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Stem Cells

Congress and President Obama will likely ease the restrictions places on scientists involved in stem cell research.  Behind the cut is a time line (reprinted from NPR) interspersed with quotes regarding the subject.   The Bush administration set science back years.  It's time for the United States to again take the lead in science.

Before commenting,  please read the timeline and quotes.

Type your cut contents here     

1981: Embryonic stem cells are first isolated in mice by two groups Gail Martin at the University of California, San Francisco, and Martin Evans, then with the University of Cambridge (he's now at the University of Cardiff).

November 1995: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin isolate the first embryonic stem cells in primates — rhesus macaque monkeys. The research shows it's possible to derive embryonic stem cells from primates, including humans.

Nov. 5, 1998: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Johns Hopkins University report isolating human embryonic stem cells. The cells have the potential to become any type of cell in the body and might one day be used to replace damaged or cancerous cells. But the process is controversial: One team derived their stem cells from the tissue of aborted fetuses; the other from embryos created in the laboratory for couples seeking to get pregnant by in vitro fertilization.

Aug. 23, 2000: The National Institutes of Health issue guidelines that allow federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. Former President Bill Clinton supports the guidelines.

February 2001: The month after taking office, President George W. Bush requests a review of the NIH funding guidelines and puts a hold on federal funds for stem-cell research.

July 18, 2001: Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a vocal abortion opponent, call for limited federal funding for stem-cell research.

July 29, 2001: House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and other Republican House leaders come out in opposition to federal funding for research.

Aug. 9, 2001: President Bush announces his decision to limit funding to a few dozen lines of embryonic stem cells in existence at that date. Many of the approved lines later prove to be contaminated, and some contain genetic mutations, making them unsuitable for research.

President George W. Bush

Aug. 9, 2001, in an address to the nation on stem cell research:

"An ethicist ... told me that [a] cluster of cells is the same way you and I, and all the rest of us, started our lives. One goes with a heavy heart if we use these [embryonic stem cells], he said, because we are dealing with the seeds of the next generation."

Conan O’Brien

In a prime-time address, President Bush said he backed limited federal funding for stem cell research. That's right, the President said, this is a quote, the research could help cure brain diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and whatever it is I have."

Jay Leno (Date Unknown)

Bush reiterated his stand to conservatives opposing his decision on stem cell research. He said today he believes life begins at conception and ends at execution."

J.C. Watts, former U.S. congressman from Oklahoma

Aug. 12, 2001, in response to a question on whether he considers the president to be "pro-life," CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:

"There's just too many areas that are inconclusive out there for us to get on a slippery slope to say we should take life in order to enhance life."

Nov. 25, 2001: Scientists at Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts claim to have cloned a human embryo. However, the evidence proves controversial and not conclusive.

Feb. 12, 2004: South Korean scientists announce the world's first successfully cloned human embryo. Unlike other past cloning claims, the scientists report their work in a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal, Science. The embryos were cloned not for reproductive purposes but as a source of stem cells. The news reopens the contentious debate over somatic-cell nuclear transfer, which is sometimes referred to as therapeutic cloning. Scientists say cloning offers a unique way to produce cells that may someday be used to treat diseases. But critics argue that any form of cloning is morally repugnant and should be banned. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1672523

June 25, 2004: New Jersey legislators pass a state budget that includes $9.5 million for a newly chartered Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. The move makes New Jersey the first state to fund research on stem cells, including those derived from human embryos.

Laurie Zoloth, Ph.D., professor of medical humanities & bioethics and religion, director of Center for Bioethics, Northwestern University
Sept. 29, 2004, in a congressional testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space:

"While I respect that this is a difference in theology [regarding the moral status of a human child], and while I understand the passion and the conviction of those for whom the blastocyst is a person from the moment of fertilization, I do not believe this, and it is [a] matter of faith for me as well. My passion and my conviction are toward the suffering of the one I see in need, ill or wounded."

Dr. Leon Kass, former chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics
Oct. 8, 2004, in his Washington Post op-ed piece, "Playing Politics With the Sick."

