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Cantwell Applauds President Obama's Action on Stem Cell Research That Could Aid an Estimated One in Ten Washingtonians

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Location: Washington, DC

Cantwell Applauds President Obama's Action on Stem Cell Research That Could Aid an Estimated One in Ten Washingtonians

Monday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded President Obama's reversal of Bush administration limits on federal financing for embryonic stem cell research. Senator Cantwell has been a long-time proponent of removing restrictions and taking the commonsense steps necessary to encourage federal support of groundbreaking embryonic stem cell research, which holds the greatest promise for Americans living with ailments like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and spinal cord injuries.

"For eight long years, politics stood firmly in the way of groundbreaking scientific breakthroughs," said Senator Cantwell. "And for the one in ten Washingtonians who could benefit from stem cell research, it's long past time for us to remove roadblocks to this life-saving research. The federal government should not stand in the way of a cure for these ailments or in the way of hope for the millions who suffer from them, and today, thanks to President Obama's reversal of these limits, hope has been restored and researchers will finally be free to learn from these cells. This decision by the Obama administration aims to ensure America's global leadership when it comes to scientific research and finally allow researchers to responsibly work toward the development of therapies that could put an end to some of the world's most debilitating diseases once and for all. "

In August of 2001, President Bush banned the use of federal funding for research on embryonic stem cell lines not already in existence on that date. The executive order that President Obama signed today reverses that ban and directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to the government's decision-making process. It directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research - to the extent permitted by law. It also directs NIH to develop guidelines, within 120 days, on proceeding with research on newly developed stem cell lines. The executive order does not deal with the legislative ban on the creation of new stem cell lines with federal funding, known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Only Congress can change that.

Congress passed legislation in July 2006 with Cantwell's support that would have lifted the restrictions on stem cell lines derived after August 9, 2001, allowing federal funds to be used to study and examine them. It failed narrowly to overturn a veto by President Bush. After Senate passage of this bill, Cantwell joined 40 other senators in calling on then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to urge the president to reconsider his opposition to the measure. She also worked with colleagues from both parties in attempting to override the veto, which she said denied hope to millions of Americans.

According to estimates, approximately 35,000 Washingtonians currently live with Parkinson's, 300,000 have been diagnosed with diabetes while another 127,000 have undiagnosed diabetes, 160,000 have suffered from heart failure, 5,000 live with spinal cord injuries, and one in ten will be affected by some form of liver disease in their lifetime. Stem cell research holds promise for those living with each of these ailments.


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