Mis­souri win seen as a ma­jor boost for stem-cell work

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joyce Howard Price

Med­i­cal re­searchers say sup­port for em­bry­onic-stem-cell re­search will be ad­vanced af­ter the nar­row vic­tory of a state con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment in Mis­souri al­low­ing such re­search.

Democrats ben­e­fited from the is­sue in some con­gres­sional midterm races, in which their party won back con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and might take con­trol of the Se­nate.

“Ob­vi­ously, we are heart­ened by the out­come in Mis­souri. Any time the pub­lic moves to­ward al­low­ing science to progress on its mer­its, we all ben­e­fit,” said B.D. Colen, spokesman for the Har­vard Stem Cell In­sti­tute.

Op­po­nents of em­bry­onic-stem­cell re­search say pas­sage of Mis­souri’s Amend­ment 2 was a big loss for them, but they point out that the re­sults were “very, very close” (51 per­cent yes; 49 per­cent no), de­spite the fact that sup­port­ers out­spent them $31 mil­lion to $1 mil­lion.

The num­bers show that many peo­ple still have ques­tions about the moral­ity of us­ing em­bry­onic-stem­cell re­search, which re­quires the killing of hu­man em­bryos to fight dis­eases, said Tom McClusky, vice pres­i­dent of gov­ern­ment af­fairs for the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil.

The coun­cil and other con­serv- ative groups point out that there are no such deaths when adult stem cells are used and have pushed for em­bry­onic-stem-cell re­search to be aban­doned in fa­vor of re­search us­ing adult stem cells or cord blood.

Op­po­nents of Mis­souri’s Amend­ment 2 — which also in­cluded the Catholic Church, the Mis­souri Bap­tist Con­ven­tion and the Chris­tian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion — con­vinced many Mis­souri­ans that it was “not a stem-cell ini­tia­tive, but a cloning ini­tia­tive,” Mr. McClusky said.

Amend­ment 2 pro­hibits Mis­souri of­fi­cials from ban­ning em­bry­onic-stem-cell re­search or any fed­er­ally ap­proved re­search in that state.

By ap­prov­ing the amend­ment, Mis­souri joins the ranks of at least five other states — Cal­i­for­nia, Con­necti­cut, Illi­nois, Mas­sachusetts and New Jer­sey — that have en­cour­aged em­bry­onic-stem-cell re­search or set aside money for it. In Cal­i­for­nia, how­ever, law­suits are chal­leng­ing the le­gal­ity of the state fund, de­signed to cre­ate $300 mil­lion yearly in grants.

Crit­ics of em­bry­onic-stem-cell re­search charge that it has not been shown to cure any se­ri­ous hu­man dis­eases, such as di­a­betes, Alzheimer’s or Parkin­son’s. They say adult stem cells, in con­trast, have been shown to treat a variety of hu­man disor­ders.

Most of the fund­ing to get the amend­ment­passed­came­fromJim and Vir­ginia Stow­ers, a bil­lion­aire cou­ple who sur­vived can­cer.

Ob­servers said con­ser­va­tive groups waged a strong op­po­si­tion cam­paign inside the state in re­cent weeks, which re­duced the mea­sure’s pop­u­lar­ity.

Sarah Fein­berg, spokes­woman for the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, said em­bry­onic-stem-cell re­search proved to be a “sig­nif­i­cant” is­sue that aided Democrats.

In Mis­souri’s Se­nate race, Mrs. Fein­berg said, Demo­crat Claire McCaskill’s sup­port for em­bry­on­ic­stem-cell re­search helped her de­feat Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Sen. Jim Tal­ent, who op­posed it.

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