"The moral issue does not disappear just because the embryos are very small or because they are no longer wanted for reproductive purposes: Because they are living human embryos, destroying them is not a morally neutral act. Just as no society can afford to be callous to the needs of suffering humanity, none can afford to be cavalier about how it treats nascent human life."

JOHN KERRY, presidential debate, Oct. 8, 2004

"I think we can do ethically guided embryonic stem cell research. We have 100,000 to 200,000 embryos that are frozen in nitrogen today from fertility clinics. These weren't taken from abortion or something like that. They're from a fertility clinic, and they're either going to be destroyed or left frozen. And I believe if we have the option, which scientists tell us we do, of curing Parkinson's, curing diabetes, curing, you know, some kind of a ... you know, paraplegic or quadriplegic or, you know, a spinal cord

Nov. 2, 2004: California voters approve Proposition 71, which authorizes the state to spend $3 billion on embryonic stem-cell research over 10 years. The measure is a response to federal funding restrictions put into place in 2001. It puts California ahead of the federal government and many other nations in promoting the research.  injury -- anything -- that's the nature of the human spirit. I think it is respecting life to reach for that cure.

May 19, 2005: The same South Korean researchers who reported cloning a human embryo in 2004 announce another milestone: They say they've created a streamlined process that uses far fewer human eggs to produce usable embryonic stem cells — a major step toward mass production. Their work is published in Science.

May 24, 2005: The House passes a bill that would ease President Bush's restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research.

TOM DELAY, Washington Post, May 25, 2005

"The best that can be said about embryonic stem cell research is that it is scientific exploration into the potential benefits of killing human beings."

May 26, 2005: A version of the bill passed in the House is introduced in the Senate. Among Senate sponsors of the bill are two prominent Republicans, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Their support comes despite President Bush's promise to veto any legislation lifting the restrictions on funding he put in place on Aug. 9, 2001.

May 31, 2005: Connecticut approves $100 million in funding for adult and embryonic stem-cell research over the next 10 years.

James Thomson, first scientist to isolate and culture embryonic stem cells

June 2005, in response to a question on how he feels about the moral implications of using components of human life for future embryonic stem cell research, in an interview with MSNBC's Alan Boyle:

"[T]he bottom line is that there are 400,000 frozen embryos in the United States, and a large percentage of those are going to be thrown out. Regardless of what you think the moral status of those embryos is, it makes sense to me that it's a better moral decision to use them to help people than just to throw them out. It's a very complex issue, but to me it boils down to that one thing."

July 13, 2005: Bypassing the Illinois state legislature, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich creates a stem-cell research institute by executive order. The institute will be funded through a line item in the state budget that gives the Public Health Department $10 million to fund research.

June 15, 2005: Gov. M. Jodi Rell signs a public act that permits stem-cell research and bans human cloning. The act appropriates $20 million for conducting embryonic or human adult stem-cell research.

July 29, 2005: In defiance of President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) announces his support of legislation to ease federal funding restrictions for stem-cell research.

Bill Frist, former U.S. senator and Republican majority leader from Tennessee
July 29, 2005, in a speech on the Senate floor:

"I am pro-life. I believe human life begins at conception. I also believe that embryonic stem cell research should be encouraged and supported. ... An embryo is nascent human life. This position is consistent with my faith. But, to me, it isn't just a matter of faith. It's a fact of science."

Sept. 19, 2005: Scientists in California report that injecting human neural stem cells appeared to repair spinal cords in mice. The therapy helped partially paralyzed mice walk again.

Sept. 21, 2005: Advocates of embryonic stem-cell research in Florida propose a ballot initiative that would give $200 million in state funds toward the research over the next decade. Two days later, opponents of the science file a petition to amend Florida's state constitution to ban state funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

John Danforth, former U.S. senator and Episcopal priestNovember 2005, in a TV ad sponsored by the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, advocating a state ballot initiative to allow stem cell research in Missouri:

"My entire political career, I voted pro-life, and that is exactly why I favor the stem cell initiative. I believe in saving human life. I want cures to be found."

