Adult Stem Cell Research Bill Gains Momentum as House Vote Nears

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 23, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Adult Stem Cell Research Bill Gains Momentum as House Vote Nears Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 23, 2005

Washington, DC ( — As a vote nears in Congress on legislation that would authorize the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for unproven embryonic stem cell research, momentum is building around an alternative bill that would promote the use of adult stem cells.

Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, previously proposed legislation that would create a new federally funded stem cell therapeutic and research program for the collection and inventory of umbilical cord blood.

Adult stem cells can be obtained from the blood and pro-life lawmakers and organizations consider that a more ethical and effective alternative to destroying human embryos for stem cells.

They point to the dozens of cures and treatments obtained from adult stem cells and the failure of embryonic stem cells to cure any patients.

"Umbilical cords are a rich, non-controversial source of stem cells, but currently hospitals throw millions of them away each year because we do not have the infrastructure needed to properly collect and store them," said Smith — who has been championing this legislation for three years.

"The best kept medical secret has been that thousands have been successfully treated with cord blood stem cells for more than 67 diseases including Leukemia and Sickle Cell Anemia," Smith added.

Leading lawmakers opposed to HR 810, the embryonic stem cell research funding bill, say Smith’s bill may prompt some House members to vote against it because they have a good alternative to support.

"There are some members who might be more inclined to vote no on [HR 810] if they can vote yes on the cord blood bill," Rep. Dave Weldon, a Florida Republican, said Thursday.

Pro-life groups have indicated they strongly support Smith’s bill, which will also receive a vote Tuesday.

"Embryonic stem cells have successfully treated no one," Family Research Council president Tony Perkins explains, "Cord blood stem cells have been shown to turn into virtually every type of tissue in the human body, and are less susceptible to transplant rejection than bone marrow or embryonic stem cells."

"NRLC supports the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act. Pro-life House members should be urged to support "the Chris Smith cord blood bill" as an ethical alternative to the embryo-killing research promoted by H.R. 810," the National Right to Life Committee said in a statement.

Smith’s bill, which does not yet have a bill number, also enjoys support from Speaker Denny Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

"You don’t have to kill an embryo to make this work," DeLay said concerning Smith’s bill.

Some scientists say that adult stem cell research doesn’t have the same potential for medical breakthroughs because the adult cells don’t have the same ability to become any type of cell in the human body. But, Smith rejects that assertion.

"Published studies have shown that cord blood stem cells have the capacity to change into other cells types, which give them the potential to treat many other debilitating conditions such as spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart disease," Smith said.

That South Korean and British scientists say they have used human cloning to create embryos solely for destruction for stem cells is something that should cause some lawmakers to pause and rethink their support for HR 810.

"This development will erode support for [the bill] in that it makes clear that they want to go beyond using IVF embryos and plan to create cloned human embryos for research," Weldon said.