Virginia Governor Discusses Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 30, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 30, 2005

Richmond, VA (LifeNews.com) — Governor Mark Warner says his state should embrace embryonic stem cell research because he claims it would provide cures for various diseases despite having not yet cured a single patient. Warner make his remarks on a Washignton-area news radio talk show.

During his monthly "Ask the Governor" radio program, on WTOP radio, Warner spoke of his ill mother and a daughter who is diabetic.

"I have a daughter with juvenile diabetes. I’ve got a mom with Alzheimer’s," Warner said on WTOP. "I know there are a host of other diseases that stem cell research could potentially unlock a cure for. I think we ought to do everything we can to advance the science in that area."

"I think we need to move aggressively in terms of taking advantage of stem cell research," Warner said. An aide later confirmed to the Washington Post that he was referring to embryonic stem cell research.

However, leading scientists say embryonic stem cells, which rely on the destruction of unborn children in their earliest days to obtain, are not likely going to ever cure Alzheimer’s.

Because Alzheimer’s is not a disease involving one type of cell, one scientist says the use of embryonic stem cells is unlikely to have much effect.

"Alzheimer’s is a more global disease, with an effect on numerous kinds of cells," Steve Stice, a stem cell researcher at the University of Georgia, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. "That makes it much more difficult for a cell therapy to be effective."

Other researchers agree that potential cures, if they come about, won’t happen soon.

"I just think everybody feels there are higher priorities for seeking effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and for identifying preventive strategies," Marilyn Albert, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who chairs the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Association, says.

Warner, who is finishing his term as Virginia’s governor and is a possible Democratic presidential contender in 2008, told the radio program he may try to push for state funds to be used on the controversial research before he steps down.

Ellen Qualls, Warner’s director of communications, told the Washington Post, "He is clearly itching to do some large research and development initiative or several small ones woven together."

If Warner tries to spend taxpayer dollars on embryonic stem cell research, he’s likely to face strong opposition from the Virginia legislature. During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers removed provisions from a bill that would have spent state dollars on the unproven research.

Meanwhile, a legislative panel is currently studying the issue and divided over whether to pursue embryonic or adult stem cell research, which has already produced dozens of treatments for various diseases and conditions.