Medical science blocked again

 Posted by at 17:57  Politics
Aug 232010

Medical science was once again blocked today by another activist conservative judge…

Obama stem cell regulations temporarily blocked

Royce Lamberth
Royce Lamberth

WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked Obama administration regulations expanding stem cell research.

The nonprofit group Nightlight Christian Adoptions contends that the government’s new guidelines will decrease the number of human embryos available for adoption.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the plaintiffs are entitled to bring their lawsuit in the courts.

A federal appeals court had ruled that two doctors who were among those bringing the lawsuit, adult stem cell researchers James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnlogy, had the authority to do so, prompting Lamberth to reverse a decision he made last October.

Lamberth said that the injury of increased competition that Sherley and Deisher would face because of the guidelines “is not speculative. It is actual and imminent. Indeed, the guidelines threaten the very livelihood of plaintiffs Sherley and Deisher.”

Nightlight helps individuals adopt human embryos that are being stored in fertilization clinics. It began the program in 1997, using some of more than 400,000 frozen embryos.

Judge Lamberth was appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan.

Stem cell research, which has the very real potential of curing diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and many others, was set back several years during the administration of George W. Bush. Now that Bush is gone and we once again have the opportunity to advance this research, an activist conservative judge steps in to block it. I hope the Obama administration puts every resource at its disposal into fighting this travesty. It simply cannot be allowed to stand.

Reagan statement

 Posted by at 17:05  Politics
Mar 092009

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan released the following statement today after hearing of President Barack Obama’s reversal of George W. Bush’s order banning federal funding of stem cell research:

Nancy Reagan
Nancy Reagan

“I’m very grateful that President Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward. I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them, and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers. Countless people, suffering from many different diseases, stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases – and soon. As I’ve said before, time is short, and life is precious.”

Science returns

 Posted by at 11:55  Democrats, Politics, Republicans
Mar 092009
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

Signing of Stem Cell Executive Order and Scientific Integrity Presidential Memorandum
Washington, DC
March 9, 2009

Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.

At this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated. But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles. To treat Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them.

But that potential will not reveal itself on its own. Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research – from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit – and from a government willing to support that work. From life-saving vaccines, to pioneering cancer treatments, to the sequencing of the human genome – that is the story of scientific progress in America. When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives.

But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.

It is a difficult and delicate balance. Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research. I understand their concerns, and we must respect their point of view.

But after much discussion, debate and reflection, the proper course has become clear. The majority of Americans – from across the political spectrum, and of all backgrounds and beliefs – have come to a consensus that we should pursue this research. That the potential it offers is great, and with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided.

That is a conclusion with which I agree. That is why I am signing this Executive Order, and why I hope Congress will act on a bi-partisan basis to provide further support for this research. We are joined today by many leaders who have reached across the aisle to champion this cause, and I commend them for that work.

Ultimately, I cannot guarantee that we will find the treatments and cures we seek. No President can promise that. But I can promise that we will seek them – actively, responsibly, and with the urgency required to make up for lost ground. Not just by opening up this new frontier of research today, but by supporting promising research of all kinds, including groundbreaking work to convert ordinary human cells into ones that resemble embryonic stem cells.

I can also promise that we will never undertake this research lightly. We will support it only when it is both scientifically worthy and responsibly conducted. We will develop strict guidelines, which we will rigorously enforce, because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse. And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society.

This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let’s be clear: promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

By doing this, we will ensure America’s continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. That is essential not only for our economic prosperity, but for the progress of all humanity.

That is why today, I am also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.

As we restore our commitment to science, and resume funding for promising stem cell research, we owe a debt of gratitude to so many tireless advocates, some of whom are with us today, many of whom are not. Today, we honor all those whose names we don’t know, who organized, and raised awareness, and kept on fighting – even when it was too late for them, or for the people they love. And we honor those we know, who used their influence to help others and bring attention to this cause – people like Christopher and Dana Reeve, who we wish could be here to see this moment.

