WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) Jun 08 - A leading Congressional opponent of embryonic stem cell research has introduced legislation aimed at encouraging research on adult stem cells, in an effort to derail pending legislation that would permit research on embryonic cells.
At a press conference on Friday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) introduced the "Responsible Stem Cell Research Act of 2001," under which the federal government would support research on adult stem cells but not embryonic cells.
The Smith legislation is meant as an alternative to legislation introduced Tuesday by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wa.), which would permit federal funding for research on embryonic cells.
The Smith bill would establish a national cell donor bank at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to seek and preserve donations of adult stem cells. The bill would also create a $30 million annual federal research fund to support research on adult stem cells derived from placentas, umbilical cord blood or adult tissues and organs.
Supporters of research on embryonic cells say it is too early to tell whether adult stem cells can offer the same benefits as embryonic cells.
"In light of that uncertainty, it would be bad public policy for political figures to substitute their judgment for that of medical researchers. Patients eager for relief will be best served by public funding and public accountability that allows scientists to make speedy progress by pursuing all reasonable avenues of stem cell research," Dan Perry, a founding member of the Patients' Coalition for Urgent Research, told Reuters Health.
Supporting the Smith alternative are 45 members of the House and several conservative groups, including the National Right to Life Committee and The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics.
It is unlikely that
federal funding will be used to support any stem cell research, for at
least the present. In 2000, the Clinton Administration authorized federal
funding of stem cell research as long as the money was not used for actual
removal of embryonic cells. However, because of uncertainty over what the
federal government would or would not fund, few researchers submitted applications
for federal funds by the March 15 deadline.
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