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Public Statements

Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that this is a debate which so many of us feel passionately about on both sides. It is such a shame, though, that it was not allowed to go to committee. I hear over and over again how important this bill is and actually to both sides, proponents and opponents, yet no committee, no hearing, no amendments. It is a pity. I certainly hope that the Democrats do go back to their party's promise of last week and start opening things up.

Now, having said that, I wanted to make two points, and then I am going to extend my remarks. But there is no Federal law against embryonic stem cell research right now. Many people seem to think that this will allow something to happen that it doesn't. The debate is more about what types of lines.

Now, as you know, the President has approved research on 78 lines. Twenty-two of them are being used currently in Federal funding, and I have the list of where those 22 are, their locations, which I will submit to the RECORD.


Mr. Speaker, I also want to say that $200 million is being spent by private foundations and institutions on stem cell research, in addition to $39 million over at the National Institutes of Health; in addition to that $39 million, on nonhuman embryonic stem cell research, $96 million; on human nonembryonic stem cell research, $200 million; on nonhuman nonembryonic stem cell research, $273 million. This is very important.

The other thing that we keep hearing over again is that these are leftover embryos. In fact, of the 400,000 embryos which keep getting referred to, the RAND Corporation, which is nonpartisan, says only 11,000 have been designated for research, and of those they will probably yield 275 stem cell lines.

And why is that important? It is important because eventually you run out and then you start deciding to produce something. And I want to point out, England has already crossed this path. They have already voted on an H.R. 3, and today they are debating the hybrid stem cell creation of an animal-human embryonic stem cell. That is a debate going on in England today. So don't think that this bill will stay within the boundaries of the bill if it is passed.

My colleagues today will try to tell you that all of those against this bill are against science. That is just not the case. You can be pro-life and pro-science; the two are not mutually exclusive. To say we are anti-science is just a complete falsehood.

Stem cells are cells with the unique ability to divide and grow colonies of the specialized cells that make up the tissues and organs of the body.

Adult stem cells: unspecialized cells that can reproduce and mature into the specialized cells of the surrounding tissue. For example: Stem cells found in the heart can divide into more heart tissue cells.

Embryonic stem cells: unspecialized cells found in the early stages of an embryo that can reproduce and mature into the specialized cells of any organ or tissue in the body. For example: Stem cells found in the early stages of an embryo can divide into and create more cells of heart tissue, liver tissue, or any other tissue in the body.

Stem cells have been found in many tissues in the developed human body (adult stem cells), and are found in the largest quantities in the early stages of embryonic development in: the umbilical cord (cord cells), embryos (embryonic stem cells), and just this week, it was announced that stem cells have been discovered in the amniotic fluid (amniotic stem cells) that surrounds an unborn child in the womb.

A ``stem cell line' is created by removing a cluster of cells from an embryo in its early stages of development. The embryo is destroyed and the cells are grown in a culture that under the right conditions will yield colonies of stem cells. Once the initial stem cells are isolated they can be manipulated to reproduce over and over again.

While the Democrats will try to make this a vote for or against embryonic stem cell research that is just a falsehood. There is no federal law against embryonic stem cell research. On August 9, 2001, President Bush announced that his administration would allow federal funding for research using the 78 approved lines. Of the 78 original derivations held to meet the August 9, 2001 criteria, there are now twenty-one embryonic stem cell lines available and in use.

This has been the number available for about a year now, up from 17 in 2004 and just 1 in 2002. The 78 eligible lines break down as follows:

Twenty-one available and used.

One in development (which could yet become available, that remains unclear).

One temporarily on hold due to irregularities in its use (this is a South Korean line, NIH investigation continues).

Thirty-one owned by foreign institutions that have not made them available.

Sixteen of these are frozen in an undeveloped state for use when culturing methods are perfected. These are owned by a Swedish institution, they could very well become available when that institution decides techniques for developing them are sufficiently developed (i.e. high efficiency, no animal cells

etc.) but we have no control over that and cannot know how many of them will prove viable when they are thawed.

The remaining 15 have never been made available and NIH suspects (reasonably) they are not viable.

Seventeen have proven unviable and cannot be made usable.

