Tommy Thompson's staff has expressed willingness to work with those groups
who support this research, but have yet to call a meeting.
Among the groups that signed the letter were the Alliance for Aging
Research, The ALS Association, American Pediatric Society, American Society
for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, The American Society for Cell
Biology, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Association of
Independent Research Institutes, the Biotechnology Industry Organization,
Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Parkinson's Action Network, the
WiCell Research Institute, and several leading biomedical research
Group Says Poll Shows American Support For Stem Cell Research

Lastly, more than twice as many Americans support federal funding of stem
cell research than oppose it, a poll commissioned by the Juvenile Diabetes
Research Foundation International (JDRF) found.
In the poll, conducted from January 12th to January 15th, 65 percent of
those surveyed said they support federal funding, while only 26 percent
opposed it (the remaining 9 percent of respondents answered "don't know").
The poll surveyed 1,004 Americans and was conducted by Opinion Research
Corporation International.
"We believe this poll is a very significant signal from the American people
that federal funding for stem cell research should continue, and we agree,"
said Peter Van Etten, President and CEO of JDRF.
Prior to asking respondents the question which specifically addressed
federal funding for stem cell research, the following definition of the
research was given: "As you may already know, a stem cell is the basic cell
in the body from which all other cells arise. Medical researchers have been
able to isolate stem cells from excess human embryos developed through in
vitro fertilization and fetal tissue that has been donated to research. The
medical researchers believe that human stem cells can be developed into
replacement cells to cure diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's,
Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, burns, or spinal cord
problems." After hearing the definition, 65 percent of respondents said
they favored the funding of stem cell research by the National Institutes
of Health (NIH).
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Max More, or
President, Extropy Institute.
Senior Content Architect, ManyWorlds Inc.:

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