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Thread: Advocacy, readers beware: Thinking through the SCREA

  1. #1

    Advocacy, readers beware: Thinking through the SCREA

    A variety of opinions have been raised about what will happen with the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, but we're going to start with the beginning.

    There are two main beliefs: 1) Frist will bring the SCREA, or something similar, to the floor of the Senate; and 2) Frist will leave the stem cell issue alone.

    I am an optimist, so I will choose the former. I believe Frist will bring some stem cell bill to the floor before this session ends.

    I spoke with Alex Mason, Senator Frist's legislative aide on the stem cell issue, the other day. He informed me that while Frist intends to discuss the issue, he has not yet made a decision on how he will address it.

    He is currently debating a few options.
    1. Draft and introduce a new bill that allows what the SCREA allows which addresses Senator Frist's 10 Principles.
    2. Offer an amendment to the SCREA that addresses his principles.
    3. Allow a vote on the SCREA, with the knowledge that his principles will be addressed, likely as separate bills.
    The first option would require the new bill to be brought up and passed by the House before becoming law.

    The second option would require the bill to be sent to a Conference Committee between the House and Senate to work out the differences in the bill.

    The third option would allow the SCREA to be sent to the President for his signature, veto, or inaction. A signature or inaction on the President's part would allow the bill to become law. A veto would, well... you remember what they do.

    I believe the third option is the most likely, which most members here would truly love.

    But, there's the catch: New bills would be introduced to address Frist's principles. A yes vote on the SCREA would give politicians the appearance of supporting ESC research, regardless of their vote on the further bills.

    Now, I say a yes vote would give politicians the "appearance" of supporting ESC research, implying that they really don't. But that's not quite right. Politicians do not oppose ESC research, but they do oppose destroying human embryos.

    The vast majority of scientists say that the greatest advantage offered by embryonic stem cells is the ability to use them for research. They can be used to study the early developmental stages of diseases (offering the possibility of stopping diseases before they're noticable) and to test drug candidates against to allow for better drug development.

    To offer this opportunity, scientists need a way to generate diseased embronic stem cell lines. Currently, the only way to do this in a lab is via SCNT, aka therapeutic cloning. Other options are being worked on, but they do not yet exist, which is very unfortunate.

    Would Frist's further bills interfere with SCNT? Well, let's take a look at his principles, starting with #1.

    1. Ban Embryo Creation for Research;
    Right out of the gate: Ban SCNT. Ouch.

    Well, it's not so bad. There's still 11.8% of 400,000 excess embryos available for ESC derivation, so we should be able to get a number of new lines to study. Does Frist have anything to say about this?

    7. Limit Number of Stem Cell Lines;
    Oy. This could indicate restricting the number of stem cell lines to the original number Bush said -- 60 or so -- or it could be a higher number... say 150. That would be good for research, right?

    Well, remember that the SCREA provides no additional funding over the current $21 million level. With the current 22 lines, that's just under $1 million a line. With 60 lines, that's $350,000 per line. With 150 lines, that's just $140,000 per line.

    As the number of lines available increases, the amount of ground we can cover decreases. That's without additional funding, of course, which is so not coming this year in the form of the SCREA.

    With a ban on SCNT (very likely to occur, short of a filibuster, in the Republican controlled Congress), and the lack of genetic diversity among IVF embryos, new ESC lines will not be very beneficial for research on diseases across the board; infertility research will be most likely to benefit.

    Without SCNT, what are we left with that can create diseased ESC lines? Currently, nothing. But there is hope.

    There is research into the unfortunately named "ethically acceptable" methods of creating ESCs. ("Ethically acceptable" may make you vomit, but it's what we have.)

    Kevin Eggan, from Harvard, "reprogrammed" adult cells into an embryonic state by fusing them with embryonic stem cells. New cell lines derived from IVF embryos can be used to reprogram adult cells, and researchers can study the reprogramming phenomena.

    But, the SCREA provides no additional funding. The federal ESC budget has already been cut this year, meaning some current research projects will end prematurely and no new money would be available for studying Eggan's reprogramming mystery.

    Other similar research projects exist.

    So, how can we get more funding? SCNT is out. Nuclear reprogramming appears to be the only universally acceptable (and scientifically viable) alternative for generating ESCs.

    There's a bill, S1557, that has an unfortunate name as well, but we'll just call it the Pluripotent Stem Cell Act. The bill provides $15 million a year over four years (total: $60 million) to study methods like nuclear reprogramming.

