Brussels, 24 Jun 2004
A group of 142 patient groups, universities and scientific societies in the United States, collectively termed the coalition for the advancement of medical research (CAMR), has urged President Bush to reconsider federal policies on human embryonic stem cell research.
In a letter sent to the White House on 23 June, CAMR argues that when the rules first came into effect in 2001 they established provisions that would allow critical research to proceed, but that since that time 'numerous developments have emerged that demand a reassessment of this policy.'
CAMR president Daniel Parry said: 'While the administration's policy was met with great hope, recent developments in the research demand an expansion. In the past three years since the policy was announced, more than four million Americans have died from diseases that embryonic stem cell research has the potential to help. We just can't afford to wait any longer.'
The most significant development as far as CAMR is concerned is the relative lack of complete stem cell lines available for research in the US. When the US government announced its policy in 2001, it did so in the belief that more than 60 such lines were available. However, recent estimates by the Congressionally funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) put that figure at 19, well short of what was predicted when the rules were drafted.
'Most of the scientific community agrees that for the full potential of embryonic stem cell research to be reached, the number of stem cell lines readily available to scientists must increase,' states the letter. It then points out that the NIH Director Elias Zerhouni wrote to members of the US Congress in May saying that more cell lines could well speed some areas of stem cell research.
In response, proposed new legislation aimed at expanding federal support for embryonic stem cell research was unveiled in the House of Representatives on 23 June. Representative Michael Castle, one of the co-sponsors of the act, refused to speculate on whether the reforms could be passed before the summer recess, but added that he hoped the legislation would be unnecessary and that the government would reassess its policy in any case.
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