NIH Director Tells Senate to Support Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 21, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

NIH Director Tells Senate to Support Embryonic Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 21
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — As the Senate considers a bill to force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of human life, one of the president’s top scientists suddenly jumped ship and urged support for the bill. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health raised eyebrows with his remarks.

Zerhouni has defended the administration’s stance in the past but appeared to deviate from his own previous positions in a Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee hearing.

"It is clear today that American science will be better-served, and the nation will be better-served, if we let our scientists have access to more stem cell lines," he said.

"I think it is important for us not to fight with one hand tied behind out back, and NIH is key to that," he said.

Responding to the remarks, Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, said Zerhouni neglected to justify the need for more embryonic stem cell lines.

"Have there been so many advances with the 22 current lines that scientists can legitimize new ones?" Perkins asked. "If Zerhouni is requesting taxpayer money from the Senate–in addition to the $40 million NIH spent last year on the project–then the least he could do is provide a record of ESC research advances and a detailed list of what cannot be done without new lines."

"The reality is, 85% of the world’s embryonic studies use President Bush’s approved lines, and the NIH is waiting to distribute 3,000 shipments of cells derived from them," Perkins added.

Asked about the potential of adult stem cells and of other means of producing stem cells, Dr. Zerhouni was equally blunt.

"I think they are overstated," he said. "We do not know at this point where the breakthrough will come from…. All angles in stem cell research should be pursued."

Perkins criticized those comments as well.

"As the nation’s top scientist, Zerhouni should know that patients are using adult stem cell alternatives to treat over 70 diseases," he said.

Perkins said he has "personally met patients who are reaping the benefits of adult stem cells in therapies for sickle cell anemia, heart disease, leukemia and other diseases. That is progress, not speculation."

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