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June 17, 2004|
58 United States Senators**, among them fourteen Republicans, in a shameless attempt to use Nancy Reagan's grief and frustration over the long illness and death of her beloved husband, last weekend signed a letter to President George W. Bush in which they urged him to expand the current federal policy concerning scientific experiments that involve the killing of human embryos for their stem cells.
Most people are aware that Mrs. Reagan has announced support for research on human embryos in the vain hope that such experiments might help in finding a treatment or cure for Alzheimer's disease, from which Ronald Reagan and the Reagan family suffered for ten years.
While President Bush did not impose a complete ban on experiments involving the killing of human beings at the embryonic stage of development, he did order that no federal funds can be used for that purpose, except in the case of stem cell lines derived from embryos killed prior to his policy statement in August of 2001. Unfortunately, privately funded experiments are not affected by the Bush policy. However, private investors are not funding the research because it doesn’t work. Instead, the bio industry is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in experiments that do work, using stem cells taken from placentas, umbilical cord blood, and adult sources including human body fat.
The claim that former President Reagan would have approved experiments that kill tiny human embryos is an insult to his memory and a complete distortion of his position of profound respect for the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. One need only read his 1983 essay, “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” to know this.
** Senators Alexander (TN), Campbell (CO), Chafee (RI), Cochran (MS), Collins (ME), Hatch (UT), Hutchison (TX), Lott (MS), McCain (AZ), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), Specter (PA), Stevens (AK), and Warner (VA).
WEDNESDAY JUNE 9, 2004
Contact: Nick Manetto (202) 225-3765
Smith: 'Let us Honor President Reagan with an Increased Commitment to Life-Affirming Research to Cure Alzheimer's disease'
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Chris Smith, Co-Chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's disease who was first elected to office in 1980 as part of the "Reagan Revolution," made the following statement today:
"Throughout his long and incredible life, President Reagan endured many hardships including a troubled early family life, challenging times during the Great Depression, an assassination attempt, and a bout with cancer.
"Even during his final battle with the dreaded Alzheimer's disease, President Reagan persevered with honor and integrity. Throughout his decade-long battle with Alzheimer's, President Reagan and his family helped bring the horrors of Alzheimer's disease - which are currently endured by more than 4.5 million Americans and their families - to light.
"But even a decade before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, President Reagan took the initiative to call greater attention to the condition and the needs of both patients and caregivers by declaring the first Alzheimer's disease Month in 1983.
"Thanks in large part to the leadership of President Reagan, we have made significant advances in biomedical research that have helped bring pharmaceutical products to market and have advanced the overall understanding of the pathology of this disease.
"It is estimated that the National Institutes of Health will invest more than $660 million into Alzheimer's disease research this year alone. While this represents a significant increase from where we once were, this amount will only enable the government to fund one of every four qualified research initiatives. To prevent the number of Americans who suffer from Alzheimer's from quadrupling in less than 50 years, we must grow this number to $1 billion annually as soon as possible.
"We should continue to strongly support stem cell research, and the stem cell research we support needs to be ethical and promising. It is unfortunate, and I believe in very bad taste, that some are attempting to use the passing of President Reagan to advance the small subcategory of stem cell research that involves the killing of human embryos, especially considering that research destroying human embryos has not shown any promise in developing treatments for Alzheimer's - or any other disease or condition.
"I agree with President Reagan when he said in a January 18, 1988 Presidential Proclamation that, 'from the moment of conception until natural death' everyone has the right to 'unalienable personhood.' I look forward to joining my colleagues in promoting President Reagan's legacy by continuing to fight for additional funding for Alzheimer's research and for adult-stem-cell and related tissue therapies that are already treating human maladies including heart damage, multiple sclerosis, corneal injury, spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease, and other conditions."
HUMAN EMBRYO STEM CELL RESEARCH
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Weldon) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. WELDON of Florida. Mr. Speaker, many people have probably seen the recent news coverage about Nancy Reagan’s hope to see more funding go to human embryo stem cell research in the hopes of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, recently Newsweek ran a cover story on this issue.
I am a physician, and I used to care for many patients with Alzheimer´s disease, and I know first hand the anguish it causes to lose a loved one or to have a family member with this condition. I have three concerns that I would like to raise about this debate.
First of all, I am concerned that advocates for this embryo stem cell research are unethically playing on the emotions of millions of Americans. Of all the conditions that have been proposed as possibly treatable with stem cells, whether embryonic or adult stem cells, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the least likely where stem cells could be useful.
I say this because on autopsy, the brains on Alzheimer’s disease patients do not show a pure dropout of neurons. If it was a loss of normal nerve cells, cell therapy might have potential. The fact is the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients typically contain lesions called senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The plaques, which accumulate on the outside of neurons, consist mainly of deposits of a protein called beta-amyloid. Chemical and cellular markers of inflammation are also present. We need to find out what causes these plaques and how we can prevent them. It is not clear at all if the problem with Alzheimer’s disease is treatable with cell replacement therapy. Most experts I have contacted feel that the more promising solution will be early detection, very early detection, and medication to prevent progression and not cell replacement therapy.
Secondly, I am quite concerned that people are being falsely led to believe that it is only embryo stem cells that might have potential here.
Mr. Speaker, the following diseases have been successfully treated with adult stem cells from humans: Parkinson´s disease, blindness has been treated, relief of symptom of lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis; the cure of combined immunodeficiency diseases, the treatment of several different types of leukemia, solid tumors, neuroblastomas, non-Hodgkin´s lymphomas, multiple sclerosis. Indeed, the list goes on and on.
However, there have been no successful treatments of any humans with embryo stem cells, and, as I have said repeatedly on this floor, they do not have an animal model of successfully treating an animal with embryo stem cells. Indeed, it is unclear if they will ever have clinical usefulness.
Many of us feel that this research should be funded by private dollars and not funded by the American taxpayer because, number one, it involves the destruction of a human embryo, a human life, and, number two, it is quite unclear if it will ever have any clinical significance. Indeed, some groups, I must say, are engaged in what I believe is deceptive communications on this issue. A case in point I will cite is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The JDRF claims that embryo stem cell research is the most promising research. Their lobbying packet contains in its table of contents "embryo stem cell research, stem cell research, our best hope for a cure." However, JDRF had a $80 million research and education budget. They only spent $3 million on embryo stem cells, which is 4 percent of their budget, but, Mr. Speaker, they spent $15 million, four times as much, 20 percent of their budget, on adult stem cell research.
Why is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation saying that embryo stem cell research has the most potential but they are spending four-times as much money on adult stem cell research?
The truth is we have a multi-billion dollar biotechnology industry in America today, and they are spending nothing on this research. The advocates for this research are clamoring to get the American taxpayer to pay for it. In my opinion, that is an insult to the legacy of Ronald Reagan, asking the Federal Government to pick up the tab for something of questionable value, when private industry would reap huge benefits if it really had the potential it did have.
I think President George Bush is making the right move, and we need to support him in this decision.
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