One of Christopher’s friends recalled that he hung a sign on the wall of the exercise room where he did his grueling regimen of physical therapy. It read: “For everyone who thought I couldn’t do it. For everyone who thought I shouldn’t do it. For everyone who said, ‘It’s impossible.’ See you at the finish line.”

Christopher once told a reporter who was interviewing him: “If you came back here in ten years, I expect that I’d walk to the door to greet you.”

Christopher did not get that chance. But if we pursue this research, maybe one day – maybe not in our lifetime, or even in our children’s lifetime – but maybe one day, others like him might.

There is no finish line in the work of science. The race is always with us – the urgent work of giving substance to hope and answering those many bedside prayers, of seeking a day when words like “terminal” and “incurable” are finally retired from our vocabulary.

Today, using every resource at our disposal, with renewed determination to lead the world in the discoveries of this new century, we rededicate ourselves to this work.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.


Great news

 Posted by at 16:09  Democrats, Politics
Mar 062009

Some of the best news since the election…

Obama to Lift Ban on Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

President Obama is planning to sign an executive order on Monday rolling back restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, according to sources close to the issue.

Although the exact wording of the order has not been revealed, the White House plans an 11 a.m. ceremony to sign the order repealing one of the most controversial steps taken by his predecessor, fulfilling one of Obama’s eagerly anticipated campaign promises.

The United States is beginning to emerge from The Dark Ages of Right Wing Rule.

The stem cell spin, part deux

 Posted by at 11:18  Politics
Dec 042007

The burden of proof is now placed squarely on those who would want to destroy embryos in their research to establish that there is any identifiable scientific benefit to doing so. A great deal of credit for this must go to President Bush, since if he had not restricted funding in the first place, it’s quite possible that the line of research that yielded the recent discovery would not have been pursued with such urgency, only yielding results at a far later date.

The above quote comes from a post on and is typical of the spin the right wing is placing on the recent announcement of new advances in stem cell research.

A couple of days ago we posted a New York Times editorial rebutting spin like this. Today, it is The Washington Post‘s turn…

Standing in the Way of Stem Cell Research

A new way to trick skin cells into acting like embryos changes both everything and nothing at all. Being able to reprogram skin cells into multipurpose stem cells without harming embryos launches an exciting new line of research. It’s important to remember, though, that we’re at square one, uncertain at this early stage whether souped-up skin cells hold the same promise as their embryonic cousins do.

Far from vindicating the current U.S. policy of withholding federal funds from many of those working to develop potentially lifesaving embryonic stem cells, recent papers in the journals Science and Cell described a breakthrough achieved despite political restrictions. In fact, work by both the U.S. and Japanese teams that reprogrammed skin cells depended entirely on previous embryonic stem cell research.

At a time when nearly 60 percent of Americans support human embryonic stem cell research, U.S. stem cell policy runs counter to both scientific and public opinion. President Bush’s repeated veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which has twice passed the House and Senate with votes from Republicans and Democrats alike, further ignores the will of the American people.

Efforts to harness the versatility of embryonic stem cells, and alleviate suffering among people with an array of debilitating disorders, began less than 10 years ago. Since then, scientists have continued to pursue embryonic stem cells because of their ability to transform into blood, bone, skin or any other type of cell. The eventual goal is to replace diseased or dysfunctional cells to help people with spinal cord injuries, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions…

Reprogrammed skin cells, incorporating four specific genes known to play a role in making cells versatile, or pluripotent, did seem to behave like embryonic stem cells in mice. But mouse studies frequently fail to pan out in humans, so we don’t yet know whether this approach is viable for treating human diseases. We simply cannot invest all our hopes in a single approach. Federal funding is essential for both adult and embryonic stem cell research, even as promising alternatives are beginning to emerge.

Unfortunately, under the policy President Bush outlined on Aug. 9, 2001, at most 21 stem cell lines derived from embryos before that date are eligible for federal funding. American innovation in the field thus faces inherent limitations. Even more significant, the stigma resulting from the policy surely has discouraged some talented young Americans from pursuing stem cell research.

