Government Leaders on Abortion
STEM CELLS OF HOPE, NOT HYPE, ARE CURING PEOPLE
by Chris Smith
Despite efforts by some to quell reality, one of the best-kept
secrets in medicine today is that umbilical-cord-blood stem cells
and adult stem cells are curing people from terrible conditions and
These miracle treatments have the potential to cure millions and
could quickly be made available to tens of thousands of patients in
need with Senate passage of a bill that I authored, H.R. 2520 — the
Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 — which passed the
House in May by a vote of 431-1.
The bill would greatly increase the number of cord-blood units
available to treat patients and expand research. The goal is to
reach a total inventory of 150,000 units, making matched stem cells
available to treat more than 90 percent of patients, with a
particular focus on providing genetic diversity.
The national program would promote stem-cell research by requiring
participating cord-blood banks to donate units that are not suitable
for transplant because of disease or size to researchers who are
working on new applications for cord-blood stem cells.
For the first time ever, my bill would establish a nationwide
stem-cell transplantation system. It would also reauthorize the
national bone-marrow transplant system and combine both systems
under a new program to provide an easy, single access point for
information for doctors and patients.
Cord-blood stem cells are already treating patients. The New York
Blood Center alone has treated thousands of patients with more than
65 diseases, including sickle-cell disease, leukemia and
osteopetrosis. Cord blood has also been used to treat neurological
conditions, debunking the idea that cord-blood cells can only treat
On the contrary, 14 separate studies have shown that adult and
cord-blood stem cells possess the capability to transform into most
tissue types in the body, including nerve cells, heart cells and
insulin-secreting cells. This ability to transform offers the
potential to yield a cure for spinal-cord injuries and diseases
including Parkinson’s, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
There have been dramatic recent developments in this underreported
field over the summer. In early August, Swedish researchers
successfully used adult stem cells to generate functioning human
brain cells — a procedure that has the potential to produce
treatments for spinal-cord injuries and neurological damage and
diseases. Two weeks ago, international researchers developed
“embryonic-like” stem cells from umbilical-cord blood — a remarkable
development that should end the practice of killing perfectly
healthy human embryos to derive stem cells.
Yet as adult and cord-blood stem cells leap from one medical
advancement to another, so much attention and coverage remains
focused on embryonic stem cells — with little regard given to the
fact that the process destroys human lives at their most vulnerable
beginning stage. The notion that “leftover human embryos” — a
grossly misleading and dehumanizing term — are just going to be
“destroyed anyway” and poured down the drain is simply mythical in
That could not have been any more evident than just a few months ago
when President Bush welcomed “snowflake families” to the White
House. These families adopted embryos — stored in frozen orphanages
— left from other couples’ attempts to conceive through in vitro
fertilization. They have since seen their adopted “embryos” grow
into happy, healthy children.
These children are living examples of why not one taxpayer dollar
should be used for the destruction of human embryos. Once the
government not only permits but funds the destruction of human life
in the name of science, all life is devalued.
In comparison to the progress achieved by researchers in adult and
cord-blood stem cells, developments in the field of embryonic stem
cells are disappointing. Despite years upon years of research in
animal embryonic stem cells and nearly eight years in the
human-embryonic variety, research in embryonic stem cells have often
resulted in failure and a troubling tendency for these cells to form
tumors. As experimental failures mount, predictions of eventual
success have quietly changed from “years” to “decades.”
One might think that advances in adult and cord-blood stem cells
would silence or — at minimum — refocus those insisting that
taxpayer dollars be used to subsidize the killing of human embryos.
Unfortunately, in typical fashion, some in government remain
obsessed with investing in what could be a 50-year process (where
failure remains a strong possibility) at a time when an ethically
sound, moral alternative is likely to offer greater possibilities.
The Senate needs to pass this noncontroversial bill now, helping
patients in immediate need.