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Talking Points: Stem Cell Facts

The Senate has a chance to help those suffering from debilitating ailments today as it reconsiders the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.

Today, the Senate has a chance to help and provide hope to those suffering from debilitating ailments all over the country, as it will reconsider the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which was vetoed by President Bush last year. Currently, 65 percent of Americans approve of “medical research using embryonic stem cells” and nearly 60 percent support “increasing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.” “The Senate this week has an opportunity to send a strong, clear message that this will be the year that the federal government lifts damaging restrictions on stem cell research, which offers great potential for a cure for diabetes and other debilitating diseases,” said Darlene Cain, chair of the American Diabetes Association. By contrast, conservatives have attempted to stall embryonic stem cell research on so-called “moral” grounds, propagating a series falsehoods in order to counter support for stem cell research.

  • Researchers have seen promising breakthrough treatments from embryonic stem cells already. The right wing often argues that embryonic stem cell research is in its nascent stages and only provides “false hope” for patients. Far from the truth. Researchers have already used embryonic stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries. Embryonic stem cells have also been shown in studies with mice to slow vision loss, and reverse some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. “[Scientists] have used human embryonic stem cells to create cardiovascular precursor cells that could lead to treatments for heart diseases, T-cells that could lead to a cure for AIDS, and insulin-secreting cells that could lead to a cure for diabetes,” according to Center for American Progress fellow Jonathan Moreno. “Embryonic stem cells are still the most medically promising type of stem cells because of their ability to differentiate into any cell in the human body.”
  • Embryonic stem cell research shows markedly different potential from other stem cell research. In January, the White House released “Advancing Stem Cell Science Without Destroying Human Life,” a report that overhyped the potential of alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, according to CAP. The report included exaggerated claims of the potential of adult stem cell research, an argument that has consistently been used by the right wing. For example, Karl Rove said last year that “recent studies” show researchers “have far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells,” a claim the White House could not find a single scientist to support. The scientific establishment has long known that “adult stem cells have markedly restricted differentiation potential” than their embryonic counterparts. Last week, Bush offered his support of legislation introduced by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to “expand” existing federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to so-called “dead embryos,” those that have ceased developing in laboratory conditions. Scientists are already questioning the viability of this approach. Dr. Robin Lovell-Badge of the National Institute for Medical Research in London said, “There is no way to prove that an arrested embryo would have stopped growing if it had been put into a woman’s womb rather than a lab dish.” Dr. George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute warned that “If there was something wrong with the embryo that made it arrest, isn’t there something wrong with these cells? We don’t know.”