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Stem cell research offers hope for future

By Katie Cicchetto

Former La Jolla Light Intern

Senior, High Tech High International

Former first wife, Nancy Reagan had it right when she said, “Science has presented us with a hope called stem cell research, which may provide our scientists with answers that have so long been beyond our grasp. I just don’t see how we can turn our backs on this — there are just so many diseases that can be cured, or at least helped. We have lost so much time already, and I just really can’t bear to lose any more.”

Stem cells have the ability to be transformed into other specialized cells, which would replace the failing human cells with brand new cell tissue. There are two different types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells which can change into any type of specialized embryonic tissue such as muscle tissue or nerve tissue, and adult stem cells which are limited to only replenishing regenerative cells such as blood cells, skin cells and intestinal tissues. Stem cell research has the opportunity to find cures for cancer, reverse symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, leukemia and heart congestion. Stem cells can also ensure that the body does not reject bone-marrow transplants.

In 2003, the Washington Post counted 400,000 unused frozen embryos in fertility clinics, which should be donated to researchers the National Institutes of Health has granted to fund. In 1995, the Dickey Amendment was passed, which prohibits the creation and destruction of possible life. The Dickey Amendment was developed to ensure the Department of Health and Human Services did not misuse any funding, in order to protect the sanctity of life. March 9, 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13505, “Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells”. Even with President Obama’s step forward by removing the ban on federal funding for stem cell research, it doesn’t change another issue at hand - the limited amount of existing embryonic stem cell lines currently available for researchers to use to find cures for diseases.

Aborted embryos at fertility treatment centers should be donated to researchers so they have the resources they need to find cures. The Dickey Amendment blocks researchers’ access to new embryonic stem cell lines left over from fertility treatments by not funding researchers who plan to dispose the embryos after experimentation.

Congress votes on the Dickey Amendment every year. Congress should overturn the amendment draft a new one. The new amendment should be a version of the Dickey Amendment that does not ban the use of tax dollars used for research in which embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury. These embryos should only be aborted fetuses donated by fertility clinics. If stem cell research is the answer for finding cures for cancer, reversing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, leukemia, and heart congestion, then why is there so much resistance? We have the opportunity to save lives.