Discomfort with the notion of extracting stem cells from embryos is understandable. But many of the life-changing medical advances of recent history, including heart transplantation, have provoked discomfort. Struggling with bioethical questions remains a critical step in any scientific advancement.

A solution that might be more comfortable for many people already exists but cannot be pursued unless the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act becomes law. Some percentage of the hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos from fertility clinics will eventually be destroyed. American couples meanwhile are not being given the choice to donate their frozen embryos to federal research to help others through stem cell advances.

It remains to be seen whether reprogrammed skin cells will differ in significant ways from embryonic stem cells. We remain hopeful, but it’s too early to say we’re certain.

We hope Congress will override the president’s veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. Further delays in pursuing the clearly viable option of embryonic stem cells will result in an irretrievable loss of time, especially if the new approach fails to prove itself.


The stem cell spin

 Posted by at 13:52  Politics
Dec 012007

One of the myths now being circulated by the right wing spin machine is that George W. Bush “won” the stem cell debate. Todays New York Times editorial will, hopefully, put that lie to rest once and for all…

Behind the Stem Cell Breakthrough

The stunning announcement by Japanese and American research teams that they have obtained highly promising stem cells without having to destroy an embryo could help free scientists from shackles that have long hobbled their efforts. It is especially important for a critical field of research that is far behind where it could have been if the Bush administration and Congressional conservatives had not thrown up so many roadblocks.

Many of those same people are now lavishing praise on President Bush for supposedly spurring this advance through his adamant opposition to destroying embryos. That claim is so far-fetched that it needs closer scrutiny.

To understand the administration’s deleterious impact on this promising research, one has to recall the political landscape of the late 1990s. Congress had already barred federal support for research in which human embryos are created or destroyed, making it necessary for scientists to seek private funds to get the most important stem cell research started.

In 1998, two teams of American scientists, using corporate funds, announced that they had derived stem cells from human embryos for the first time. Scientists prize such cells because they have the potential to turn into any of the body’s 220 cell types, raising the possibility that they could ultimately be used to regenerate damaged tissues and cure a wide range of degenerative diseases. Religious conservatives deplore the research because tiny, days-old embryos are destroyed.

The Clinton administration, stepping gingerly, started a process to finance work on embryonic stem cells, provided the stem cells were first derived with private money from surplus embryos at fertility clinics. The first grant applications were about to be reviewed when President Bush entered the White House and ordered a halt.

His new policy, portrayed as a statesmanlike compromise, permitted federal support for research using only a small number of stem cell lines that already existed, crimping the field from the start. Worse yet, scientists had to ensure that no federal money ever came near their privately supported embryonic stem cell research. No sharing laboratories or equipment that were bought, even in small part, with federal funds. No collaborating with federally supported scientists. It was a mess that persuaded many scientists to avoid the field altogether.

Now researchers have learned to reprogram human skin cells to behave in many respects like embryonic stem cells. If this pans out, it could sidestep the controversies, open the way for a vast infusion of federal funding and avoid the vexing problem of how to obtain the large quantity of human eggs needed for embryonic stem cell work. It could attract far more scientists because the new technique is easier to master, and there would be no bureaucratic obstacles or denunciations.

The researchers still say that it would be premature to abandon embryonic stem cell research, which remains the gold standard for measuring how valuable the new cells will be. The new techniques also use factors that can cause cancer, making them unsuitable in current form for therapy.

Any claim that Mr. Bush’s moral stance drove scientists to this discovery must be greeted with particular skepticism. The primary discoverer of the new techniques is a Japanese scientist who was not subject to the president’s restrictions. The senior scientist on the American team told reporters that the political controversy and Bush restrictions set the research effort back about four to five years.

With so much time to make up, we hope the next president will quickly jettison all restrictions on stem cell research. This is too important for any more delays.