U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) introduced the bipartisan Stem Cell Research Advancement Act, to ensure a lasting framework overseeing ethical stem cell research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and finally bring certainty to the scientific community pursuing life-saving cures and treatments.
"With two human trials already underway, for the treatment of spinal cord injuries and degenerative eye diseases, it is clear ethical embryonic stem cell research is beginning to bear fruit for the millions of Americans facing debilitating diseases and conditions," said DeGette. "This legislation would place into statute a framework to ensure such critical research can be conducted unimpeded by political interference."
"The United States is the world leader in medical research and innovation, compelling our nation to set the global standard for the ethical use of stem cells," said Rep. Dent. "Research involving stem cells will lead to important breakthroughs in treatment and cures that will save the lives of countless Americans and other around the world. This important bipartisan legislation will undoubtedly advance medical research, helping to address today's most devastating ailments and developing treatments for those that currently seem incurable."
The Stem Cell Research Advancement Act would support embryonic stem cell research, and codify the NIH's guidelines for carrying out all human stem cell research, embryonic and adult. It also requires NIH to review its guidelines at least every three years and make periodic updates as scientifically warranted.
The ethical requirements defined by the bill mandate that stem cells be derived from human embryos donated from in vitro fertilization clinics that were created for reproductive purposes, but are in excess of clinical needs. The donated embryos would never be implanted in a woman, and would otherwise be discarded. The individuals who had sought reproductive treatment to begin with, must donate the embryos with written informed consent and without any financial or other inducements. The legislation also specifically prohibits the use of federal funding for human cloning under the NIH guidelines.
Several years have passed since the original Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, drafted by Rep. DeGette and former Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), was passed and twice vetoed by President George W. Bush. During that time, the field of human stem cell research has progressed steadily. The Stem Cell Research Advancement Act introduced last week has been updated to keep current with the ever-expanding field of stem cell research and responds to calls on Congress to provide lasting support to this field of research.