Nov. 11, 2005: University of Pittsburgh researcher Gerald Schatten alerts editors at the journal Science that there may have been ethical lapses in a landmark cloning paper published in February 2004. In that paper, South Korean scientists claimed they had made an embryonic stem-cell line from a cloned human embryo. Schatten alleged that some of the egg donors in that study had been paid, and some were junior colleagues of the lead author, Hwang Woo Suk. Schatten also says there were minor technical errors in one of the tables in a 2005 paper by the same group, a paper on which Schatten was senior author. In that paper, Hwang et. al. claimed to have made 11 cloned stem-cell lines. At the same time, Schatten severs his collaboration with the South Korean scientists.

Dec. 15, 2005: Hwang admits that there are serious errors in his 2005 paper in Science and asks the journal to retract it. The admission comes three weeks after Hwang apologized for ethical lapses and stepped down as head of the stem-cell program at Seoul National University.

Dec. 16, 2005: New Jersey becomes the first state to finance human embryonic stem-cell research. The state's Commission on Science and Technology awards $5 million to research teams throughout the New Jersey.

Dec. 29, 2005: The Seoul National University investigation concludes all of the data was fabricated in the 2005 paper that Hwang's team published in Science.

Jan. 10, 2006: The Seoul National University investigation concludes that the landmark 2004 paper was fabricated as well. Two days later, Science formally retracts both Hwang papers.

April 6, 2006: Gov. Robert Ehrlich signs the Maryland Stem Cell Research Act, which allocates $15 million for embryonic stem-cell research grants.

May 12, 2006: South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk is charged with fraud, embezzlement and violating the country's laws on bioethics. He faces up to 13 years in prison. In 2004, Hwang and his research team claimed they had created the world's first cloned embryos and extracted stem cells from them. An investigation concluded the research was fabricated.

July 2006: The Senate considers a bill that expands federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. The House passed its version of the bill in 2005.

July 19, 2006: President Bush vetoes the bill — the first use of his veto power in his presidency.

 

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries
July 22, 2006, in an op-ed, "The Veto: Should We Cross the Great Moral Divide?"

"The supporters of embryo-destructive research want to cross a great moral divide. They are seeking not only to destroy human life made in God's image but also to manufacture life made in man's image. Tragically, we are losing this fight, however, because too few people understand the issues."

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah

July 23, 2006, commenting on President Bush's veto of federal funding for stem cell research using human embryos, CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood:

"I understand that many have ethical and moral reservations about stem cell research, but for the same reason I describe myself as pro-life, I embrace embryonic stem cell research because I believe being pro-life is not only caring for the unborn but also caring for the living."

Aug. 23, 2006: Scientists unveil a new technique they claim could break the political deadlock over human embryonic stem cells. Researchers with the company Advanced Cell Technology say it's possible to remove a cell from an embryo without harming the embryo and then grow the cell in a lab dish. That single cell could then be used to derive embryonic stem cells.

Pope Benedict XVI

Sept. 18, 2006, in an address to an international congress sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations:

The destruction of human embryos to harvest stem cells is "not only devoid of the light of God but is also devoid of humanity" and "does not truly serve humanity."

Michael J. Fox, actor and activist
Oct. 27, 2006, in response to a question during an interview with journalist Katie Couric on whether he would support a Republican candidate:

"This is not about red states and blue states. This is not about Democrats and Republicans. This is about claiming our place as the scientific leader in scientific research and moving forward and helping our citizens. That's all it is. It's that simple."

Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals quarterback and founder of First Things First Foundation

Oct. 27, 2006, in a TV ad in response to advertisements advocating stem cell research in Missouri:

"I am all for finding a cure for any and every disease known to man, but there are certain issues that outweigh just finding a cure and doing research and life is one of those. ... As much as I'm for research, nothing outweighs the pro-life issue. [With embryonic stem cell research] you're taking human life."

Nov. 7, 2006: Missouri voters back a constitutional amendment that safeguards embryonic stem-cell research in the state. Missouri's legislature had been trying to ban such research in the state.

Jan. 7, 2007: Researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University report that stem cells drawn from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells. They reported they were able to extract the stem cells from the fluid, which cushions babies in the womb, without harm to mother or fetus and turn their discovery into several different tissue cell types, including brain, liver and bone.

