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Right to Recover ~ Winning the Political and Religious Wars Over Stem Cell Research in America presents scientific facts that challenge readers to think for themselves rather than accept political or religious views on stem cell research.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

My Comments to the NIH for Guidelines on hESC

I encourage all my readers to take action and leave comments for guidelines regarding how the National Institute of Health (NIH) should conduct research on embryonic stem cell research. I thought it would be hard to submit, but it isn't. I typed up my suggestions and simply copied and pasted them into the form at http://nihoerextra.nih.gov/stem_cells/add.htm. In case you are interested in what I suggested, I'll share my comments with you. Perhaps this will give you some ideas of what to put in your response.

I want to thank President Obama for allowing the public to give input to the NIH, and I thank the NIH for receiving our comments.

Let me begin by saying that I dislike the term “embryonic” stem cell research because it gives people the idea that these undifferentiated laboratory-germinated cells have body parts and are a tiny baby. Some even think that embryos are being removed from a woman’s womb, and they equate it to abortion. Please change the terminology and help educate the public about the science involved and its potential.

1. Please do not allow minority religious organizations to sway your decision about how stem cell research is conducted. These groups have the power to influence people without having full knowledge of the science involved in using in vitro blastocysts for research. These powerful and wealthy groups are many times supportive of torture, war, and capital punishment of living, breathing human beings. Therefore, I cannot understand why they are so concerned about saving cells that are not human beings. Their vocal public opinion and organized efforts have hindered science long enough. It’s time for America and the world to see what potential lies within blastocystic stem cells. Our own family members and friends could be cured or treated with technology created as a result of a better understanding of these primordial cells.

These religious groups are able to organize letter-writing campaigns that make it seem as though the majority of folks disapprove of using IVF blastocysts for research. When preparing the manuscript for my book, Right to Recover, Winning the Political and Religious Wars Over Stem Cell Research in America, I gathered statistics from several nationwide surveys: Harris Interactive®, Newsweek, ABCNEWS/Beliefnet, Genetics and Public Policy Center (GPPC), and the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR). The results of those polls show that approximately 65 percent of American voters favor the use of hESC research. Please listen to our scientists and researchers on this issue.

2. Allow and accelerate blastocystic stem cell research to include funding for somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) also known as therapeutic cloning. This research may very well prove helpful in finding a cure for many illnesses and conditions.

3. Don’t be fooled by the non-factual information the media has presented regarding the effectiveness of hESC research. Many have said that this research will not prove useful in the future because it has not shown promise. This is not true. At an October 24, 2006, press conference, Proposition 71 advocate Don Reed (Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act) said, “On March 1, 2002, I held in my hands a laboratory rat, which had been paralyzed, but which now walked again. It had been given human embryonic stem cells. I felt the tiny muscles moving—muscles which had been still and limp before—and this while my paralyzed son watched from his wheelchair.” Don’s story and others that give hope have not been in the forefront of the media.

These religious groups have said that adult stem cells can do the same things as blastocystic stem cells. Dr. Elias Zerhouni thinks the claim that adult stem cells are able to do all that blastocyst stem cells can do is overstated: “The presentations about adult stem cells having as much or more potential than embryonic stem cells, in my view, do not hold scientific water…I think scientists who work in adult stem cells themselves will tell you that we need to pursue as vigorously embryonic stem cells.” The Prentice list gives 58 to 100 alleged cures, treatments, or “improvements” misleadingly attributed to adult stem cells research. The source of this list is an employee of a religious right lobbying group. The truth is only nine conditions have demonstrated both safety and efficacy in all three phases of clinical trials using adult stem cells and are considered as standard therapy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) treatments. These are: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, Aplastic Anemia, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, Myelodysplasia, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome-X1, and Thalassemia Major.

I have personally worked with International Stem Cell Institute founder Rita Alexander, who is affiliated with a clinic in Mexico that is already using placental stem cells (derived from afterbirth) to successfully treat Parkinson’s and other conditions. Political red tape has kept treatment using these younger stem cells from being approved for use in the U.S. However, if placental and older, differentiated adult stem cells have shown this kind of hope in Mexico and Europe for over 25 years, it stands to reason that even more potential for cure lies within blastocystic stem cells that have not begun to differentiate.

The private sector has been funding blastocystic research under restrictive conditions for years, and, while we have seen tremendous progress, a lack of greater funds has definitely limited advancement toward a cure for many conditions. Scientists are still in the early stages of exploring blastocyst stem cells, so we do not know what potential lies within this scientific territory. Compare that to the medical technology we now have available using adult stem cells and you will see how much government funding helps in developing new treatments for disease. The fundamental challenge in stem cell research is not just to replace things, like in adult stem cell transplantation. Blastocyst stem cells will help us understand for the first time in the history of mankind how DNA is programmed to reprogram.

4. Allow research on stem cell lines developed from sources other than surplus blastocysts from in-vitro fertilization at fertility clinics. Since we do not yet know what may be discovered once research is in full progress, we do not want to construct barriers by stating that only surplus blastocysts can be used. SCNT may offer a new line of viable stem cells.

5. Encourage research that can be quickly transferred to those who are currently suffering. Allow human clinical trials on cases where a patient has a terminal illness and is willing to participate in experimental trials. Help Geron and other research and technology companies get their clinical trials proposals passed through FDA.

6. Allow collaboration and information sharing among NIH-funded and privately-funded researchers. This will lessen the overall costs of doing research because efforts would no longer need to be duplicated in separate labs that isolate research conducted through federal funds from research conducted through private funding.

I believe that cures for diseases could be found using blastocystic stem cell research. The only way we are going to discover the potential contained in blastocyst stem cells is to allow research to take place with more funding, fewer restrictions, and good oversight.
I appreciate your consideration of my suggestions and I look forward to a time when, as a result of blastocystic stem cell research, diseases such as Parkinson's, diabetes, and paralysis due to spinal cord trauma can be reduced or eliminated.

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