[lit-ideas] Stem Cell research and swing voters

  • From: Eternitytime1@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2004 09:56:48 EDT

Here's another reason why I support Kerry.  While it IS true that if a  
research organization in the USA is allowed to do stem cell research with  
embryonic stem cells, they are not allowed to use federal dollars--and the big  
outcome then is that there is no requirement for peer research which is  
generally part and parcel of getting federal $$.  So, that overall, has  slowed 
research down since most privately funded organizations won't make  public 
their research unless it is required  [esp if funded by  pharmeucetical types, 
but even by places here in KC which were created by  wealthy folk with 
relatives with various diseases - if you are a bio-medical  sort, there are 
jobs here in KC for you...]
Just another thought...
Stem Cells May Swing Voters
By Molly M.  Ginty - WeNews correspondent

(WOMENSENEWS)--They're the stuff of medical  miracles, offering the promise 
of cures for multiple sclerosis, spinal cord  injuries, heart disease, 
lymphoma, diabetes and even cancer.

Animal  studies indicate embryonic stem cells may be able to cure diseases 
ranging from  Alzheimer's to Parkinson's. Health advocates say that whether 
these cures come  in 10 or 20 years depends on the speed of research and on who 
wins the November  election.

Embryonic stem cells are primordial cells with the ability to  morph into any 
type of cell in the body. They can fight disease by replacing  dying cells 
with healthy ones. And now they've become weapons in another battle:  the fight 
to win November's Presidential election.

At the Democratic  National Convention in July, vice presidential candidate 
John Edwards pledged  that, if elected, presidential contender John Kerry would 
reverse President  George W. Bush's August 2001 ban on federal funding for 
new embryonic stem  cells.

Since that date, researchers have not been permitted to fertilize  human eggs 
with human sperm and use the resulting "stem cells" in  government-supported 
studies. Edwards also promised to spend at least $100  million per year on 
stem cell research, which is three times what the Bush  administration devoted 
the cause in 2003.

At the Republican National  Convention in August, GOP leaders were on the 
counter-attack. Republican Senate  Majority leader Bill Frist stood before the 
nation and said, "The federal  government is funding stem cell research at 
record levels. And the private  sector remains free to fund and pursue any type 
stem cell research. But this  president will not use your taxpayer dollars to 
destroy human life or create  human embryos solely for the purpose of 

Any Type of  Cell

Embryonic stem cells form when a sperm and egg meet and the  resulting cell 
begins to divide into a ball of cells called a blastocyst. Cells  at this early 
stage of development are "undifferentiated" in that DNA has yet to  give them 
specific marching orders. When transplanted to any part of the body,  they 
can become any type of cell: muscle, skin, organ, tissue, bone or  brain.

In addition to embryonic stem cells, there are two other types of  stem 
cells: undifferentiated cells harvested from the tissues of adults and  
undifferentiated cells harvested from the tissues of fetuses. Though adult stem 
are used in bone marrow transplants and though fetal stem cells may be  able to 
repair stroke damage to the brain, both types have their  limitations.

They don't grow in lab dishes as readily as embryonic stem  cells. They are 
more likely to be rejected when they are introduced into the  body. And they 
don't migrate as readily to an injured area and form appropriate  cell types.

Though adult stem cells and fetal stem cells have no  restrictions on their 
funding, embryonic stem cells--in which scientists place  the greatest 
hope--are subject to the Bush ban. Hoping to reverse this ban and  garner more 
funding, health care advocates and lobbyists are putting pressure on  both 
presidential candidates.

Most Voters Support Stem Cell  Research

A July poll conducted by the NBC news network indicated that 71  percent of 
Americans support more embryonic stem cell research. Most Americans  know 
someone who suffers from a disease that might be cured by these studies and  
Americans will develop one of these diseases at some point in their own  lives.

In another survey, this one conducted in August by the Pew  Research Center 
for the People and the Press, a public policy organization based  in 
Washington, D.C., 52 percent of Americans believe it is more important to  
study stem 
cells than to avoid destroying potential human life. The Pew poll  found that 
most swing voters (who have yet to decide on a candidate or may  switch sides 
November) hold this view.

"This election is so close that  stem cell research could become an important 
wedge issue," says Carroll Doherty,  the associate director of the Pew 
Center. "Though Kerry isn't going to lose his  supporters because of his 
Bush is more at risk. His views could  alienate the 22 percent of Americans who 
are swing voters in this  election."

Women--who represent the majority of swing voters--are more  likely to 
support Kerry's position. An August survey by the Annenberg Public  Policy 
Center at 
the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, found that 60  percent of 
women support more federal funding for stem cell research, while 31  percent of 
women oppose it. (The comparative numbers for men are 67 and 25  percent.)

Already, Bush's hard-line stance has estranged some within his  own party. In 
July, 14 Republicans were among the 58 U.S. Senators who sent the  president 
a letter urging him to lift the ban. And when former President Ronald  Reagan 
died in May, it was after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.  Reagan's 
widow Nancy, a leading figure in the Republican party, has publicly  
criticized Bush for failing to support stem cell research that might have  
her husband's active life. At the Democratic National Convention in  July, her 
son Ron made a speech calling for more stem cell  funding.

Research Inches Forward

While holding out hope for more  federal funding, scientists are working to 
make the most of the 19 viable  embryonic stem cells lines that they can study 
under the Bush ban. Each line was  created in a lab using donated sperm and 
eggs at some point before August  2001.

"Getting access to these lines is difficult," says Dr. Ronald G.  Crystal, 
chair of the Department of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical  College. 
"There are paperwork hurdles. There are cost hurdles. These cells are  very 
finicky and can die easily without experienced handling. Having a limited  
of lines also means you don't know if the results of your research hold  true 
for all embryonic stem cells or just for that particular line."

Dr.  Susan Fisher, co-director of the human stem cell biology program at the  
University of California at San Francisco, says that scientists in her lab 
have  lost at least two years' of progress because of the ban.

"We're just dead  in the water here," says Fisher. "But when we can start 
working with the usual  amount and sources of funding, American scientists will 
hopefully be able to  catch up."

Meanwhile, research marches forward in Britain, which last  month started 
allowing scientists to create new human blastocysts and harvest  them for stem 
cells. The British government recently spent $4.7 million to  create a national 
stem cell bank. Spain and Japan are also creating stem cell  banks of their 

Since the U.S. federal government won't fully fund  stem cell research, some 
individual states have decided to take action. This  November, California 
residents will vote on a measure to devote $3 billion in  state financing to 
cell research each year--12 times more than what is now  being spent by the 
federal government.

As they jockey to win swing voters  in a closely-contested race, Kerry and 
Bush must hail stem cells' promise while  defusing the ethics involved.

"Embryonic stem cells have enormous  disease-curing potential," says Dr. 
Crystal. "But this potential will only be  realized when politicians and the 
public find a way to comfortably support this  research."

Molly M. Ginty is a freelance writer based in New York  City.

For more information:

The Pew Research Center for the People  and the Press-- - GOP the 
Religion-Friendly Party: But Stem Cell Issue May Help  Democrats: -  

Center for  Responsible Politics-- - Pharmaceuticals/Health Products: 
Long-Term Contribution  Trends: -  

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