Bush’s belated victory: Pro-life groups celebrate ethical shift in stem cell research

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Some scientists view stem cells taken from human embryos as superior, “master cells” with vast potential for cures and therapies. But pro-life groups and their allies denounce such research because the stem cell extraction process destroys the “person” in embryonic form.

In 2001, President George W. Bush decided to restrict federal funding to existing embryonic stem cell lines. His opponents in California responded by promoting and winning a voter initiative to provide $3 billion over 10 years to stem cell research, especially the kind that uses human embryos.

In 2007, the newly created California Institute for Regenerative Medicine kept its promise and spent $121 million on human embryonic stem cell research. Of 100 grants the institute issued in its first year, not one went to a project that used adult stem cells, Mr. Tarne said in his July 2012 report for the Lozier institute.

By 2012, though, the institute’s funding had shifted course — it gave 15 grants, worth about $50 million, to non-embryonic research projects and six grants, worth $19 million, to embryonic research projects.

Mr. Tarne found a similar pattern in Maryland, another state with an active stem cell research community.

In 2007, the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission funded 11 projects that used human embryos and four that used adult stem cells. This year, though, the Maryland commission funded only one embryonic stem cell project and 28 non-embryonic projects.

Maryland’s grants can be seen as “an important bellwether” for the research choices, as the state is home to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a leading site for stem cell research, Mr. Tarne said.

The two states’ growing preferences for “ethical” stem cell projects reflect the scientific community’s belief that “the best hope for rapid medical advances lies with morally unproblematic alternatives,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which is the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List.

“It’s a matter of starting to recognize that where all the ‘return’ is — especially if we’re talking about helping a patient — is in adult stem cells,” said David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council and a member of the advisory board for the Kansas adult stem cell research center.

“It validates what we have been saying for years, which is ‘the ethical is the successful’ and that’s where we should put all our resources,” said Mr. Prentice, a researcher in cell biology who will discuss the stem cell issue at a Family Research Council event Dec. 11.

All cells pursued

Alan Trounson, the outgoing president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, rejected the idea that the agency was shifting its position on stem-cell science.

The institute has “quite a lot of projects” on embryonic stem cells and their derivatives, as well as some using adult stem cells, he told The Washington Times.

“It just takes time for some stem cell types to sort of evolve into usefulness, clinically,” Mr. Trounson said. “So we are on a natural evolution, if you like, using the best cells.”

“It is no longer about the type of cell,” said Mr. Siegel, founder and chairman of the ninth annual World Stem Cell Summit, which expects to draw 1,000 scientists and others associated with stem cell research to San Diego from Wednesday through Friday.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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