    So, in the end:
    1. We can get the SCREA, with a SCNT ban, by itself, with no funding for alternative derivation methods.
    2. We can get the SCREA, with a SCNT ban, with funding for alternative derivation methods via S1557.
    3. A yes vote on the SCREA, plus a veto, plus a SCNT ban, with no funding for alternative derivation methods.
    4. We can get funding for alternative derivation methods via S1557, with no SCNT ban.
    Now, I'm not going to try and be all "Miss Queen Bee" and tell anybody what to support or oppose.

    But, I will ask you to think about this and carefully consider your decision; you can support both bills, support one, or support none.

    This is a big decision. You want a cure as much as I do, so please don't screw this up.

    Much love,

    Steven
    Last edited by Steven Edwards; 02-12-2006 at 12:41 PM.
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  2. #2
    Aside from coming off as a know it all professor talking down to his students this remark is hostile
    Now, I'm not going to try and be all "Miss Queen Bee" and tell anybody what to support or oppose.
    BTW, go ahead and do your thing, Jeannie Swenson has been doing it and HR810 still got plenty support.

    Feel free to advocate your own way, the only thing I resent is that it seemed that the people running the advocacy for the CR Bill also supported your effort and unleashed a rather below the belt attack on other opinions.
    Don't ignore the Reeve Legacy, Remember he and Dana supported open research and fought hard for ESCR

    StemCellBattles

    Support H.R. 810

  3. #3
    Ideally for me would be a round table of the researchers working in the field of stem cells.

    ASC and HESC.
    Get an honest assessment from them on what in their professional opinions is the most desired route to enhance their studies from the lab to treatments.

    Which route would teach them the most about the cells involved?

    Frist is a physician. But how many stem cells of any kind has he ever studied or worked with? I don't mean watching it done on video.

    I would very much like to hear it from the horses mouths that are in the race..they are the best source as to what the winner will look like I think.

    We read so many articles written by the scientists..not that I can understand much of them..but do read them. Some contradict others.
    Wonder if they are in the same room..face to face..their integrity would override everything else and they would come up with what really is the best
    plan of attack?

    Your analysis in todays world is pretty much accurate unfortunately Steven.
    Life isn't about getting thru the storm but learning to dance in the rain.

  4. #4
    Lindox, you think it is only maybe 50-50 ? I think ESC research is supported by an overwhelming number of researchers. Why your sudden doubt?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lindox
    Ideally for me would be a round table of the researchers working in the field of stem cells.

    ASC and HESC.
    Get an honest assessment from them on what in their professional opinions is the most desired route to enhance their studies from the lab to treatments.

    Which route would teach them the most about the cells involved?

    Frist is a physician. But how many stem cells of any kind has he ever studied or worked with? I don't mean watching it done on video.

    I would very much like to hear it from the horses mouths that are in the race..they are the best source as to what the winner will look like I think.

    We read so many articles written by the scientists..not that I can understand much of them..but do read them. Some contradict others.
    Wonder if they are in the same room..face to face..their integrity would override everything else and they would come up with what really is the best
    plan of attack?

    Your analysis in todays world is pretty much accurate unfortunately Steven.
    Don't ignore the Reeve Legacy, Remember he and Dana supported open research and fought hard for ESCR

    StemCellBattles

    Support H.R. 810

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Lindox
    Your analysis in todays world is pretty much accurate unfortunately Steven.
    Lindox, thanks. It's too bad that our ideals, whatever they may be, cannot be met.

    I laid everything out as accurately and thoroughly as I could. If 810 becomes law, I see very little chance of SCNT remaining legal.

    The Dickey Amendment already prohibits federal funds being used to create human embryos through SCNT (or other methods), so Frist's statement must be aimed at prohibiting private researchers from performing SCNT.

    If we get 810, we lose what scientists say is one of the most promising aspects of ESCs.

    This is why I support only S1557.
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Edwards
    This is why I support only S1557.

    In reading up on S1557 which you support, Supporters of S1557 are against HR810 and even using the left overs from IVF.

    From the Doctor Senator Coburn who introduced the bill
    “Promoting destructive embryonic stem cell research will also cause Congress to cross an ethical threshold from which it will not be able to return. If Congress decides that is ethical to conduct destructive research on human beings because ‘they will be thrown away anyway’ we will enter a brave new world in which all human life will be cheapened, and endangered,” Dr. Coburn said.
    Do you trust someone who mis-represents the situation like coburn does here
    “The Castle-DeGette bill that is being praised in the Senate is full of hype and false promises. Private research dollars are not following destructive embryonic research because that research, unlike adult stem cell research, has not produced any tangible results. Not since ‘cold fusion’ has a scientific story received so much attention without the science to support the claims,” Dr. Coburn said.
    Above 2 quotes from Senator Coburn's web-site

    BTW, if he thinks adult stem cells have produced results and ESC's haven't, then why in sound mine would he author a bill for a ESC alternative?
    Last edited by bigbob; 02-11-2006 at 10:00 AM.
    Don't ignore the Reeve Legacy, Remember he and Dana supported open research and fought hard for ESCR

    StemCellBattles

    Support H.R. 810

  7. #7
    Bob, two things.

