Term Paper: Funding Stem Cell Research Embryonic

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Funding Stem Cell Research

Embryonic stem cell research is a very promising field of research when it comes to possibly finding a cure for more than 70 diseases once deemed incurable (Honolulu Advertiser, 2004). From spinal cord injuries, to Parkinson's, to certain types of cancers, to multiple sclerosis, stem cell research has the potential to emerge as a revolutionary way to combat these diseases. The key behind embryonic stem cells is its ability to develop into just about any type of tissue. Adult stem cells can only renew themselves into the type of tissue from which it originates, making adult stem cells much less effective than embryonic ones.

There are many legal and ethical questions that surround stem cell research. Whether or not it should be legal is a major concern of some people (Friedrich, 2000). Others who support it argue about how it should be done and by what means. Currently, stem cells used in research are typically obtained from human embryos that were donated by those going through the in-vitro process. However, one controversial aspect is whether or not it is moral to create human embryos for research. Many believe that stem cell research is a blatant form of disregard for human life. Supporters, however, argue that embryos are not human yet and should be used because they are vital to further research.

There are two opposing viewpoints when it comes to stem cell research. The strongest opposition is the use of embryonic stem cells for research (Cahill, 2001). Opponents argue that this as a disrespectful act that will eventually lead to a major decrease in the respect we currently have for human life. Opponents argue that no matter what stage the embryo is in, it is a human life and has human rights. The opposing viewpoint, however, holds that an embryo is not a human life in the beginning stages. Many supporters believe research should be allowed to continue on embryonic stem cells, and that they should be able to be created for the sole purpose of research.

In stem cell research, embryonic cells are used (Moran, 2003). However, it is important to not that they are leftover embryos from abortion and in-vitro fertilization. Under normal circumstances, these embryos are simply thrown away, so the waste of these cells is merely being eliminated.

Despite the promises for medical breakthrough stem cell research offers, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 was passed by the United States House of Representatives, significantly inhibiting stem cell research (Moran, 2003). The bill restricts research to continue only on those stem cell lines that were cultured before August 9, 2001. It potentially forbid all treatments and medicines made by therapeutic cloning techniques. This bill has caused a great deal of controversy, especially for those families who are desperately seeking a cure for disease. Stem cell research is new and is believed to have the ability to cure many diseases.

By restricting research on stem cells, the Bush administration has caused many scientific institutions to break from their traditional reliance on federal research grants and pursue the other two avenues of funding: private and state funds. Stanford and Harvard, among other universities, have developed privately funded programs, in some cases using laboratories separate from their main campuses, to sidestep the federal restrictions. And the state of California has started a funding revolution of its own.

Californians recently showed their support for stem cell research by passing a controversial bond measure that will dedicate $3 billion to human embryonic stem-cell experiments and comprises the biggest-ever state-supported scientific research program in the United States (MSNBC, 2004). Proposition 71 won 59% of the California vote. The passage of this measure, which aims to get around the Bush administration's restrictions on the funding of such research, will likely put California at the forefront of the field.

While President George W. Bush opposes most forms of stem-cell research, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supported the measure, which funds embryonic stem-cell research at a state level (MSNBC, 2004). Federal funding is limited to adult stem cells and a few lines of embryonic stem cells, which many scientists say are of poor quality and inadequate for research.

Proposition 71 allows the state to sell $3 billion in bonds and then hand out nearly $300 million a year for one decade to researchers for human embryonic stem-cell experiments, including cloning projects carried out for research purposes (MSNBC, 2004). It prohibits the funding of cloning to create babies.

Proponents of Proposition 71 argue that it was needed because the Bush administration has severely restricted funding of human embryonic stem cell research to about $25 million a year, significantly slowing progress in the field (Associated Press, 2004). However, the bond will cost the already deeply indebted state of California a total of $6 billion in principal and interest. Still, supporters say that it will jump-start a promising field while stimulating the state's economy.

You are going to see many states who are going to try to follow California's lead," said Dan Perry, president of the patient advocacy group Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (Associated Press, 2004). "California may end up dragging the rest of the country into the game."

Proposition 71 will provide $3 billion for stem cell research in California (University of California, 2004). The measure authorizes state bonds to create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which will provide funding to California stem cell researchers at universities, medical schools, hospitals and research facilities.

California is currently at the epicenter for public debate on the use of human embryonic stem cells for medical research (University of California, 2004). The roots of this debate are in the history of federal financing of stem cell research. According to the University of California: "Stem cells from embryos and fetuses donated for research purposes were first isolated and cultivated by medical researchers in 1998. The Department of Health and Human Services ruled in 1999 that embryonic stem cell research was exempt from a 1995 Congressional ban on federal financing for research in which human embryos are destroyed. In August 2000 the National Institutes of Health set guidelines for obtaining federal funding."

However, Gov. George W. Bush has declared his opposition to federal funding for research that destroys living human embryos (University of California, 2004). According to President Bush, he opposes "stem cell research that involves destroying living human embryos" but supports "promising research on adult stem cells from adult tissue." In 2001 he declared that federal funding would be limited to research on cells that had already been extracted, but the government would not support the destruction of new embryos.

United States law currently bans federal funds from being used on research that uses newly derived embryonic stem-cell lines (University of California, 2004). Private funds, however, are exempt from these restrictions. In addition, individual states can make their own decisions regarding funding biomedical research, including stem cell research.

Scientists believe stem cells hold the key to treating a variety of diseases, including diabetes and Parkinson's Disease (MSNBC, 2004). Stem cells have the potential to grow into any type of human tissue and scientists believe they can direct the blank cells to grow into specific cell types necessary for transplant. However, state funds are the wrong way to go about funding this research, as the responsibility for funding falls to taxpayers.

To fund the initiative, the state will sell up to $3 billion in general obligation bonds (Somers, 2004). Repayment of those bonds will cost taxpayers about $6 billion, or about $200 million annually over three decades with an estimated interest rate of 5.25%, according to a recent legislative analyst's report. However, it is impossible to predict exactly how much the measure would cost in total because interest rates fluctuate.

The cost of this measure is too high, especially when we consider the state's fiscal problems (Somers, 2004). "That's $6 billion that is being robbed out of future general fund budgets," said Wayne Johnson, a consultant for the opposition group No on Prop. 71. "It's money that is not going to schools, health care, fixing roads, law enforcement or AIDS patients."

As a group, opponents of Proposition 71 are not using the moral oppositions about stem-cell research that often dominate the debate nationally (Somers, 2004). Opposition was a strategic decision made by "an eclectic group of Republicans and Democrats, people who are pro-life and pro-choice," because everyone shares the financial concerns," according to Johnson.

Proposition 71 amends the state constitution, making all stem-cell research a legal right. Changing this amendment would take approval from 70% of the state Legislature and the signature of the governor (Somers, 2004).

According to Larry Goldstein, a stem cell researcher at the University of California San Diego (Somers, 2004)": "This research we're doing isn't into just one or two diseases. This research will likely change our approach to fighting disease and developing drugs."

State Controller Steve Westly, State Treasurer Phil Angelides and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, all of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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