AAAS urges US President to sign Embryonic Stem Cell Act

AAAS position statement

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific organization, tonight urged U.S. President George W. Bush to uphold the U.S. Senate's approval of H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.

"We in the scientific community are hopeful that you will review this measure with an open mind and open heart and then sign it into law," AAAS leadership wrote in the letter to President Bush.

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would expand federal support for embryonic stem cell research, passed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 63 to 37 four votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. The President has stated that he would veto the measure, but AAAS called on him to reconsider, noting that "embryonic stem cell research is an extremely promising approach to developing more effective treatments for devastating conditions like diabetes, spinal cord, injuries, and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases."

Human blastocysts, or very early-stage human embryos, "appear by far to hold the greatest therapeutic promise" for advancing stem-cell research, AAAS officials wrote. While acknowledging the President's objections to creating and then destroying embryos explicitly for the purpose of deriving stem cells for research, AAAS Chairman of the Board Gilbert S. Omenn, M.D., Ph.D., and Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., noted that some 400,000 embryos, left over from in vitro fertilization techniques, would otherwise be discarded.

Further, Omenn and Leshner added, "H.R. 810 would enable the Federal government to exercise a higher level of regulation and ethical oversight over human embryonic stem cell research than it can now."

In closing, AAAS officials wrote: "We see H.R. 810 as an affirmation of life, and of the potential of scientific and medical research to improve the human condition. We are gratified to stand with a broad coalition of Americans that spans all parties and faiths who urge you to approve this bill in the interest of alleviating suffering and advancing human progress."

Earlier, in a Senate subcommittee hearing on 27 June, Leshner testified that all promising avenues of human stem cell research should be explored, including techniques that both do and do not involve the use of early-stage embryos. "We believe that the great clinical promise in stem cells makes it critically important to support research on a wide range of approaches toward deriving cells that have the potential for replacing damaged or deteriorating parts of the body," Leshner said. But, he said the most promising methods to date appear to be derivation of stem cells from excess embryos at in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics or from early-stage embryos through a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer.

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Click here for a copy of the letter.


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