Jan. 11, 2007: The House of Representatives is expected to pass a bill that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but the bill won't carry enough votes to override a threatened presidential veto. Both the House and the Senate passed the same legislation last year, with President Bush vetoing the bill.

Feb. 28, 2007: Iowa's Gov. Chet Culver signs legislation easing limits on types of stem-cell research in Iowa. The new legislation allows medical researchers to create embryonic stem cells through cloning. While allowing for further research, it prohibits reproductive cloning of humans.

March 16, 2007: After approving nearly $45 million for embryonic stem-cell research in February 2007, California's stem cell agency authorizes another $75.7 million to fund established scientists at 12 non-profit and academic institutions.

April 11, 2007: The Senate passes a bill that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The bill passes 63-34, just shy of the two-thirds majority needed to protect the legislation from President Bush's promised veto.

May 30, 2007: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announces an agreement between the University of California at Berkeley and Canada's International Regulome Consortium to coordinate stem-cell research at both institutions. The Ontario Institute of Cancer Research donates the first $30 million to fund a Cancer Stem Cell Consortium to advance work on potential cancer treatments.

June 6, 2007: Researchers at Whitehead Institute in Massachusetts succeed in modifying a skin cell so that it behaves like an embryonic stem cell. This is thought to ease some ethical concerns that cloning embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of a human embryo. At Harvard University, scientists make it possible to clone mice from previously fertilized eggs.

June 7, 2007: With a vote of 247 to 176, the House grants the final congressional approval for legislation to ease restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem-cell research. The bill would authorize federal support for research on stem cells from spare embryos that fertility clinics would otherwise discard. But the House is still 35 votes short of what it needs to override a presidential veto.

June 20, 2007: President Bush vetoes legislation that would have eased restraints on stem-cell research. This marks the second time the president has used his veto power against federally funded embryonic stem-cell research. The president also issues an executive order encouraging scientists to derive new methods to obtain stem cells without harming human embryos.

Nov. 14, 2007: Scientists for the first time successfully clone embryos from the cells of an adult monkey and derive stem cells from those cloned embryos. The Oregon National Primate Research Center researchers report their work in the journal Nature.

Nov. 20, 2007: Two independent teams of scientists report on a method for making human embryonic stem cells without destroying a human embryo. By adding a cocktail of four genetic factors to run-of-the-mill human skin cells, two scientific teams, one in Japan and one in America, have been able to isolate cells that behave just like embryonic stem cells. The researchers caution there are many steps before these cells are useful for human therapies. But the work is being hailed by others in the field as a critical step forward, both scientifically and ethically.

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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
cathy_edgett
Dec. 23rd, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
I can't imagine how it must feel to have Parkinson's and read all this. Michael J. Fox spoke so well on this issue.

I am proud to be a Californian when I read this, and, of course, unfortunately, we got stuck with Bush.

I think of the rain forests and the cures there. I don't understand how one believes in a god who would put us here with all these resources, and not wonder why said god wouldn't be angry if we didn't use them to improve and prolong our lives. If I were god, and I believed in sin, the sinners would be those who did not utilize creatively what I gave them.

I would think if I believed in this sort of god that he/she would be applauding with glee our scientific discoveries. Isn't that what we do with children? Reward their creativity. It boggles the mind.
jellomarx
Dec. 23rd, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
I would think, that if God exists, he or she blessed us with an amazing thing. A brain. These wonderful scientists who are on the verge of helping people with all different types of illnesses are looked at as if they are pariahs.

Do you think that God made man with a brain so he can use what otherwise would be discarded?

I think of Apollo 13, where through the use of garbage these men were able to come home. Were they given that garbage by God? Or did God say "I gave you a brain, now use it."
cathy_edgett
Dec. 23rd, 2008 03:21 am (UTC)
I'm with you on this. :)

That's the amazing thing. Sometimes I'm inclined to believe in God, because we are so amazing. Of course, Rilke says, through Lou Andreas Salome, that we create our God. We make God in our image. If that is so, I create a brilliant one, and we see what those who would ban stem cell research create in their god, one of pettiness, smallness and revenge.
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