NIH Releases Report on Stem Cell Research

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The National Institutes of Health says more research is needed to find out "which stem cells - those derived from the embryo, the fetus, or the adult" -- will work best in treating various diseases.

"To date, it is impossible to predict," the report says. "The answers clearly lie in conducting more research."

The NIH report, due out on Wednesday, summarizes all that is currently known about stem cell research and its disease-fighting potential.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson asked the NIH to conduct the review, and the report is a direct result of his request.

President Bush is now wrestling with a decision on whether to allow federal funding of stem cell research involving embryos. He is expected to announce his decision very soon.

Even before the NIH report was officially released, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) applauded it for "recognizing the amazing potential of stem cells obtained from adults."

"Since adult stem cells give us an ethical alternative, we have no excuse to turn human embryos into federally funded research guinea pigs," Smith said. "This NIH study clearly presents adults stem cells as a legitimate alternative with great future potential.

"We should pursue adult stem cell research like we pursued putting a man on the moon," Smith said.

While Smith and other pro-lifers tout adult stem cell research as an ethical alternative to using embryos, the NIH report due out Wednesday says adult stem cells have limitations.

They are "often difficult to identify, isolate and purify," the report says. On the other hand, the report says embryonic stem cells "can be generated in abundant quantities in the laboratory."

Pro-life groups oppose use of embryos

Fax machines are humming across the country, as various groups weigh in on the controversial issue, hoping to influence President Bush as he gets close to making a decision.

Embryonic stem cell research violates the Nuremberg Code, said the conservative group Concerned Women for America on Tuesday.

CWA noted that the Nuremberg Code was formed as an ethical guide governing human research, after the atrocities committed in the name of science in Nazi Germany.

"The primary principle in the Nuremberg Code states, 'Voluntary consent is absolutely essential'," CWA said in a statement. "The Code also prohibits experimentation that causes injury, disability or a person's death. Both principles are violated in embryonic stem-cell research."

CWA insists that life begins at conception; that embryos are human beings who deserve a chance to live; and that stem-cell research using tissue from adults is an ethical alternative with proven results.

The National Pro-Life Religious Council also issued a statement Tuesday, denouncing news that researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School have created human embryos for the sole purpose of harvesting their stem cells.

According to a statement issued by the pro-life group, Catholic and Protestant leaders "are united in denouncing the practice of creating and manipulating human embryos, in the strongest possible terms."

"This practice is absolutely Hitleresque," said the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Pro-life Religious Council (NPRC).

"Destroying human beings to help humanity is self-contradictory," said Father Frank Pavone, the director of a group called "Priests for Life" and a member of the NPRC board of directors.

The NPRC is urging the groups it represents to take their pro-life concerns regarding embryonic stem-cell research directly to their elected representatives in Congress.

'Life or death issue'

Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) joined several other lawmakers on Tuesday in urging President Bush to allow federal funding of stem cell research involving embryos and other sources.

"This research should be funded through the NIH to ensure that it will be conducted with strict oversight and safeguards," Morella said in a statement. She also said federal support will ensure the quickest possible progress in finding and developing treatments for various diseases.

"For many Americans, the current debate is a life-or-death issue," Morella said. "This research will, in one way or another, touch all Americans. We should not shut the door to this crucial wealth of opportunity."

Morella's five-paragraph statement does not include the word "embryo" or "embryonic." She simply mentions her support for federal funding of "stem cell research," regardless of the source of those stem cells.

Recent news reports suggest Americans aren't clear about what "stem cell research" involves, and that is why pro-life groups are making a distinction - supporting "adult stem-cell research" while condemning "embryonic stem-cell research."

The issue has clearly divided the pro-life community, however, with some notable conservatives -- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) among them -- supporting federal funding of whatever stem-cell research will save lives.