Embryonic Stem Cell Research ‘Far Behind’ Adult, Says Ethics Group

WASHINGTON – A recently revived bill expanding the funding for embryonic stem cell research is opposed by a research ethics coalition that calls instead for greater funding of adult stem cell research, which it says has shown greater results than its counterpart.

“We oppose that bill for two reasons – number one: we believe this is unethical research; this is using human life as a means to someone else’s end,” said Gene Tarne, communications director for DoNoHarm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics. “It is ‘commodifying’ human life by necessarily entailing the destruction of living human embryos.”

On Thursday, a bill that would expand funding for embryonic stem cell research was pushed forward after being stalled in the Senate since the House passed it in May 2005.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, urged by Nancy Reagan, “untangled” objections to the bill and moved it closer to being passed, according to The Associated Press.

The bill allows for the government to fund human embryonic stem cell research.

Tarne explained his opposition to the bill by highlighting that there are no cures yet for embryo stem cell research and no benefit yet shown in human patients.

“There are no cures,” the Research Ethics Coalition spokesperson said Friday. “You are sacrificing the embryos on purely speculative research.”

“Their success in the lab has been very, very limited.”

Tarne pointed out that while there was media frenzy over the John Hopkins University’s report on the successful use of embryonic stem cells to repair damage spinal cord in rats last week, DoNoHarm and Sen. Brownback (R- Kan.) had hosted a press conference and reception last week that featured human patients who have received a therapeutic benefit from either adult or cord blood stem cells.

Among the patients was a woman who had received an adult stem cell treatment for her spinal injury who has, as a result, regained some sensation and feeling and was able to walk with the assistance of braces.

“Meanwhile on the embryonic stem cell side we have people still in the lab still trying to do work with rats,” compared Tarne. “This was probably a great advancement for embryonic stem cell, but in my opinion it shows how far behind they are that they wouldn’t even dare try this in a human patient when we are already trying to treat spinal cord injures in human patients using adult stem cells.”

Tarne concluded, “The practical objection is that there is only so much research dollars available from the federal government so we want to spend those dollars in the best possible way and the most promising avenue of research. If we go ahead and pass this bill it would just take more money away from the adult stem cell research, which has already helped people and put in its place this highly speculative path that after 25 years of working on animal model still has not had a successful animal model of treatment that they can transfer to a clinical trial for a human patient.”