The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
Appropriations Subcommittee examined the promise of human embryonic stem cell
(hESC) research and considered potential legislative response to the recent
court decision halting research funding for hESC research during a hearing
on September 16.
The Subcommittee heard testimony from scientists including
NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and ASH member Dr. George
Q. Daley, from Children's Hospital in Boston and the Harvard Stem Cell
Institute, reiterating the importance of hESC research and the continued need
for federally-funded research in this field. Dr. Collins noted that alternatives
such as adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells
have much promise, but he warned that ending federal funding of research on
stem cells derived from human embryos would be "devastating." Dr. Collins'
testimony was echoed by Dr. Daley, as well as by Dr. Sean Morrison from the
University of Michigan and a patient advocate who testified at the hearing.
The lone dissent from the scientific community was offered
by Dr. Jean Peduzzi-Nelson, an adult stem cell researcher from Wayne State
University School of Medicine, who believes the federal government's funding
should be focused on adult stem cell research. Dr. Collins noted that NIH is
spending three times as much on research on adult stem cells as on those taken
from embryos. In the current fiscal year, NIH funded 199 grants for research on
human embryonic stem cells totaling $137 million.
Also testifying before the Subcommittee was Senator Roger
Wicker (R-MS), the co-author of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment language cited by
U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth as the legal rationale behind his
August 23 injunction. Senator Wicker reiterated his belief that he was deeply
troubled that federal funds might be used to "destroy embryos" or to fund hESC
when other alternatives are available.
both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have been exploring various
legislative means to ensure the continued availability of federal funding for
hESC in the wake of the recent court decision, following the hearing Senator
Harkin indicated that the Senate would not consider legislation dealing with
hESC research prior to the Senate's adjournment for the November elections and
that any Senate action on the issue may even move into next year.
Consequently, it is critical that Members of the U.S. Senate hear from
researchers about the importance of ensuring continuation of this
research. Please join ASH’s Advocacy Campaign today
to urge congressional action.
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