September 26, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

US Senate bill would ban embryonic stem cell research

https://ipscell.com/2019/05/the-future-of-california-stem-cell-research-cirm/Here we go again with people trying to ban funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Really?

Yes, including according to a new article from the Catholic News Agency.

Who is trying to get this ban? Some Republicans in The U.S. Senate.

I’ve wondered for years if the Trump Administration might take action against embryonic stem cell research in part because of the views of VP Mike Pence. But for a long time nothing has happened. I don’t know if the senators mentioned in the Catholic News piece are coordinating with the Trump Administration or Pence on this bill, but it seems reasonably likely.

From the article:

“Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the sponsor of the legislation, said that the bill, the Patients First Act, “would encourage the use of adult stem cells for medical purposes,” an “ethical and effective alternative to embryonic stem cell research.”

“Medical breakthroughs achieved via stem cell research need not come at the expense of innocent life,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a cosponsor of the bill, stated.

The bill would codify the Dickey-Wicker Amendment so it could impair other research as well.
It feels like deja vu all over again. It was almost 8 years ago exactly to the day that the lawsuit hoping to ban federal funding of embryonic stem cell research met its end in court. Are we going back there again? I hope not.
This bill certainly could have significance for CIRM’s effort to get another round of funding from us California voters. Even if the bill became law, it would not affect privately or state-funded research.
Sen. Wicker’s website has bullet points on what he hopes to achieve:
  • “Promote the creation of pluripotent stem cell lines without the creation of human embryos, or the destruction or discarding of, or risk of injury, to human embryos;
  • Intensify stem cell research that may result in an improved understanding of, or treatments for, diseases and other adverse health conditions;
  • Promote research and human clinical trials using stem cells that are ethically obtained and show evidence of providing clinical benefit for human patients;
  • Direct the National Institutes of Health to prioritize stem cell research that has the greatest potential for near-term clinical benefits given currently available evidence;
  • Reverse President Obama’s Executive Order 13505, which gave the Department of Health and Human services the authority to use embryonic stem cells in research; and
  • Codify the Dickey-Wicker Amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research.”
The co-sponsors include “U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Steve Daines, R-S.D., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and James Lankford, R-Okla.”
Time to write your senators!
Fortunately, such a bill would never pass The House, but you never know how things might go down on this front and the 2020 election is not that far away. Also, the Trump Administration might try to take some negative executive action here. They have halted fetal tissue research.
It’s puzzling that they would call the bill “Patients First”.  It doesn’t make sense to me as both adult and embryonic stem cell-based therapies have promise. We need both to help the most people. While it’s correct that scientists can make human pluripotent stem cells without using embryos in the form of IPS cells (and more rarely via cellular cloning), there are some areas of research where it just doesn’t make sense to ban embryonic stem cell work.
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