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Stem Cell Legislation

Location: Washington, DC

STEM CELL LEGISLATION -- (Senate - July 28, 2005)

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I rise this morning to address some of the comments that have been made on the other side of the aisle regarding the Castle bill on embryonic stem cell research that passed in the House a few weeks ago: I have heard the proposal this morning from my colleagues from the other side that we should discuss and talk about embryonic stem cell research and the proposed umbilical cord blood bill that have been put on the calendar here in the Senate, but without any discussion about human cloning. I want to try to put this issue in context a little, and to propose some factual information.

Mr. President, we need to have a broad discussion about bioethical issues in this body and all across the country, and it needs to involve the full range of issues that have come to light as we attempt to grasp the implications and come to understand the decisions that must be made in this challenging area.

This discussion should involve cord blood stem cells. These types of cells are stem cells that come from the umbilical cord when a child is born; they are a rich source of pluripotent stem cells that have proven very helpful in providing a number of treatments for humans.

We need to continue to talk honestly about embryonic stem cell research: the possible limitations of this research to cure diseases in humans, as well as the certain destruction of embryos that this type of research necessitates.

We need to talk about human cloning, whether or not we want to continue to allow the practice of cloning to take place in the United States of America (it is currently a legal process in this country, to clone, create and kill an embryo, a young human).

We need to talk about the cutting edge related research applications, we need to consider where the science is leading us on issues such as the creation and manipulation of chimeras--human-animal crosses that are created by, for instance, taking human brain cells and putting them in a mouse--we cannot bypass these critical issues in this discussion.

And we need to talk about some exciting new application prospects of these broad-based pluripotent cells, cells that can do virtually anything--but I speak of cells where it is not necessary to extract them from a human embryos, destroying that embryo in the process, but cells yielded from other places in the body.

With this background in mind, I want to point out a couple of quick facts.

No. 1, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the RECORD, from this morning's Washington Post, an article describing new revelations about pluripotent adult stem cells that can answer many of these questions. I ask that the article be included and printed at the conclusion of my remarks.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

(See exhibit 1.)

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I wish to read one section of this article:

A team of Harvard scientists is claiming the discovery of a reservoir of cells that appear capable of replenishing the ovaries of sterilized mice, possibly providing new ways to [create human eggs].

Adult stem cells in the body with the ability to create human eggs. Now, people may say: What do you mean by that? Well, here we have a pluripotent adult stem cell (derived from bone marrow) with a broad capacity to create a lot of different cells, so much so that they can generate, when placed in the right place in the body--a woman's ovary--human eggs.

Listen to what the scientists here say about this:

In addition, because the cells appear to be a particularly versatile type of adult stem cell--

I would like to pause for a moment to point out that there are no ethical problems or objections to research conducted with adult stem cells. We should put millions of dollars into this type of research. This type of research is yielding cures--65 treatment applications for humans with adult stem cell research. However, I'd like to conclude the reading of this excerpt:

..... a particularly versatile type of adult stems cells [which] could provide an alternative to those obtained from embryos, avoiding the political and ethical debates raging around the use of those cells.

End of quote, in this morning's Washington Post, from Harvard researchers.

Mr. President, I ask then, why would we want to kill young human embryos, young humans, who are clearly alive, who are clearly human, when we have the capacity, in adult stem cells, to conduct useful and productive research to cure diseases, that is not hindered by ethical problems?

In an article from this month's The Lancet--a well-respected British medical journal--Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the article be printed in the RECORD at the conclusion of my remarks.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

(See exhibit 2.)

Mr. BROWNBACK. The author of this editorial--this is the lead British medical journal--says:

..... what is unarguable is that the human embryo is alive and is human, and intentionally ending the life of one human being for the potential benefit of others is not territory to which mainstream clinical researchers have hitherto sought claim--or which ethically conscientious objectors could ever concede.

These embryos are alive. They are alive. They are human.

I want to conclude, because time is very limited--Mr. President: I want cures for people. I want cures for juvenile diabetes, for cancer, for spinal cord injuries, for Parkinson's disease. And, with research generated from pluripotent adult stem cells, we are getting these treatments.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the RECORD a list of human clinical trials going on now, using adult or cord blood stem cells, involving no ethical dilemmas, for 65 different human maladies.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

(See exhibit 3.)

Mr. BROWNBACK. The number of areas of treatment for human ailments or medical conditions in humans using human embryonic stem cells is zero. So the notion that delaying this Castle-Specter bill is going to hurt current patients is completely false. If we want to help current patients, the key--the key--is to put more research into adult and cord blood stem cell research. If you want to help current patients, you should be ever so careful not to promise impossibilities to these hurting individuals; you should state what the scientists are telling us, that the possibility of embryonic stem cells yielding cures, if ever--and I really doubt if it ever happens--is decades away. And we have had problems in the past with these types or cells forming dangerous and cancerous tissues--a problem which has not yet been worked out. If we want cures, let's go the route where we know we are going to reach our destination, and where we know treatment is true possibility.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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