September 14, 2010

Bill Proposed To Safeguard Govt Funding For Stem Cell Research

On Monday, a U.S. senator unveiled a bill to help safeguard government funding for human embryonic stem cell research.

Democratic Senator Arlen Specter said that his proposal would help "codify in law President Barack Obama's March 2009 executive order lifting restrictions predecessor George W. Bush had imposed on such research," according to the AFP news agency

Specter pointed to a federal judge's temporary injunction in August that freezes federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research, which a U.S. appeals court later lifted in a victory for backers of the pioneering scientific work.

"Even a temporary suspension of funding will disrupt the work on these important research projects in the areas of heart disease, sickle cell anemia, liver failure, muscular dystrophy and other maladies," the senator, himself a cancer survivor, told AFP news.

U.S. district court judge Royce Lamberth found that the researcher violated a 1996 law that forbids using government money to produce stem cells from human embryos.

The decision was seen as a victory amongst several Christian organizations that views fertilized human eggs as people entitled to the right of life.

Although stem cell research is vastly popular amongst the U.S. public, it remained unclear whether the U.S. Congress would approve legislation like Specter's before November's legislative elections.

Researchers say that stem cells provide two promising avenues for scientists.  One of which they say could be used for research that cannot be performed inside the body.  However, scientists believe they can also coax the foundation cells into cardiac, pancreatic or brain cells in order to replace damaged cells and allow tissue or organs to constitute themselves.

The senator said that the U.S. National Institute of Health reported that $546 million has been spent on human embryonic stem cell research "and phenomenal progress has already been made in realizing the possible benefits."

Spector's bill requires that stem cells be derived from human embryos created for reproduction purposes and donated by in vitro fertilization clinics because they would never be implanted.

The bill also calls for written consent from individuals who donated the embryos, and would forbid the use of federal funds to derive stem cell lines.

Obama acknowledged in a "town hall" meeting in Virginia the "legitimate ethical issues" in the research, but renewed his commitment to make decisions based on "sound science."

He said that his administration was "appealing" and "challenging" Lamberth's ruling, while working to "try to build a common sense consensus that allows us to make progress over the long term."


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