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US Senators consider ES cell alternatives

18 July 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 317

A new US bill that proposes funding research into alternatives to human embryonic stem (ES) cells is gaining support, and could take votes away from bill HR810, which proposes expanding federal funding for ES cell research. The new bill, HR3144 - introduced by Republican Senator Roscoe Bartlett - proposes $15 million a year for the development of ES cell alternatives, starting in 2006. However, supporters of bill HR810, also known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, have criticised the measure as potentially diverting funds away from ES cell research.

President Bush's policy on human ES cell research permits federally funded scientists to carry out research on cell lines created before 9 August 2001, but researchers have complained that this policy leaves only less effective cell lines for them to work on. A bill loosening the restrictions was passed by the House of Representatives in May, by 238 votes to 194. If passed by the Senate, the bill would allow federal funds to be used for research on new ES cell lines derived from embryos left over from fertility treatments and voluntarily donated by patients. However, President Bush has vowed to veto the bill, unless it is passed with the minimum two-thirds majority required to override such a veto.

Supporters of bill HR810 had expressed confidence that they would achieve the necessary majority, but the measure now faces another challenge. According to the Washington Post, several senators have hinted that they might vote for Bartlett's bill instead. The new bill proposes further research into a number of as yet untried techniques for generating 'pluripotent' cells, capable of growing into almost any type of body tissue. The alternative approaches - which include a method called 'altered nuclear transfer' proposed by US bioethicist William Hurlbut - were put forward in a recent report published by the President's Council on Bioethics.

The new bill has been criticised by supporters of ES cell research, who say it could divert efforts away from work that has already shown promise for treating several diseases. 'To think that resources could be diverted to these ideas and theories rather than the science going on in the lab right now would be truly catastrophic', said Bernard Siegel, head of the Genetics Policy Institute, an advocacy group for ES cell research. He also said that Bartlett's bill should not be a political safety net for anyone, adding 'this research is too important to patients'. Embryo stem cell researcher Irving Weissman agreed, saying that the new approaches could be 'very valuable' if they worked, but added 'don't tell me we should stop doing research until we find out, because people's lives are at stake'.

Up to five other bills relating to stem cell research could now be considered alongside bill HR810, including one that would promote the banking of umbilical cord blood stem cells. Two of the measures are backed by Senator Sam Brownback, a staunch opponent of ES cell research. He says that 'this is exactly what the Senate should do: let's have a set of votes on the whole range of issues'. Meanwhile, actor Michael J Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, has urged George Bush to drop his opposition to ES cell research. 'He has an opportunity to do something fantastic for the world', Fox said last week, calling bill HR810 'a pro-living bill'.

Bush urged to back more spending on stem cell research
Reuters |  13 July 2005
New Stem-Cell Bill Gains Support
Wired News |  13 July 2005
Stem Cell Bills Have Multiplied
Los Angeles Times |  13 July 2005
Stem Cell Legislation Is at Risk
The Washington Post |  9 July 2005
29 August 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
New research published in the journal Nature describes how a single cell taken from an IVF embryo, using a technique similar to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), can be used to create embryonic stem (ES) cell lines. The new method leaves the embryo otherwise intact and able, in...
29 August 2006 - by Josephine Quintavalle 
The news last week that Robert Lanza's team at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) had developed a compromise way of creating embryonic stem (ES) cells from human embryos, without killing them, brought a temporary cease-fire to the battle surrounding this contentious area of stem cell research. The international media was excited...
21 October 2005 - by BioNews 
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has proposed postponing until 2006 a vote on a bill that would expand federal funding for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act 2005 would, if passed, allow funding for scientists to conduct ES cell research on embryos left over...
17 October 2005 - by BioNews 
New techniques could make it possible for scientists to obtain embryonic stem (ES) cells without destroying a viable human embryo, two studies published online in Nature suggest. In the first, researchers based at US company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) derived ES cells from a single cell taken from early mouse...
7 October 2005 - by BioNews 
A Wisconsin University-based research group, WiCell, is set to host the first federally-funded US bank of human embryonic stem (ES) cells. The National Stem Cell Bank will house many of the ES cell lines approved for use in research paid for by the government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH...
11 July 2005 - by BioNews 
A new poll reveals that 63 per cent of Americans think the US should adopt a national policy for medical research using human embryonic stem (ES) cells, while 57 per cent support the use of federal funds for such work. The survey, carried out by Research!America, also found that...
11 July 2005 - by Dr Simon Best 
Human embryonic stem (ES) cell research remains front-page news in the US, following the recent vote in favour of liberalising federal funding of ES cell research in the House of Representatives and the forthcoming vote on the same topic in the Senate. Whereas the former bill passed by an insufficient...
4 July 2005 - by BioNews 
Supporters of a US bill to extend federal funding of research on human embryonic stem (ES) cells are predicting a victory when it is debated by Senators later this month. More than 60 are expected to vote in favour of the legislation, say its proponents - although President Bush has pledged...
20 June 2005 - by BioNews 
Senators in the US will start to debate a bill on the issue of human embryonic stem (ES) cell research next month. A bipartisan group of senators is campaigning to persuade President Bush to relax his policy on the research. Bush, who opposes any research that would involve the destruction...
23 May 2005 - by BioNews 
In the wake of cloning and embryonic stem (ES) cell news from scientists in South Korea and the UK, a vote on legislation to extend the provisions of state funding for ES cell research in the US is expected in Congress this week. However, President Bush - who announced his disapproval...
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