THE PROTECTION OF LIFE -- (House of Representatives - March 04, 2009)
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Mr. FLEMING. Thanks to the gentleman for yielding.
I have put up a quote here which we'll get to in just a moment, and it is on the subject that we are currently discussing about stem cell research. I apologize if some of this is redundant, but I think this new information is very interesting and very exciting and I think it bears perhaps a little important redundancy.
For more than a decade Congress has been debating the ethics of using taxpayer dollars to fund research that requires the destruction of a human embryo. Science is making this debate obsolete.
At the beginning of the embryonic stem cell debate, only 2 years after human embryonic stem cells were first derived, President Clinton's Bioethics Council concluded, and here it is written, that in our judgment, in 1999, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission under President Clinton, said, in our judgment, the derivation of embryos remaining following infertility treatments is justifiable only, that is only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing this research.
Now, thanks in part to the very same researcher who first discovered how to derive human embryonic stem cells, researchers have discovered how to make pluripotent embryonic-like stem cells without harming or destroying a human embryo.
Let me repeat that. They have discovered a way of creating embryonic-like stem cells without harming or destroying a human embryo.
You may have heard about these cells. They are called IPSC for induced pluripotent stem cells. They were first discovered in 2007. These cells are made by reprogramming adult cells, such as cells from your skin, into embryonic-like cells.
Of course, just to digress for a moment, to understand what the purpose of this whole idea of stem cells is, it is taking undifferentiated cells, and the future is amazing. We can create organs potentially.
Just think about, in terms of kidneys, hearts or whatever being transplanted. We would have organs that would no longer require any sort of immuno-suppressive drugs.
Anyway, in the 2 years since this technique was first published, hundreds of scientists have been feverishly at work perfecting this technique. Just this week, researchers published a major, just this week now, a major improvement on the technique of creating human iPSC stem cells. You may have read about this in the Washington Post that came out on Monday.
Previously, in order to reprogram cells to their embryonic-like state, researchers relied on viruses which were known to cause cancer when injected into humans. Now, researchers have shown that it is possible to make iPSC stem cells without the harmful virus. In fact, the factors used to reprogram the cells are completely removed, leaving behind only the embryonic-like iPSC stem cells.
So what this means is, not only are we having to use embryonic cells, which means destroying an embryo, a human life, but we can literally take it from the skin of an adult. And even more importantly, we don't have to use viruses to reprogram the nucleus. The problem with viruses, of course, you can introduce all sort of matter into the DNA, such as cancer, which is very dangerous.
These cells are even better than embryonic stem cells from embryos created through IVF because they can both be patient-specific and disease-specific, even for diseases we only barely understand.
Surely this meets the criteria set forth by the Clinton Bioethics Commission. Researchers, funded in part by our own National Institutes of Health, have discovered a viable and promising alternative to destroying embryos for their stem cells. Such research is no longer justifiable, even according to the Clinton criterion, which I've laid out here in large print. And certainly research that is both morally controversial and out of date does not need to be subsidized by the American taxpayer.
So, even in spite of all this, through private means, embryonic stem cell research can still go on, even though it's not needed, as long as taxpayers do not pay for it.
I feel there was never a justification in the past to destroy embryos for the purpose of stem cell research. But now we have two reasons to embrace this new technology, and that is, as I pointed out a minute ago, the fact that it's safer because we don't have to use viruses, and we no longer have to destroy embryos.
So, in closing, Madam Speaker, surely, even those who maintain a pro-abortion position will support this newer, safer technique which requires no Federal dollars to destroy human embryos.
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