Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) has criticized human embryo-destroying stem cell research, saying it is unethical, “unworkable and unreliable” and now “demonstrably unnecessary” in light of recent advances. He charged that President Obama and some Congressmen “still don’t get it” about the breakthroughs involving adult stem cell research.
Rep. Smith also accused the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership of being “obsessed with killing human embryos for experimentation at taxpayer expense.”
Leading a Special Order of Members of Congress who are opposed to human embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), Rep. Smith made his comments on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.
“Recent spectacular breakthroughs in noncontroversial adult stem cell research and clinical applications to effectuate cures with the mitigation of disease or disability have been well documented,” he said, remarking on the “significant progress” achieved with adult stem cells.
According to the Congressional Record, he said that his legislation helped establish a nationwide network to collect umbilical cord blood and the placenta from childbirths, which has borne fruit in treating leukemia and sickle cell anemia.
“Adult stem cells, Madam Speaker, are truly remarkable. They work, they have no ethical baggage, and advances are made every day at a dizzying pace,” he said.
He noted scientists Shinya Yamanaka and James Thomson’s development of a process that uses viruses to transform skin cells into pluripotent, embryo-like stem cells called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
Rep. Smith also referred to research teams from the United Kingdom and Canada who have announced they have successfully reprogrammed ordinary skin cells into iPS skin cells without the use of viruses. He then quoted the U.K. team’s leading scientist, who told the BBC the procedure might even eliminate the need for human embryos as a source of stem cells.
“Pluripotent stem cells are those miraculous building block cells that can be coaxed into becoming any type of tissue found in the human body,” Rep. Smith explained.
“Unlike embryonic stem cells that kill the donor, are highly unstable, have a propensity to morph into tumors and are likely to be rejected by the patient unless strong anti-rejection medicines are administered, induced pluripotent cells, stem cells, have none of those deficiencies and are emerging as the future, the greatest hope of regenerative medicine.
“While some Members of Congress and President Obama still don't get it, the breakthroughs have not been lost on the mainstream press.”
He quoted several of James Thomson’s comments, in which the University of Wisconsin researcher said the embryonic stem cell debate will be a “funny historical footnote” and characterized new adult stem cell research advances as “probably the beginning of the end of the controversy over embryonic stem cells.”
Referring to the fetal tissue transplantation research promoted in the 1990s, which ended in failure, Rep. Smith suggested embryonic stem cell research advocacy is its parallel.
“There is an excessive amount of hype and hyperbole about embryonic stem cells,” he said, noting their propensity to become tumors in research trials.
Rep. Smith also rebuked comments by ESCR advocates which implied that scientific breakthroughs in adult stem cell research are only highlighted when ESCR legislation is considered.
He quoted Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who said “I find it very interesting that every time we bring this bill up there is a scientific breakthrough.”
Rep. Smith argued that the breakthroughs are noted because “almost every day there is a scientific breakthrough in the area of adult stem cells and the induced pluripotent stem cells,” characterizing adult stem cells as the “ethical alternative.”
On Friday, CNN reported that this coming Monday President Obama will reverse President George W. Bush’s executive order restricting on embryonic stem cell research. President Bush’s policy allowed funding only on embryonic stem cell lines from embryos which had been destroyed before Aug. 9, 2001.