Nebraska Lawmakers Battle Over Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 26, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Nebraska Lawmakers Battle Over Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
July 26, 2004

Lincoln, NE ( — Speaker of the Legislature Curt Bromm (I-Wahoo) gave his support Friday to a project by a University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher using embryonic stem cells.

Bromm’s announcement came a day after Governor Mike Johanns (R) voiced opposition to the project. Pro-life groups also disapprove of the research as it requires the destruction of human embryos to harvest cells, a procedure that has yet to show any signs of medical benefit.

Emphasizing that the embryos are not the results of abortions, Bromm said that he was told by scientists that the research has promise for medical breakthroughs.

Bromm stated that the research, "does not cause abortion, is not derived from abortion and holds tremendous promise for cures for numerous diseases in the future," and that "leading scientists tell me research on these 60 lines has great promise."

"I see that as life," said Governor Johanns, explaining his opposition to the destructive research.

Dr. Stephen Rennard of UNMC is seeking a $100,000 grant for a study on emphysema. In his past studies, primarily involving chronic lung diseases, Rennard has used adult stem cells to study lung restoration in rodents.

Though the project plans to only use existing embryos, following guidelines set by President Bush, pro-life groups are worried that the university will eventually run afoul of that policy.

"While the use of past embryonic stem cell lines remains troubling to many pro-lifers, we are thankful that President Bush drew a line in the sand in 2001 and that he is remaining firm to this day on his position," Julie Schmit-Albin, Executive Director of Nebraska Right to Life told

"What we would like to know now from UNMC is if they intend to stay within the President’s guidelines or if they are among those who have called on the President to approve the use of frozen embryos created from in vitro fertilization," Schmit-Albin added.

Rennard’s proposed study would use two existing stem cell lines from the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, San Francisco, although no medical advances have been made with any embryonic stem cell lines, and animals involved in the studies have developed tumors.

The use of stem cell lines developed before Bush’s August 2001 policy may entitle it to funding.

However, UNMC will remain under Nebraska Right to Life’s watchful eye and any potential violation of the Bush administration’s policy will be greeted with strong opposition from the pro-life group.

Senator Mark Foley (D-Lincoln) told that he believes the proposed research already goes too far.

"I am deeply disappointed that the University of Nebraska has announced that it will now embark on yet another medical research project with serious ethical implications," said Sen. Foley. "I urge the university to focus its medical research program on adult stem cell research which has great hope, proven clinical applications, and none of the ethical concerns associated with the destruction of human embryos."

The grant request follows an appeal by the National Institute of Health that called for funded researchers to submit projects that would use embryonic stem cells that comply with President Bush’s 2001 guidelines for such research.

Rennard’s project has yet to be approved by the medical center’s Institutional Review Board, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and an internal scientific review panel.

Related Sites:
Nebraska Right to Life –