White House To Detail Progress on Stem Cell Research
The White House Domestic Policy Council on Wednesday is scheduled to release a report highlighting the progress and benefits of nonembryonic stem cell research, the Wall Street Journal reports. The report will address a study published in the Jan. 7 online edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology that found stem cells derived from human amniotic fluid appear to offer many of the same benefits of embryonic stem cells.
According to the Journal, White House officials confirmed that they have been drafting a possible executive order related to the stem cell research.
White House spokesperson Tony Fratto declined to give details about the content and potential timing of the order but said, "[W]e are clearly working on ways we can direct whatever tools and funding we can" for stem cell research that does not involve harming human embryos.
According to the Journal, some stem cell research supporters said the executive order would endorse federal funding for research of nonembryonic stem cells and would not reverse restrictions President Bush placed on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research in 2001 (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 1/10). Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is allowed only for research using embryonic stem cell lines created on or before Aug. 9, 2001, under a policy announced by Bush on that date (American Health Line, 1/9).
Some stem cell research supporters also said an executive order might help the Bush administration respond to criticism of an expected veto of a pending bill (HR 3, S 5) that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 1/10).
The legislation -- called the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 -- is identical to a measure (HR 810) Bush vetoed in July 2006 that would have expanded stem cell lines that are eligible for federal funding and allowed funding for research using stem cells derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients (American Health Line, 1/9).
"We are exploring all the alternative science that maybe will make this question moot so we as a society do not have to deal with this moral grudge match," Fratto said. Supporters of the legislation have "dismissed the strategy as a distraction" and are "frustrated" that opponents, including Bush, "have seized" on the amniotic stem cell study "to bolster claims" that additional embryonic stem cell research is unnecessary, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 1/10).
Anthony Atala, senior author of the study and director of the Wake Forest University Institute for Regenerative Medicine, on Tuesday in a letter to Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Michael Castle (D-Del.), co-sponsors of the legislation, said that it is "essential that NIH-funded researchers are able to fully pursue embryonic stem cell research as a complement to research into other forms of stem cells" (Mulkern, Denver Post, 1/10).
Atala wrote, "Some may be interpreting my research as a substitute for the need to pursue other forms of regenerative medicine therapies, such as those involving embryonic stem cells," adding, "I disagree with that assertion" (Kellman, AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 1/9).
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on Tuesday said the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act lacks one vote in the Senate before having a veto-proof majority, CongressDaily reports. "We have 66 (votes) with Sen. [Tim] Johnson (D-S.D.)," Harkin said.
Johnson, who had suffered a brain hemorrhage and underwent brain surgery last month, is expected to undergo several months of recovery, CongressDaily reports.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled the vote for February or March (CongressDaily, 1/9).
The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation on Thursday (Denver Post, 1/10).