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Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007

Location: Washington, DC

STEM CELL RESEARCH ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - January 11, 2007)


Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, by now, most of my colleagues know that, on Sunday, a team of scientists from Wake Forest University and Harvard Medical School announced the stunning news that they had discovered a new, readily available source of potentially lifesaving stem cells derived exclusively from amniotic fluid.

For those of us who passionately support extending ethical stem cell research to effectuate cures and mitigate disease, news of this breakthrough was particularly encouraging. News media around the world seemed to appreciate the enormity and the historical significance of the findings. ABC News said, ``Stem cells discovered in amniotic fluid: Researchers say stem cells can be taken from amniotic fluid with no harm to mother or fetus.' They pointed out that stem cells they drew from the amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells.

The L.A. Times said, ``Stem cells in amniotic fluid show great promise, a study finds they offer key therapeutic benefits but avoid controversy.'

Mr. Speaker, for those of us who strongly support taxpayer funding for ethical stem cell research, and I would note parenthetically that the Bush administration spent over $600 million on stem cell research at NIH in 2006 alone, the news of this breakthrough suggests that we can and must do more to finance this kind of ethical research.

And for those of us who oppose taxpayer subsidies to facilitate the destruction of human embryos, this latest breakthrough is yet another vindication and underscores the fact that ethical alternatives to embryo-destroying research are available now, and they are likely to expand.

Let me reiterate one more time, especially for the press, that we on the pro-life side strongly support stem cell research as long as it does not require the killing of human embryos. In that vein, let me remind my colleagues that I was the prime sponsor of the bipartisan Stem Cell Therapeutic Research Act of 2005, a law that authorized $265 million for cord blood and bone marrow stem cell programs, including a new nationwide program to collect, research and help disseminate these vital stem cells.

By way of update, last fall, pursuant to the new law, the Bush administration issued contracts to establish a national inventory of umbilical cord blood. Contracts totaling $12 million were awarded and more contracts are expected this year. The establishing of this national cord blood inventory marks the beginning of the effort to increase the total number of available umbilical cord blood units, making lifesaving cord blood stem cells available to Americans in need of a transplant. I believe that is really good news to patients suffering from a myriad of diseases such as sickle cell anemia and leukemia.

Mr. Speaker, it was just 6 months ago, in July, on this floor that opponents of ROSCOE BARTLETT's alternative pluripotent stem cell legislation belittled and scoffed that adult and cord blood stem cells were capable of pluripotency, the ability of stem cells to grow into any cell in the body. Despite the fact that numerous scientists had published findings of pluripotency in cord blood stem cells and adult stem cells, Ms. DeGette dismissed alternative sources for pluripotent stem cells as ``fake.'

She called it ``fake research that doesn't really exist' and that ``alternative methods for creating pluripotent stem cells are not a real scientific prospect at this time.'

Mr. Speaker, that statement was false then, and it is false now. The scientific evidence clearly refutes it. In 2005, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School verified that umbilical cord blood stem cells expressed pluripotency genes and can repair neurological damage.

In like manner, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh demonstrated that placental stem cells express pluripotency genes and potentially form any tissue with no signs of tumor formation. As I think my colleagues know by now, tumor formation is a catastrophic problem with embryonic stem cells.

Recently, researchers in France and Switzerland discovered that they could turn pluripotent bone marrow stem cells into insulin-secreting cells, an important step in curing diabetes, and the list goes on.

And now Wake Forest has come to this same conclusion, this time about amniotic-fluid-derived stem cells. And I will quote from the report. This is their report issued this weekend: ``We conclude,' the authors say, ``that amniotic-fluid-derived stem cells are pluripotent stem cells capable of giving rise to multiple lineages including representatives of all three embryonic germ layers. Newsweek got it, and they also talked about it as well: ``A New Era Begins: Stem Cells derived from amiotic fluid show great promise in the lab and may end the divisive ethical debate once and for all.'

Let me just finally say, where will this all take us if this bill were to be passed and signed into law? We would see the demise, the destruction over time, if it worked, of millions of embryos. Let me just quote Robert Lanza, medical director of Advanced Cell Technology, an advocate of embryonic stem cell research, who said that because of the likelihood of immune rejection, it may require, his words, ``millions' of embryos to be destroyed. Is that the future you want to promote with the DeGette bill? Millions of embryos killed? Let's adopt them, as we are seeing now.



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