AAAS Applauds Sen. Frist's Stem Cell Stance
In a letter dated 29 July 2005, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of the journal Science, thanked U.S. Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) for displaying "great leadership" on the subject of the future of stem cell research.
Frist's speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate promised support for the pending Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, though he indicated that he would seek revisions to ensure, for example, "a strong ethical and oversight mechanism."
"Since the breakthrough in embryonic stem cell research in 1998," Leshner wrote, "AAAS has espoused the position that it is only through federal support of research on both adult and embryonic stem cells that we may better understand the potential value and limitations of each type. At the same time, we have argued that this research should proceed in an ethical manner that engenders public confidence."
In sum, Leshner wrote to Frist, "We applaud your thoughtful stand."
According to a recent nationwide poll conducted by Research!America, Leshner noted, six in 10 Americans (63 percent) believe the United States should have a uniform national policy of medical research using embryonic stem cells.
The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act has passed in the U.S. House (238 to 194), but has stalled in the Senate. The bill would expand federal funding for research involving embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to become any type of cell, and thus, may eventually hold promise for new treatments or cures for various diseases, from juvenile diabetes to heart disease, as well as perhaps spinal cord injuries.
On 9 August 2001, President George Bush announced that federal funding would be provided only for research on stem cell lines that had been created by that date, but not for lines extracted from embryos after that date. Under this rule, only 22 stem cell lines are eligible for U.S. federal funding.
In his speech 29 July 2005, Frist noted that the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would allow federal funding of embryonic stem cells derived from embryos leftover from in vitro fertilization efforts. He also expressed optimism regarding alternative methods, now under development, for extracting stem cell lines from embryos without destroying them, or for "reprogramming" adult cells to a "pluripotent" or more versatile state.
29 July 2005