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Letter to U.S. Congress:  Support Adult Stem Cells

Christian Medical and Dental Associations




July 30, 2004

Dear Member of Congress,

As you are aware, some members of Congress have called upon President Bush to review his stem cell policy and to relax federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. As the nation's largest faith-based organization of physicians, we have a vested interest in such research because we care for patients every day who desperately need cures that might arise from regenerative medicine. We also have the motivation, knowledge and experience to analyze stem cell research without the inherent bias of laboratory scientists and firms seeking federal dollars. The claims of these researchers naturally reflect their financial interest as well as their desire to conduct any research they please, unencumbered by the significant moral concerns reflected in the public debate on stem cell research. Some researchers lobbying for funding have unfortunately fed patients' misplaced hopes and anger by hyping the potential of embryonic stem cell research far beyond scientific integrity.

For the sake of suffering patients who deserve solid strategies to reach therapies, the government needs to focus its research investment on those efforts most likely to produce real cures at a reasonable cost as quickly as possible.

The following points highlight key findings of scientific studies funded with tens of millions of private and federal dollars revealed about embryonic stem cells since the President's policy was put in place on August 9, 2001 (click here for references):

  • Human embryonic stem cell lines have proven difficult to develop and maintain.1-4

  • Pure embryonic stem cell cultures are difficult to obtain. 5, 6

  • Embryonic stem cells are unstable and mutate in culture. 7, 8

  • Differentiation protocols for many cell types have not been developed. 9

  • Cell types that have been differentiated often act abnormally. 10-12

  • When embryonic-derived cells have been placed in animals, cancerous tumors have formed. 13, 14

  • To address the problem of immune rejection, researchers have proposed cloning individual patients to obtain compatible embryonic stem cells. 15-17

  • Besides the ethical inadmissibility of human cloning, some researchers have questioned whether cloning will truly solve the rejection problem. Cells taken from cloned human beings are not normal. Women's groups and others have rightly condemned the commercialization of women required to gain the millions of human eggs needed for such cloning. 18, 19

  • Even if each of these problems were somehow solved, at a cost of over $200,000 per patient, only the very wealthy could afford the procedure. Many physicians and patients also would reject the therapy on moral grounds. 20, 21

Due to these and other hurdles, the earliest that supporters of embryonic stem cell research proponents can possibly hope for clinical applications from embryonic stem cells is 10-15 years away
if ever. As more and more problems with embryonic stem cells are uncovered through research, some scientists are now predicting that we won’t see any therapies at all from this source.

To date, of course, embryonic stem cell research has yielded only very limited and/or questionable success in animal models and no therapeutic application whatsoever in human beings.

On the other hand, non-embryonic stem cells are ethically obtainable from multiple sources in human beings. Scientific research, funded by private and government sources, has shown significant progress in the last three years. Verified accomplishments of adult (non-embryonic) stem cell research are already providing hope and therapy for patients suffering from heart muscle injury, diabetes and brain damage from stroke
with realistic promise for treating other diseases on the horizon. Consider these research highlights:
  • “Adult” (non-embryonic) stem cells have been found in cord blood, placenta, bone marrow, fat, teeth and other sources. 22-27

  • Adult stem cells found in one type of tissue can repair damage in another tissue type. 28, 29

  • Adult stem cells can be harvested from each patient, multiplied in culture and transplanted back into the patient. 30, 31

  • Adult stem cells work in multiple ways to repair damaged tissue. 32-34

  • Since adult stem cells require limited, if any, manipulation, and are readily available from a number of sources, the cost for their clinical application will be far more reasonable than any application from embryonic stem cells.

  • There are no ethical concerns in their use, making them acceptable to virtually all patients and healthcare providers and a bipartisan point of agreement for federal funding.

  • Adult stem cells are already providing cures in animals and clinical human trials. 35-38

The current policy of preventing the commodification of human beings while encouraging ethical stem cell research represents the surest path to cures consistent with a life-honoring society. We recommend that legislators focus federal stem cell research money, as private investors have already done, on adult stem cell research. That is the quickest, most economical and ethical path to real cures for real patients.

Your sound wisdom, ethical commitment and discernment of fact versus hype is critically needed in this debate. Your leadership in guiding our investment dollars toward truly promising adult stem cell research can provide real cures for real patients.

Thank you very much for your consideration of these views as you make lifesaving decisions.

Rest assured of our prayers as you seek wisdom in decision-making.



Click here for a list of 2,416 Christian medical professionals opposed to embryonic stem cell research (PDF).






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