Talking Points: Amniotic Stem Cell Research

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Benefits: Provides a source for stem cells without obtaining them from aborted babies or from lab-created-and-destroyed human embryos The amniotic fluid (and placenta) contain “multiple progenitor cell types” Definitively shows that there is no need to destroy human embryos in order to treat disease or otherwise benefit mankind This method of obtaining stem cells is medically effective, proven and promising without violating any ethical standards Can be developed in large quantities and do not develop tumors as embryonic stem cells do A research line of 100,000 cells would satisfy 99 percent of all research needs Provides every type of stem cell needed for therapy and healing without moral concerns Does not depend on “live human embryonic experimentation” Scientific research proves that the moral choice is also the healthiest and most effective way to find cures Medical science can move forward without costing innocent lives Real scientific progress does not threaten or manipulate the sources of life


Announced in Nature Biotechnology Seven years of research by Wake Forest and Harvard research scientists Stem cells derived from amniotic fluid are found to have greater potential than stem cells from human embryos Anthony Atala (one of the senior researchers) said their hope is that the cells will provide a resource for tissue repair and for “engineered organs,” but he still thinks embryonic stem cell research is “essential”


Previous emphasis has been on embryonic stem cell research – yet there are no clinical trials anywhere in the world where embryonic stem cells are being used in patients. There are at least 1,229 clinical trials on-going related to adult stem cell treatments and zero known trials using embryonic stem cell research. Frozen embryos yield about 275 stem cell lines – current available for research (cloning research is around the corner) [not the 400,000 “leftover embryos” that are supposedly available]. There are 78 approved lines of ESCR, 22 of them federally funded – 85 percent of the published research in the world! NIH currently spends $600 million per year on stem cell research ($40 million of it involves human embryonic stem cells and $100 million non-human embryonic stem cell research – taxpayer funded research that many find morally repugnant. 70 health conditions are currently being treated with stem cells from bone marrow and cord blood (now amniotic fluid offers similar prospects). Embryonic stem cells can be rejected by a patient’s own immune system and can develop into tumors. Adult stem cells are more limited because generally they differentiate into cell types of their tissue of origin, but some adult stem cells (dental pulp, bone marrow, cord blood and fat cells) are pluripotent. After 25 years of research, any cures from embryonic stem cells are decades away at best – all treatments today come from experimental adult stem cell therapies. U.S. leads the world in ESCR (46 percent done by U.S. scientists)

Legislation: (HR3 will be voted on Thursday, January 11, 2006)

Bill before the House of Representatives calls for funding of embryonic stem cell research (violates the conscience of many Americans) Bill is similar to the one President Bush vetoed (though he authorized and approved federal funding for a limited number of stem cell research lines) The new Democratic majority is still supporting embryonic stem cell research (favor “taking the shackles off of science”). Bartlett and Gingrey bill would find alternative, non-controversial sources for pluripotent stem cells (failed in the House last year, but passed Senate 100-0). Has been re-introduced in the House (requires NIH to conduct and support basic and applied research to develop techniques for the isolation, derivation, production or testing of stem cells that have pluripotent or embryonic-like qualities) (moral line against harming or destroying human embryos). California’s Proposition 71 made California the first “safe haven” for research cloning. Missouri’s “stem cell” referendum provides a “right” to human cloning (creating embryos for the purposes of research).


In addition to exploiting embryos, research scandals have been exposed in prominent peer-reviewed scientific journals. (Hwang, South Korea claimed he created stem cells from cloned humans — fraud) Many prominent researchers’ comments indicate their ultimate goal is human cloning for gene therapy.


U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops — only 39% support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research CBS Poll — 58% of public support ESCR, 37% support federal funding Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) — claims that 72 percent of American support embryonic stem cell research. Question was posed in a biased way – persuasive arguments preceded the question.

Press Reaction:

ABC News – “Stem Cells Discovered in Amniotic Fluid: Researchers Say Stem Cells Can be Taken from Amniotic Fluid with No Harm to Mother or Fetus.” NEWSWEEK — “A New Era Begins: Stem Cells Derived From Amniotic Fluid Show Great Promise in the Lab and May End the Divisive Ethical Debate Once and For All.” The Washington Post — “Scientist See Potential in Amniotic Stem Cells: They are Highly Versatile and Readily Available.” The Los Angeles Times – “Stem Cells in Amniotic Fluid Show Great Promise, A Study Finds They Offer Key Therapeutic Benefits But Avoid Controversy.” USA Today — “Stem Cells Extracted from Amniotic Fluid.”

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