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Posted by Carole on September 14, 2000 at 22:56:07:

I sat with tears in my eyes as I watched MJ Fox speak out in favor of funding for federal research funds for stem cell research. I hope you were all able to listen to his plea (9-14-00). The Fox network did a commendable job of coverage. I had read this article earlier in the day. I've included it for the board to read, since it adds to what was covered on television. At the end of the article are several web sites as well as the bill number, so if you are inclined to write to your congresspeople, you can include the bill number. They expect a vote within the month. Even then, approval now would mean (federally funded) research would begin near the end of 2001. Hats off to all those who are speaking out to move forward from the debate to seek a cure for so MANY diseases. Thank you, Michael J. Fox!

Stem Cell Research Funding Urged

.c The Associated Press

By JESSE J. HOLLAND

WASHINGTON (AP) - Michael J. Fox and Mary Tyler Moore urged lawmakers Thursday to release federal funding for research involving embryonic stem cells, which the actors say could lead to cures for diseases such as Parkinson's, juvenile diabetes and Alzheimer's.

``The consistent and inescapable conclusion is that this research offers the potential to eliminate diseases, literally saving millions of lives,'' said Fox, who just won an Emmy for the ABC sitcom ``Spin City.'' ``I can't help but say, respectfully, enough! It's time to act on what we've learned. ... Further delay would come at a high price.''

Fox left the show in May to devote more time to fighting Parkinson's, a progressive neurological disorder that he has contracted.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., has promised a vote within the month on legislation allowing funding for research on stem cells from discarded human embryos, said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Health and Human Services panel.

``I believe we have the votes,'' said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who co-sponsored Specter's legislation. ``I hope we have the votes.''

However, critics oppose the research, calling it illegal, immoral and unnecessary.

``If a cure for diabetes and a host of other ailments require the production and destruction of human embryos, then I beg you to consider the possibility that some diseases are better than their cure,'' said Russell Saltzman, pastor of Ruskin Heights Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Mo.

At issue are embryonic stem cells, the master cells that in very early embryos generate all the other tissues of the body. Scientists think those stem cells possibly could cure diseases like Alzheimer's, diabetes, or Parkinson's, or even repair broken spinal cords.

But the federal government has not funded any research into embryonic stem cells because of a congressional ban on any research that destroys human embryos. Taking stem cells from embryos does destroy them.

The National Institutes of Health has proposed allowing federal funding of research on stem cells that are removed from human embryos but forbidding research on the embryo itself.

Specter's legislation would go further, letting women agree to donate to federally funded researchers their leftover embryos from in-vitro fertilization.

But Saltzman, who has diabetes, said just because the embryos were going to be discarded doesn't mean it is right to use them for medical research. ``We should not use human life for the benefit of human life,'' he said.

Harkin noted that the embryos in question are no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence.

``The embryos that are being discussed, according to science, bear as much resemblance to a human being as a goldfish,'' said Moore, star of ``The Mary Tyler Moore Show'' that aired from 1970 to 1977.

``We're dealing with flesh and blood people now who feel and deal with real debilitation right now and our obligation is to those who are here,'' said Moore, who suffers from juvenile diabetes and chairs the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International.

Others disagreed.

``I'm not opposed to research,'' said Ron Heagy, who is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. ``I'm not opposed to walking again. I'm just opposed to the process.''

Dr. Darwin Prockop, director of gene therapy at the Tulane University Medical Center, said researchers are getting close to major breakthroughs with adult stem cell research, with clinical trials on patients with Parkinson's expected in two or three years.

But Prockop said embryonic cell research should proceed. ``We are simply not ready for a moon-shot like strategy in which we place all our bets on adult stem cells,'' he said.

The bill number is S.2015.

On the Net:

NIH stem cell information: http://www.nih.gov/news/stemcell/index.htm

Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research: http://www.michaeljfox.org

Juvenile Diabetes Foundation: http://www.jdf.org/

Ron Heagy: http://www.goron.com/

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