06 Jul Gov. Doyle comments on unlocking the power of power of stem cell research
The time has come to reexamine the federal policy on stem cell research.
MADISON – Wisconsin finds itself at the center of this debate, because our state is the birthplace of human embryonic stem cell research. In 1998, Dr. Jamie Thomson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced that his team of researchers had, for the first time, successfully isolated stem cells from human embryos and grown them in five self-sustaining cell lines.
Since that time, most of the world has awoken to the potential of stem cell research to cure some of the deadliest diseases facing humanity and ease the suffering of millions of citizens.
But in 2001, President Bush instituted restrictions on stem cell research that have significantly slowed scientific progress.
The President said that stem cell lines created before his speech could be used in federally funded research. But for some totally arbitrary and unexplained reason, those created after his speech could not be used.
Of the 78 lines the President promised were then in existence, the Bush Administration has already admitted that more than 30 will never be available. Only 19 are now available, and all of these are contaminated with mouse cells and may not be suitable for clinical use.
In fact, President Bush’s own appointee – the Director of the National Institutes of Health – recently admitted that more stem cell lines are needed to speed up the pace of research.
The United States – and Wisconsin in particular – is clearly the world leader in stem cell research. But other countries are catching up fast. The President’s restrictions are hampering our ability to compete, and untold numbers of jobs could soon be lost overseas because other countries recognize the potential of this research.
At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Thomson has access to a highly advanced scientific laboratory. But the Bush policy has forced him to spend his time raising private money to build a separate, private lab at another location to derive new stem cell lines for research.
But privately funded research isn’t the answer. For one thing, there isn’t nearly enough private research money available to promote the full development of this science. A federally funded medical breakthrough by a University would be shared with the world for the benefit of everyone. A privately funded one would become the property of a private corporation.
The ban on federal funding for research on new stem cell lines must be overturned. Federal policy should instead allow for the development of new stem cell lines, based on cells from fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded. This would give our researchers access to enough stem cells to move the science forward.
It is time for the federal government to make a much stronger commitment to this research. President Bush wants to spend $12 billion on a mission to Mars. Think what could be accomplished if we would use that money instead to launch a new mission of scientific discovery here on earth that would improve the lives of millions of people all over the world. The bold new frontier we must conquer in the next decade exists not in the far reaches of space, but laboratories of our Universities and great research institutions.
This should not be a partisan issue. A bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate – 58 Senators – and more than 200 members of Congress have signed letters calling on the President to reconsider his policy. Some are strongly pro-life, others are strongly pro-choice, but all are united in the belief that politics should not get in the way of this science.
But we could have no more compelling champion of stem cell research than former First Lady Nancy Reagan. She has spoken eloquently, and convincingly, that it is time to let science go forward. America should listen to her.
My mother suffers from Parkinson disease. Our family is no different from the Reagans or millions of others across this nation who have seen a loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s, juvenile diabetes, cancer, spinal cord injuries or other conditions that stem cell research could one day cure.
I understand that it is probably too late for my mother. But I do not understand why anyone would stand in the way of research that could ease the suffering of so many people.
As many as one million Americans suffer from Parkinson disease. They should not have to suffer any more delays in the research that could save their lives.
About 50,000 people die in a year from Alzheimer’s. Don’t we owe it to their families to develop a cure as fast as we can?
More than 200,000 Americans under age 20 have diabetes. How long should they have to wait?
It is time to get the politics out of the way so that the march of science and medical innovation can go forward.