Stem-cell fight isn't over, senators say
Seattle Times medical reporter
Carey Christensen, her hands trembling from Parkinson's disease, did not hide her contempt for President Bush's veto last week of stem-cell research she believes has the potential to turn her life around.
"It shortens my life, ... but there is nothing to stop the destruction of leftover embryos every day," said Christensen, 48, a coordinator for a Parkinson's patients advocacy group, her voice rising in anger.
Alex Goldberg, who suffers from severe heart and lung disease, said he worries he could go blind, or bleed to death in an accident, because of the side effects of his medications. Stem-cell therapy, said the 22-year-old filmmaker, could "immeasurably" improve the quality of his life.
Christensen and Goldberg joined researchers and U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell at the University of Washington on Monday as they all called for continuing efforts for stem-cell legislation.
Bush vetoed a bill that would have allowed federal funding of research on stem cells from embryos that are scheduled for destruction in fertility clinics. He said the bill would take "innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others."
The measure fell 51 votes short of a veto override in the House.
Federal funding is available for research only on embryonic stem-cell lines created before Aug. 9, 2001, the day Bush announced the policy.
Murray and Cantwell both pledged at the UW news conference to work for new legislation. Murray said she is optimistic that a measure will eventually pass.
She said a growing number of legislators support lifting the research restriction, and there has been a growing backlash from scientists and patients. And, Murray said, foreign researchers are gaining the upper hand in the research, which will exert more pressure for domestic funding.
About 70 UW scientists are conducting stem-cell research. Their subjects range from macular degeneration — a disease of the retina — to efforts to regenerate heart tissue after a heart attack. Other scientists are using stem cells in studies of hearing loss and cancer.
Some UW scientists are using 14 of the 21 federally allowed embryonic stem-cell lines. But the cells are becoming old. They are variable in their ability to grow, and they are losing some of their original properties, the scientists said.
"Imagine it like the software in a computer that is five years old ... these cell lines are inherently inferior," said Dr. Anthony Blau, a blood-cell expert. "We're forced to focus our efforts on lines that are inherently less innovative."
Dr. Randall Moon, director of the new UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, said no one knows for sure whether embryonic stem cells will offer cures for many diseases.
"I don't know, but I believe so," he said. "It will take a lot of time and resources."
Warren King: 206-464-2247 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company