Seven are duplicates of some of the 22 available lines, and are being held in reserve to avoid over-development of those lines. These are not being distributed and not counted among the available lines (a common and logical practice in cell biology.)

Since each line can be replicated almost without limit, these 21 lines have made for more than 700 shipments to individual researchers since 2001.

NIH has the capacity to make more than 3,000 more shipments available upon request. There has been no shortage of lines.

Funding for use of the lines has been growing each year.

In FY 05, NIH spent $39 million on human embryonic stem cell work, an increase of 61 percent over FY 04. In total, more than $130 million have been spent.

Now, to me, it seems the Democrat party, who chose to vote against the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Enhancement Act by a vote of 273-154 under suspension, would be the party against science. This bill, which was supported by the President and was voted for unanimously by the Senate, would have directed HHS to research and develop techniques for ``the isolation, derivation, production, or testing of stem cells that are capable of producing all or almost all of the cell types of the developing body, but are NOT derived from a human embryo'. And on H.R., once again, the Democrats are NOT allowing for an open and transparent process which would allow amendments in the form of the substitute of some of this language.

While any potential treatments from embryonic stem cells are decades away at best (in fact, there have been no therapeutic applications or even human trials at this point) patients being treated today with adult stem cell treatments have been found to benefit 72 different ailments, ranging from cancers, auto-immune diseases to wounds and injuries. (Note that though none of these are cures, peer journals show adult stem cells benefit Leukemia and Parkinson's patients, who have gone into remission, and those who have MS can walk more, etc.) Embryonic stem cells have the capacity to grow and reproduce rapidly, but that same tendency causes them to form tumors.

When cells derived from embryonic stem cells are transplanted into adult animals, their most common fate is to die. This is in striking contrast to the survival of adult cells when transplanted in adult tissue. This failure of embryonic stem-cell derived tissue to survive when transplanted seems to show that science hasn't determined how to generate normal adult tissue from embryonic stem cells.

Embryonic stem cell science relies on the assumption that embryonic stem cells can grow into any type of cell just because they can within the embryo. But in reality, scientists have found that it is hard to control the direction of the cells, and they often grow faster than surrounding tissue, forming tumors.

Proponents of embryo-destructive research claim that there are 400,000 leftover embryos that could be used for research.

It's deeply troubling to describe any human being as ``leftover'. This is not a matter of religious belief but of biology. A human embryo is a human being, and each of us was once an embryo.

However, according to the non-partisan RAND corporation, the ``vast majority of frozen embryos are held for family building' and ``only 11,000 have been designated for research, and those 11,000 embryos will likely yield just 275 stem cell lines'. This same study found that of the roughly 400,000 human embryos currently frozen in storage; only 2.8 percent have been designated for research.

In Vitro Fertilization clinics are most commonly used by Caucasian Americans--not the diverse population that the scientists claim to need for research purposes.

As of 2006, 110 children have been born through the Nightlight Christian Adoption agency's Snowflake Baby program.

The NIH spent 38 million federal taxpayer dollars for human embryonic stem cell research in 2005 and through 2006, they spent $122 million on human embryonic stem cell research. The Bush policy does not limit the level of NIH funding and NIH determines how many grant proposals to give. Additionally, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article in September 2005 that found when public funding for research lapses, private funders almost always step in to take up the slack.

The President will stand firm in his stance that it is possible to advance scientific research ``without violating ethical principles by enacting appropriate policy safeguards and pursuing appropriate scientific techniques' (statement of Admin. policy).

Proponents of this research will not be satisfied with the 275 stem cell lines they may be able to get from frozen embryos. They will move to the next step, human cloning, and begin to create custom ordered embryos on which to experiment. In fact, Diana DeGette herself has said ``therapeutic cloning is the way to take stem cell research and all of its promise from the lab to the patient' (July 31, 2001 floor debate).

Harvard scientists already want to grow disease specific lines of stem cells, which of course you would need cloning to do. According to their website, ``To be maximally useful, stem cell science requires using a process in which the nucleus of an egg, which contains its genetic material, is removed and replaced by the genetic material from an adult cell. This egg, with its new nucleus, then grows into a cluster of cells from which investigators can derive stem cells matching the genetic identity of the patient who donated the implanted cells, and which are therefore unlikely to be rejected by the patient's immune system. This technique is called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or therapeutic cloning'.

