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Bono Leads Bipartisan Effort to Ban Human Cloning and Regulate a Promising Form of Therapeutic Stem Cell Research

Location: Washington, DC

Bono Leads Bipartisan Effort to Ban Human Cloning and Regulate a Promising Form of Therapeutic Stem Cell Research

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congresswoman Mary Bono (R-CA), along with Congressmen Edward Markey (D-MA), Mike Castle (R-DE), Charlie Bass (R-NH) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced legislation that bans human cloning while regulating a promising form of stem cell research called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This legislation, The Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2005, is designed to ensure that SCNT research can continue under strict federal and ethical guidelines and cannot be used for the cloning of a human being. Currently, the United States does not have a ban on human cloning or a ban on this type of research.

"Stem cell research has the overwhelming potential to positively reshape treatment and potentially cure several prevalent and devastating diseases," said Congresswoman Bono. "Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is one of the most promising forms of this research which, under strict ethical standards and federal regulation, could make leaps to improve the quality of live for individuals who are suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis. This legislation takes a balanced approach to the regulation of stem cell research by explicitly banning reproductive cloning while allowing therapeutic cloning to go forward for clinical research purposes. This bill also does not provide for federal funding, it simply ensures that this promising source of research can go forward while at the same time remaining consistent with California law," added Bono.

"We are on the brink of a new and promising era," said Congressman Markey. "Much as antibiotics revolutionized the treatment of infectious diseases, embryonic stem cell research offers the possibility of revolutionizing the way we treat chronic conditions like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, cancer, and spinal cord injuries. Until we stop blocking scientists from exploring the full potential of stem cells, we will not realize all of the lifesaving possibilities that this research offers. This bill will ensure that our scientists can continue to search for the cures to our country's most devastating diseases using ethical, comprehensive stem cell research," added Markey.

SCNT is a form of therapeutic research in which the nucleus of an unfertilized egg cell is removed and then replaced with the material from the nucleus of a "somatic cell" (a skin, heart, or nerve cell, for example). The cell is then stimulated to begin dividing. Once the cell begins dividing, stem cells can be extracted and used for research. Many scientists and researchers believe that SCNT can be used for the prevention and treatment of many diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer's and Multiple Sclerosis that require cellular repair.

Specifically, the bill would do the following:

Makes it a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison to clone or attempt to clone a human being, without exception.

Establishes fines of $1 million or three times any profits made (whichever is greater) on any person who clones or attempts to clone a human being. This financial penalty is in addition to the 10-year prison term.

Allows the most promising form of stem cell research (somatic cell nuclear transplantation) to be conducted on a human egg for up to 14 days only, under strict ethical standards and federal regulation.

Outlines that this form of stem cell research can take place on unfertilized eggs only.

Bans profiteering and coercion by requiring that all egg donations for this stem cell research be voluntary, and that women who donate eggs can only be compensated minimally - large payments to induce donation are prohibited.

Prohibits the purchase or sale of unfertilized eggs, including eggs that have undergone nuclear transplantation.

Requires that nuclear transplantation occur in labs completely separate from labs that engage in vitro fertilization, to prevent a "blurring of the lines" and avoid the risk that eggs used in legitimate and important nuclear transplantation research would then be implanted in a woman.

Prohibits the export of eggs that have undergone nuclear transplantation to any foreign country that does not ban human cloning. This prohibition is designed to avoid the risk that valuable research in the United States will result in a human clone anywhere in the world.

Includes strong ethics requirements that mandate informed consent by egg donors; review of any nuclear transplantation research by an ethics board; and safety and privacy protections.

Any researcher who violates the bill's ethics requirements will face civil penalties of up to $250,000 per violation.

"We praise Rep. Bono and the other co-sponsors for moving to introduce legislation that would ban reproductive cloning yet allow research using therapeutic cloning, which has the potential to help over 100 million Americans suffering from life-threatening diseases and conditions," said Daniel Perry, President of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research. "Our nation's leading medical scientists, including the National Academy of Sciences and 40 Nobel Laureates, major patient advocacy organizations, the American public, and many religious leaders agree that therapeutic cloning could lead to dramatic new treatments and cures for now-incurable diseases and should be pursued," added Perry.

"Today, the U.S. is at a (crossroad) with respect to somatic cell nuclear transfer research," said Robert Dynes, President of University of California in his letter of support for the legislation. "The enactment of "The Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2005" will ensure our ability to lead the world in developing the medical breakthroughs that the nation expects from its investment in university research," added Dynes.

Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate last week by Senator's Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

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