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More MS news articles for June 2004

As We See It: Right time for new look at stem cells

Bush: President should permit expanded research to potentially save lives

June 9, 2004
Santa Cruz Sentinel

The death of Ronald Reagan on Saturday has brought the debate over stem-cell research back into the headlines, and back to President George W. Bush. Nancy Reagan has been one of the most prominent voices calling for expanded stem-cell research, which could help find a more effective way to treat Alzheimerís, which afflicted Ronald Reagan.

Stem-cell research, however, has been highly controversial, and Bush in August 2001 put together a policy that limits federal funding to stem cells that existed at that time. His argument was that new stem cells should not be used until scientists and ethicists had more time to think through the implications of using embryonic tissue.

The net effect was to hamper research, because the number of existing lines at the time of his announcement has been limited to 19, scientists say, rather than the 78 originally cited.

Stem cells are important because they can grow into a wide range of other cells, and allow researchers to potentially repair the significant damages done to patients suffering from Alzheimerís, Parkinsonís, heart disease, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

Support for expanded stem-cell research has been growing even among conservative Republicans, spurred on by Nancy Reaganís effective leadership and the plight of the former president.

In November, California voters will have a chance to approve a $3 billion bond that would help pay for stem-cell research.

Now a bipartisan majority of senators has appealed to Bush to make additional lines available to researchers who receive federal money. A similar appeal drafted in the House drew 206 signatures, not a majority, but including 36 Republicans including 12 who oppose legalized abortion.

Despite the 2001 policy, research has continued on stem cells, some private, some in other nations.

The issues are complex with stem cells. Opponents to their harvesting say the process destroys potential human life; proponents, however, say they are left over from in vitro fertilization banks and would be destroyed rather than saving lives.

The outpouring of affection for Ronald Reagan will only intensify the debate over stem cells. While no one knows what Reagan himself felt about the research, he is remembered as a man who cared about others, and we hope Nancy Reagan continues to be an outspoken advocate for the research.

The president should listen to Congress and members of his own party and reconsider his 2001 policy and find a responsible way to permit more stem cell lines to help people who, unlike Ronald Reagan, are still suffering.

Copyright © 2004, Santa Cruz Sentinel