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    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    More on Stem Cells: The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal has an editorial this morning noting that NIH funding for embryonic stem cell research has increased under the Bush Administration.

    And elsewhere, the New England Journal of Medicine says that it isn't the President who's thwarting embryonic stem cell research, it's the Dickey Amendment:

    The Presidential challenger Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) has stated that he would overturn the Bush restrictions and allow federal funding for research involving any human embryonic stem-cell line. Although a boon to stem-cell research, a change of administration would not immediately clear the way for important areas of embryo research. An even more restrictive element of government policy prohibits the use of funds for 'the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or . . . research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.' Proposed in 1996 by Representative Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) as a rider on the appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services and renewed every year since, the Dickey Amendment prohibits federal engagement in a field of research pertaining to the nature of the human embryo, its disorders of development, and the derivation of new human embryonic stem-cell lines. Although most embryos created in vitro during fertility procedures are deemed unsuitable for pregnancy and are discarded, federal funds may not be used to ascertain what went wrong. Such studies, beyond improving the efficacy of fertility treatments, offer promise for understanding many chromosomal and developmental disorders that originate in the early embryo.

    The Dickey Amendment prohibits federally funded scientists from deriving lines that model human disease. The use of somatic-cell nuclear transfer to generate pluripotent lines from patients with disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and diabetes offers new strategies for unraveling the pathophysiology of these conditions, and the derivation of lines from patients with genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia and immune deficiency hold promise for combining gene therapy with autologous cell-replacement therapy. Such studies have an immediate, compelling medical rationale, yet they cannot be pursued with federal grants.

    Knowing how Kerry voted in 1996 when the Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill came up would certainly be useful. (I couldn't find anything in my limited Google search.)

    ADDENDUM: And here's a 37 year old with Parkinson's disease on the same subject. (A disease, by the way, in which embryonic stem cells have shown some promise - unlike Alzheimer's.)

    UPDATE: Evidently, Kerry voted against the appropriations bill. (And welcome Instapundit, readers!)

    UPDATE II: Or did he? Here's the omnibus bill that Ipse Dixit found. There's no mention in its long list of amendments of the Dickey Amendment or anything about restricting embryonic stem cell research. But HR 2264 does mention it, and Kerry voted for the Senate version. (I'm not sure which bill contained the original Dickey Amendment, though. It's all very confusing. Perhaps someone who's used to mining through Congressional records can figure it out.)

    UPDATE III: There's a complete record of Kerry's votes here, but for some reason there's no appropriations bill listed for 1996.

    UPDATE IV: But wait. The original amendment was part of this bill which Kerry voted against considering in the Senate. But it disappears from the record after that. Surely, it must have shown up again, somewhere. Geesh. My sympathies to those who make a living sorting through this stuff.

    posted by Sydney on 8/12/2004 10:06:00 AM 0 comments


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