U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today expressed disappointment the Senate voted to divert resources away from pluripotent stem cell research to increase funding for unproven and destructive embryonic stem cell research.
The Senate, by a vote of 63 to 34, approved S. 5, which would allow tax dollars to support research that requires the destruction of human embryos.
"There are two ethical questions America has to answer. Is it OK to destroy life with the potential of helping cure maladies? We must also ask ourselves is it OK to destroy life when you can accomplish the same goal without harming a viable human embryo? Before taxpayer dollars are used to fund destructive embryonic research, we have a moral obligation to explore and exhaust every available alternative. We can provide treatments and we can do it in an ethically responsible manner that will send us down the right road, not the wrong road," Dr. Coburn said.
Dr. Coburn noted President Bush has promised to veto S. 5 or any legislation promoting the use of tax dollars for destructive embryonic research. "Legislation promoting unethical stem cell research only serves to create a political posture which the President has said he will not bow to," Dr. Coburn said. "The way to promote potential treatments and cures for American families is to fund ethical stem cell research alternatives that will send us down the same road accomplishing the exact same results without destroying life."
By a 70-28 vote, the Senate also today approved the Hope Act (S. 30), which would allow federal funding for many types of proven, stem cell research in which human embryos are not destroyed.
"Real treatments are being developed today with alternative, ethical stem cell sources. More than 70 health conditions, in fact, are being treated with stem cells from non-embryonic sources," Dr. Coburn said. "Diverting funds away from proven research delays treatments and provides patients with nothing more than false hopes. Rather than make promises based on unproven potential and false hope, Congress should fund proven, ethical adult stem cell research."
Ethical, pluripotent stem cell therapies are treating more than 70 diseases while embryonic stem cell research has produced zero therapies.
Dr. Coburn also noted a recent adult stem cell therapy study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showed patients newly diagnosed with diabetes have been able to live insulin-free for three years as a result of adult stem cell therapies. It is one of the first successful attempts at using stem cells of any kind to reverse the effects of Type I diabetes in humans.
The treatment appears to be promising since 14 of the 15 patients remain insulin-free after receiving transplants of their own stem cells. One patient has now gone 34 months without insulin therapy. The patients' own bone marrow stem cells were used guaranteeing a perfect match.
The study was conducted in Brazil with the support of several U.S. clinical researchers. The study's co-author said the study was conducted in Brazil because there was no interest in this approach in the United States.