Proponents claim that adult stem cells are no match for embryonic stem cells. I guarantee you that those who vote in favor of this bill today will then say embryonic stem cells are no substitute for cloned cells. It will never be enough.

Democrats will also argue that our current quote restrictions are causing us to fall behind other countries in research in this arena. This is just not the case. Of the number of scientific publications on the matter, 40 percent of those on embryonic stem cells are by researchers in the U.S. and the others are divided by 20 countries.

A paper in the April issue of Nature Biotechnology showed that 85 percent of all human embryonic stem cell publications in the world have used the approved lines, with the great bulk of them appearing between 02 and 05. This is a much higher number than expected.

The same study also showed that American researchers easily lead the world in human ES cell publications, and the number of American publications has been growing each year of this administration (as has the number of foreign publications).

The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005--which is now public law--made genetically matched cord blood stem cells available to patients who need them.

Cord blood is the blood leftover from the placenta after the birth of a child and has been used for years. In fact, it has been used to treat more than 70 diseases including sickle cell disease, cancer, and genetic disorders. These cells have the ability to change into many different types of cells in the body.

The Act is beginning to be implemented into the National Cord Blood Inventory. HHS has begun developing contracts which are then authorized by the Stem Cell bill to collect and store 150,000 new units of cord blood. Cord blood stem cell research and treatment is a good way to promote cures while still maintaining ethics.

One example of a patient who has benefited: Nathan Salley, who had leukemia at age 11, did not respond to intense chemotherapy sessions. When this treatment didn't work, doctors performed a cord blood transplant which involved killing off Nathan's bone marrow cells, then regrowing new (healthy) ones by injecting healthy umbilical cord blood stem cells. Nine years after his initial diagnosis, Nathan is preparing for his final year of college.

PrimeCell Therapeutics has created the first non-embryonic, adult-derived stem cell showing the ability to transform into any cell type found in the body (pluripotency). They have taken stem cells from one part of the body and turned them into cells from another part of the body, including into beating heart cells as well as brain, bone and cartilage cells.

They are derived from the germ line, which is the most protected and genetically pure cell line in the body, since they normally would develop into eggs and sperm. This is the one line that remains unaffected by the aging process.

They are autologus, meaning they come from you and are transplanted back into you for treatment. Therefore, there is a reduced chance of infection following transplantation and there is no risk of rejection--meaning there will no longer be the worries involving immunosuppressant drugs.

Other successful treatments: Scientists have grown human heart valves using stem cells from amniotic fluid. The new valves are created in the lab while the pregnancy progresses and are then implanted in a baby with heart defects after it is born (AP/Wash Post).

On January 8, 2007, scientists from Wake Forest University reported that these amniotic cells, which are easily retrieved during routine prenatal testing and can be isolated as early as 10 weeks after conception, were ``easier to maintain in laboratory dishes than embryonic stem cells' (Wash. Post). They also grow ``as fast as embryonic stem cells, show great pluripotentiality, and remain stable for years without forming tumors' (Dr. Anthony Atala, Wash. Post). If the goal of using embryonic stem cells (versus adult stem cells) is pluripotency, we may have an even better and more flexible solution with these amniotic cells without the complications of tumor formation.

Researchers at Northwestern have found that adult stem cells derived from bone marrow gives rise to blood cells, which can then be transformed into a wide variety of tissue types. In fact, they have found like a certain type of bone marrow cell has been transformed into white blood cells that are Ðresponsible for fighting infections (medicalnewstoday).

Bone marrow cells have also been shown to be stretched into patterns that could potentially transform them into smooth muscle cells similar to blood vessel tissue (DC-Berkeley experiment, medical news today).

In conclusion, science has shown us that there are several alternative ways to explore stem cell research without destroying an embryo. We need to direct the NIH to fund and research these alternatives and make them a priority. Science is flexible, and researchers need the incentive to pursue the already proven research of adult stem cells--not the questionable and unproven helpfulness of embryonic stem cells.


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