11 Jan House passes bill to lift stem cell funding restrictions
Washington, D.C. – The United States House of Representatives, for the second time in the past two years, has passed a measure that would lift President Bush’s restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.
But the vote of 253 to 174 is not enough to override a promised presidential veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007. In advance of the renewed legislative push, the White House reiterated its opposition to using federal taxpayer dollars to support “the destruction of human life for research.”
Every House Democrat in the Wisconsin Congressional delegation co-sponsored the the bill, including U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, and David Obey.
Bush, citing ethical and moral concerns, vetoed a similar bill last year. In 2001, he established a policy of limited federal support of research on embryonic stem cells.
The research is controversial because involves stem cells taken from fertilized human eggs, or embryos, which are destroyed in the process of extracting the stem cells. During the debate on the House bill, opponents cited the emergence of stem cell research alternatives that do not require the destruction of embryos.
Because they have to potential to develop into any kind of cell, tissue, or organ in the human body, researchers believe that human embryonic stem cells could be very useful in the treatment of serious medical diseases and conditions.
When Bush announced his policy in 2001, he allowed for research on 60 existing lines, but only 21 of the original lines now are viable for research. Some advocates of embryonic stem cell research say this number makes finding treatment for diseases nearly impossible.
Despite federal barriers, four stem cell companies have emerged in Greater Madison in the past two years, including Cellular Dynamics International and Stem Cell Products, two companies established by University of Wisconsin-Madison stem cell researcher James Thomson; Stemina Biomarker Discovery, a new venture formed by former WiCell director Beth Donley and UW-Madison stem cell scientist Gabriela Cezar; and the new American office of CellCura, a Norwegian biotechnology company.
• Doyle says Congress should lift stem cell restrictions
• Bush vetoes stem cell research bill
• Senate approves bill to expand stem cell funding
• Doyle, WARF announce partnership to lure stem cell companies
• A brief timeline of the stem cell debate