12 Jun Doyle, Green exchange stem cell salvos
Palo Alto, Calif. – Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle ventured into what could have been enemy territory Saturday, but the subject wasn’t the controversial stem cell patent of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. In an appeal for coalition building on stem cell research, Doyle went after his Republican opponent, Congressman Mark Green, who supports limitations on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.
Firing back, Green charged that Doyle is unquestionably trying to mislead people about his track record of support for medical research and cures, which he said is much broader and deeper than the Governor’s.
Stem cell battle
Doyle, speaking before the Stem Cell Advocacy Conference at Stanford University, did not mention Green by name, but referenced “the great battle going on in Wisconsin,” calling it a fight that advocates of stem cell research absolutely must win.
Picking up where he left off at the state Democratic Party Convention and the Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference, Doyle said the repercussions are enormous. “It is time for all of us to build consensus, to make our voices heard, and to engage in the political fight over this research,” he said.
Doyle, who called Wisconsin the “birthplace of stem cell research,” recounted the history of stem cell research here – from Dr. Jamie Thomson’s original discovery, to the $750 million public-private investment strategy that will build the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, to the recent announcement of a method of deriving stem cell lines without using animal cells that might contaminate them.
Yet, he said, there are people in the state that would like to shut down stem cell research. He cited his 2005 veto of a bill, AB 499, that would have criminalized what he called promising scientific techniques used by stem cell researchers, a reference to the Republican controlled Legislature’s attempt to ban therapeutic cloning.
Therapeutic cloning is controversial because a human egg is obtained and its nucleus, containing its genomic DNA, is removed. The embryo is allowed to develop to the blastocycst, or the 100-to-200-cell stage, where stem cells are isolated for use in cell transplantation therapies. In the process of isolating the stem cells, the embryo is destroyed. (The stem cells or the embryo also might be used for research into the earliest stages of human embryonic development.)
Therapeutic cloning is distinct from reproductive cloning, where nuclear transfer is used to produce a new individual. The bill that made it out of the Legislature would have banned both.
Citing his record in Congress, Doyle characterized Green as a relentless opponent of stem cell research. “A former member of the Wisconsin Assembly, and a current member of the United States House of Representatives, this is someone who voted for or co-sponsored legislation to ban and even criminalize proven methods of stem cell research eight times,” Doyle said. “Eight times.”
Doyle, whose mother recently died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, acknowledged the issue is personal. He said his mother was able to enjoy life for almost 30 years because of the medical advances that came before she was diagnosed.
“Scientific advancements gave my mother decades… decades that people diagnosed with Parkinson’s just a few years earlier did not have,” he said. “On the one side, there are those of us who passionately believe in science, progress, and hope. On the other, there are those who would rather promote an extremist agenda for ill-gotten political gain.”
Doyle also mentioned Jody Montgomery, a Verona mother whose four-year-old daughter has juvenile diabetes, as an example of a citizen who doesn’t understand why politicians are trying to stand in the way of stem cell research.
Green dismissed the charge that he would stop stem cell research in Wisconsin, noting that he supports the embryonic stem cell research that is underway on the lines developed prior to 2001, and that he helped secure funding for the first National Stem Cell Bank at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The true difference between the two candidates, Green said, is the issue of human cloning. Green has voted several times to ban human cloning, and characterized the bill Doyle vetoed as one that would have banned human cloning in Wisconsin. Green also said he has supported federal efforts to ban human cloning that have specific exemptions for stem cell research.
“Because he can’t stand on his own record, Jim Doyle is trying to confuse people,” Green said. “I can’t think of a more crass political demonstration than trying to prey on human suffering for partisan gain. I’ve been a leader in making the fight to find cures a national priority for the past eight years – long before Jim Doyle said a word about medical research.”
Green also cited his co-sponsorship of the “Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005.” As a result of that act, he said stem cells derived from cord blood already have has led to 67 clinical applications.
In contrast, he said embryonic stem cell research has yet to produce any clinical applications.
Green also said the stem cell research budget of the National Institutes for Health has doubled since he has been in Congress, and that he has worked to increase cancer research funding by $625 million, diabetes research funding by more than $120 million, and Alzheimer’s research funding by more than $2 billion.
“I’ll take that same commitment with me to the governor’s office,” he said.
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