Colorado Rep. DeGette pursues new stem-cell legislation
DENVER, Colorado ” Rep. Diana DeGette says Congress should pass a law allowing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research now that President Barack Obama has signed an executive order overturning previous limit on such funding.
The Denver Democrat looked on Monday as Obama reversed an order by President George W. Bush in 2001 that allowed federal research dollars only for existing stem cell lines and no new ones.
Bush also vetoed bills sponsored by DeGette to allow federal funding of research on embryos derived from fertility treatments that otherwise would be discarded.
DeGette said it’s important to have a law permitting the funding so it can’t be undone by a future administration.
“What a gratifying day this was,” DeGette said during a conference call from Washington.
She praised Obama’s statement that science should take precedence over politics, a swipe at Bush’s actions.
“I’m looking forward to working with the president and his administration to make sure research going forward is done in an ethical manner,” DeGette said.
Embryonic stem cells can change into any type of cell. Scientists are working on ways to use them to create replacement tissues and treat such diseases as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Extracting the stem cells destroys the embryo.
Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., said he and DeGette have worked on stem-cell legislation for at least five years in a bipartisan effort.
DeGette and Castle said it is important that any law or policy include ethical guidelines. They said the goal is to use only embryos created in fertility procedures that weren’t used and would otherwise be destroyed.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., credited Obama for reversing Bush’s policy but said he didn’t believe the change would have happened without DeGette’s work.
“Stem cell research holds promise for millions of people across the country,” Perlmutter said in a written statement. “I’m a father of a daughter with epilepsy, and this is the kind of research that could help my daughter potentially prevent seizures.”
Colorado Roman Catholic bishops said Obama’s decision “will further erode respect for the dignity of all human life.”
In a written statement, the bishops said despite promises, no clinical treatments have been produced from embryonic stem cells, but research on adult stem cells has already proved successful and doesn’t pose the same ethical problems.
Some scientists have reported using regular human cells to duplicate some of the clinical potential of embryonic stem cells.
“There have been some really exciting advances in the last year,” DeGette said, referring to adult stem cells.
But experts say that research isn’t a substitute for research into embryonic stem cells, DeGette said.