    First, I don't base my support on Coburn; I use my own judgement, detailed in the first post.

    Second, he doesn't support destructive embryonic stem cell research. He doesn't necessarily disagree that ESCs hold enormous promise, but he does not agree with destroying embryos to obtain them.
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Edwards
    Bob, two things.

    First, I don't base my support on Coburn; I use my own judgement, detailed in the first post.

    Second, he doesn't support destructive embryonic stem cell research. He doesn't necessarily disagree that ESCs hold enormous promise, but he does not agree with destroying embryos to obtain them.
    He called them HUMANS

    Whatever you based your support on, you must realize what the people who support this bill are trying to do.

    They want to stop H.R. 810
    Don't ignore the Reeve Legacy, Remember he and Dana supported open research and fought hard for ESCR

    StemCellBattles

    Support H.R. 810

  9. #9
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      • Ban Embryo Creation for Research;
      • Limit Number of Stem Cell Lines;
    We have also this text in our proposal for lifting the ban on human embryonic research, but what it means is that embryonic stem cell research and funding will be allowed? We as of today are destructing 15.000 embryos from IVF clinics every year. And those are not created for research.

    Is it possible to go all for HR810 and then after that fight for adjustments to the law?

  10. #10
    810 is a gateway to banning SCNT.

    Senator Harkin agrees with me:

    Here’s the situation: Opponents of H.R. 810 know we’ve got the votes to pass the bill. So they’re insisting that the Senate also vote on five or six other bills, some of which have nothing to do with the key issue – expanding the number of stem cell lines that are eligible for federally funded research. What the opponents really want to do is ban a technique that most Americans have never even heard of, called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT. They figure that even if the Senate passes H.R. 810, President Bush will veto it. But he’ll sign a ban against SCNT.
    Joe Wagner, Scientific Director of Clinical Research at the University of Minnesota addresses (.pdf) the issue of a ban on SCNT:

    To restrict work with ES cells or bar SCNT would cripple our capacity to move all stem celltherapies forward ES cells are the gold standard and research with them will maximize the potentialof cord blood and adult stem cells and pursuit of multiple approaches will permit the most rapid translation of stem cells possible into efficacious clinical therapies. Every single one of us will befaced with a child, friend, loved one, or even ourselves with a disease amenable to stem cell therapyin the not too distance future. Umbilical cord blood has proven benefits in the treatment of leukemia,lymphoma, blood disorders, immune deficiencies and metabolic diseases today. Banking of cord blood is in the nation’s interest and federal dollars should continue to be spent to determine thebreadth of what it can offer well beyond the confines of blood and marrow diseases. At the sametime in parallel, we must also push ES and adult stem cells to the limits of what they can offer. Andfor ES cells, banning SCNT could prevent its future success as SCNT is likely to be the key that willmake ES cell therapies more widely available more rapidly. I am here as an advocate for thethousands of people who have asked me to push this forward.
    ...and, of course, Kris Gulden and CAMR want (.pdf) SCNT to remain legal.

    Along with the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, the National Academies of Science, 41 Nobel laureates, and the vast majority of the American public, I support a ban on human reproductive cloning. However, it is imperative that we protect important areas of medical research that offer hope to so many of our citizens. As a person living with paralysis caused by a spinal cord injury, I know how urgently a cure is needed. I do not expect a cure tomorrow, or even next year, but we may have before us our greatest chance to cure diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes, and even paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury. I do not intend to overstate the promise of the research, but you can’t overstate the hope that it offers people like me.
    You can support 810 if you want, just know that you will have a tougher battle on your hands if 810 passes, even if Bush vetos it.

    Of course, this is just my interpretation; I may be wrong. But I don't think I am.

    Leif, you could definitely push for 810 and then push for adjustments, but here's how that would play out.

    The Senate passes 810. Bush vetos it. Advocates fight for enough votes in the House for a veto override. During the battle for votes in the House, Frist brings up a bill to ban all cloning, including SCNT.

    One of two things will happen at this point.
    1. Some advocates split from the House battle to prevent the cloning ban. Divide and conquer. Advocates lose on both fronts.
    2. Advocates fight for ESC and cloning. Opponents equate the two. Advocates lose on both fronts.
    Remember, lobbying groups are businesses. Lobbyists get paid to tell you 810 will pass, no matter what they may personally think. They tell you what brings the money in, or they lose their job.

    What they tell you serves to keep them in business. What I tell you is aimed at getting me (and, by extension, you) cured.
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

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