ADA Wants Tax Funds for Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Adult Cells Better

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 1, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

ADA Wants Tax Funds for Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Adult Cells Better

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 16, 2006

Washington, DC ( — With former First Lady Nancy Reagan and Senate leaders pressing Tuesday for the Senate to vote on a measure that would spend taxpayer funds on embryonic stem cell research, the American Diabetes Association is jumping on the bandwagon and asking for a vote.

Though it touts the controversial research as providing hope for diabetes patients, studies using adult stem cells are already showing progress.

Saying it has been a year since the House approved the measure, the ADA called on the Senate for an immediate vote on the bill to overturn President Bush’s funding limits on the unproven research.

In a statement obtained by, the ADA said it backs the bill because "it would advance the search for better treatment and a cure for diabetes, one of the nation’s most prevalent, debilitating and deadly diseases."

"Americans with diabetes, and millions of Americans with other chronic and debilitating illnesses, shouldn’t have to wait another year — much less another month or another day — for the Senate to finally pass this important legislation," ADA Board chairman Lawrence Smith said.

"We know the potential embryonic stem cell research has in the search for a cure," he added.

But the potential for embryonic stem cell research to cure any disease is still far off and the researcher hasn’t proven effective in animal studies and clinical trials on humans are years away at best.

Another hurdle scientists must cross is the problem of immune systems rejecting embryonic stem cells, which is not a problem for adult stem cell transplants.

The South Korean team led by Hwang Woo-suk supposedly solved that problem by creating patient-specific embryonic stem cells. But, their entire embryonic stem cell research work was found to be a hoax and the internationally disgraced scientists face potential jail time for fraud and embezzlement.

While ADA touts the potential, scientists working with adult stem cells are producing actual results.

In August, 2004 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, 2004 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.

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

Nearly 21 million American children and adults have diabetes, up from 18 million when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last measured diabetes incidence in 2003.

ACTION: Please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit to express your concern with their support for the bill to spend tax money on embryonic stem cell research.

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