Stem Cell Research Ad Backing John Kerry Misleads Diabetes Patients

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 30, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Stem Cell Research Ad Backing John Kerry Misleads Diabetes Patients Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 30, 2004

Boulder, CO ( — A new ad released over the weekend leading up to Tuesday’s presidential election features a 13 year-old diabetes patient who urges voters to support John Kerry for president because she claims President Bush’s policy on embryonic stem cell research won’t help patients.

The 30-second ad is being paid for by a California-based political group called Real Voices which has also run other spots critical of the president.

The ad, which will run on CNN and other cable outlets, features Caroline Hale, a 13 year-old Colorado girl with diabetes.

"I’ve had diabetes for four years, and it’s a hard disease to manage," she told the Boulder Camera newspaper. "I’ve been interested in stem cells for a long time and the possibility of a cure for diabetes. I thought that I would do whatever I could to help out."

"Hopefully they can hear about what it’s like to have diabetes and see that President Bush’s policy doesn’t work in this case," she said.

However, President Bush’s policy may be the driving force behind research into adult stem cells that could provide treatments for diabetes patients.

In August 2001, President Bush announced he would prohibit funding any new research that involves the destruction of human life. However, his administration spent $190 million on adult stem cell research, which has already produced 140 treatments for diseases and ailments.

In August, scientists from the University of Toronto say they may have discovered adult stem cells in the pancreas could offer hope for diabetics who take insulin shots to make up for defective cells.

Found in the pancreas of mice, they could be capable of creating insulin-producing beta cells. Those cells can compensate for defective pancreatic islets, which are comprised mostly of beta cells.

The islets produce insulin that regulates a person’s blood sugar level.

"Pancreatic stem cells could provide a plentiful supply of beta cells for transplant treatments," the researchers said in a statement.

According to the study, published in the August 22 edition of the medical journal Nature Biotechnology, the researchers are now conducting further reviews to ensure that the cells they found are adult stem cells and not just precursor cells that simply give rise to the development of the pancreas.

Stem cells can renew themselves over the entire life of the person or animal and can produce varied cell types, such as the islet cells diabetes patients need.

Researchers at the University of Alberta have been transplanting the insulin-making islet cells into patients and helping them shed their dependence on the insulin shots. However, the research relies on harvesting the islet cells from human cadavers and the supply of the cells fluctuates significantly.

The discovery of adult stem cells that can create a limitless supply of islets could prove revolutionary.

Should president Bush be re-elected, studies on such adult stem cells in the United States would continue and be eligible for government funding.

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