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Stemming the Tide

The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) is pressing President Bush...

After limited success on Capitol Hill, an eclectic new political constituency is hoping to use the 2004 presidential campaign to advance cutting-edge research on human stem cells.

The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) is pressing President Bush and the nine Democrats challenging him to support not only stem cell research but also the more controversial nuclear transfer technology known as therapeutic cloning.

In a letter sent last week, the coalition said it intends to post candidate positions on its Web site and distribute the information to its 80 member groups, which include scientific societies, patient advocacy organizations and the leading biotechnology organization. CAMR hopes its action will put pressure on candidates in early primary states.

"With over 100 million Americans affected by life-threatening diseases and conditions who could benefit from advances in stem cell research, I think this could become a major issue in the campaign," said CAMR President Michael Manganiello.

Scientists say embryonic stem cells hold great potential because they can develop into virtually any type of cell. Researchers are pursuing stem cell treatments for illnesses such as Parkinson's disease, juvenile diabetes and Alzheimer's. Embryonic stem cells are extracted from human embryos that would otherwise be discarded.

Nuclear transfer research involves growing stem cells in a laboratory dish. Scientists say these tailor-made cells could enable patients to be treated using their own unique DNA.

Opponents, including some influential religious conservatives, say both types of research amount to the taking of a potential life. Facing that pressure, Bush announced a political compromise two years ago, permitting federal research only on the 60 cell colonies that existed at the time. But so far, only a dozen cell lines have been usable.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) said recently that on the first day of his presidency -- assuming that occurs -- he would rescind Bush's order.

For further information see CAMR's website: www.stemcellfunding.org

Source Date: Sep 14 2003
Source Publication: The Washington Post