Putting Oregon on the forefront of stem cell research

By State Representative Larry Galizio of Tigard, Oregon. His website is LarryGalizio.com

On July 19th, 2006, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have lifted the funding restriction on embryonic stem cell research. In a letter to President Bush, a bipartisan group of more than 50 US Senators wrote that, embryonic stem cell research has the potential to help us better understand and treat deadly and disabling diseases and conditions. These conditions affect more than 100 million Americans including: cancer; heart disease; diabetes; Parkinson’s; Alzheimer’s; Multiple Sclerosis; spinal cord injuries, and others.

Despite the claims by opponents of embryonic stem cell research, adult stem cells simply do not possess the elasticity or flexibility of embryonic stem cells and therefore have a more limited potential to repair vital organs. Adult stem cells are also limited in their ability to be cultivated in a laboratory. In contrast, as explained by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Stem Cell Research Lab, “embryonic stem cells have a capacity to reproduce indefinitely in the laboratory.” (Embryonic Stem Cells: Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Less often discussed, the federal government’s restrictive policy negatively impacts the scientific research process in other ways. As explained in a recent New York Times article, (Wade, N. 2006, August 14. “Some scientists see shift in stem cell hopes. Pp. A18) government-supported graduate students are prohibited from visiting the laboratories where privately funded stem cell research is taking place. Neurobiologist Christopher E. Henderson at the Columbia University Medical Center explains this segregation as necessary to avoid prosecution lest government-gained knowledge contribute to privately funded work. Collaboration being the sine qua non of scientific endeavors, the federal policy unnecessarily complicates efforts to integrate research on human cells with other relevant research.

Furthermore, while stem cell therapy constitutes the principle hope for scientists and their patients, many researchers champion embryonic stem cell research as critical to better understanding disease processes. Enhanced understanding of these terrible diseases in and of itself will benefit medical researchers seeking ways to help patients and improve public health.

The fact remains that the scientific community has just begun research in this exciting and promising area, and practical application will only be possible with additional study.

That is why I am drafting legislation that will place Oregon in the company of other states at the vanguard of stem cell research. While we may not have the $3 billion investment California has created, we will join our neighbors to the north, Washington State, in promoting cutting-edge scientific research with the potential to significantly improve public health and perhaps eradicate diseases plaguing over 100 million of our fellow citizens.

I stand with Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden in supporting an increase in our public investment in embryonic stem cell research. And while I’m disappointed that President Bush has chosen to privilege politics and ideology over science, I am inspired by the legislative response to this federal veto by many of my colleagues in state houses throughout the U.S.

It is time for Oregon to join other states by investing in this promising research.

  • Katy (unverified)

    Good for you! I've never understood why the right feels a potential life is worth more important than a person who acutally exists and has paid taxes their whole life. So happy I canvassed for you!

  • Rep Chip Shields (unverified)

    Well said, Larry. If Oregon wants to be on the cutting edge of health care, wellness, research and biotech, we need to progressive leaders and not reactionaries in this area.

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    The funny thing is there isn't even a potential life-- the embryos are destroyed since they can't be used for the stem cell research.

    To me, it's much better to use those cells to save lives than to just throw them away.

  • Katy (unverified)

    I know - but THEY think it's a potential life. I guess my point is that even if it is a potential life, why is it more important that a living, breathing human being? It just doesn't make any sense. I truly think it comes down to people thinking that science in general is bad. As someone who works in research I find it so dangerous. Those filling out grant proposals now (since Bush has been president) must check a box ensuring that their research will not involve stem cell lines. It's infuriating.

  • raul (unverified)

    as a victim of a spinal cord tumor, I really wish this line of treatment will progress. It is so frustrating to know that my cure is right there, and it is not available to me. The worst part, I don't think any of the folks who are plugging this up are really pro life, just pro birth.

    Thanks to OHSU for seriously saving my butt. Now I want to be able to walk normally and live pain free.

    Oh well, as long as the " moderate " Gordon Smith and his ilk get to stay in power and collect lobbyist money, I guess I'll have to wait.

  • veritas (unverified)

    Too bad Rep. Galizio didn't do his research before writing his guest opinion. I too look forward to cures and treatments for disease. After dealing with cancer in my family, I'm ready to kick into action and support the necessary studies for these cures.

    I don't claim to be a scientist or a doctor, but I do claim to be able to conduct research. I also refuse to listen to rhetoric on either side-- I prefer the plain and simple truth.

    In the case of embryonic stem cells, the plain and simple truth is that they just don't work. Regardless of the ban on federal funding, private funding would be plentiful if ESCR truly showed promise. If anything, they've shown harm! I want a cure desperately for the myriad of diseases that plague my fellow citizens. We tried ESCR, they didn't work, let's move on. Because of their negative results in mice, scientists haven't even dared human trials with these cells. Why exactly are we wasting money on something that doesn't work? A believe that a cure is out there-- let's use our time, money and energy to find it!

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    Thank you, Larry, for an excellent post and for posting here on BlueOregon.

  • raul (unverified)


    How about some links to prove your "research" skills? Many cures that we see now have only been created through funding public research, see polio and tuberculosis. Private funding is in effect for some stem cell research, but we as a community need to work to find these cures. Maybe the issue with some of the reservations toward funding may be the fact that this has been politicized by the pro birth crowd, and some research facilities are worried about being too controversial?

    I have only read positive results of embryonic stem cell research in animals, never read any harm, but I would like to see this evidence. Try as I may, I can't find anything on Google that shows that ESCR is harmful from any sources but "right to life" websites, and they only harm they can show is to the "unborn".

    Facts must be presented. I am pro-life, but I disagree with criminalizing abortion, and that also makes me anti war and anti poverty, and anti sickness and pain. Abortion should be a rare procedure, but I do not feel I should enforce my beliefs on others. The idea of protecting a cluster of cells that will only be discarded anyway seems a little over the top to me.

  • Amicus Matriae (unverified)

    This is exciting legislation, Mr. Galizio. I wish you luck.

    Veritas, why are you only discussing one potential application of embryonic stem (ES) cells -- injecting them straight into patients? I hope it's just ignorance and not an intentional desire to mislead people.

    Injecting raw ES cells (which has only been done, to my knowledge, by not-particularly-reputable people in China) is not the only possible medical application by far. The potential of embryonic stem cells lies in the fact that they can be grown endlessly in the lab, then turned into many types of cells in the body, also in the lab. Then the correct type of cell needed to treat a disease (motor neurons, insulin-producing beta cells, cardiac cells, to name a few) could be injected in patients. If embryonic stem cell research lives up to its possibilities, the days of long lists of people waiting for someone to die so they can get a lifesaving donation would be gone. Research taking place in countries with more freedom than ours (mull that over for a second!) suggests that one day we'll even be able to get cells with a patient's own genetic code in them. This would be more effective by far than your limited notion of injecting undifferentiated ES cells and seeing what happens.

    Despite what Republicans like "Veritas" would have you believe, very little good research has been done on injecting cells derived from embryonic stem cells. A lot of work being promoted by Republicans uses adult, not embryonic, stem cells, in countries like Thailand, China, and Russia, and it is being done by companies that are interested in selling things to desperate people, rather than designing strong experiments to find out what works and what does not.

    Good stem cell treatments for diseases like Parkinson's and diabetes are not close at hand, though some Republicans and the shady companies that love them would have you believe that all the work is done and adult stem cells cure everything. In fact, we need to make sure that cells derived in the lab are safe, and figure out how best to make them treat the intended disease. That's why the sooner we really push this research forward, the better. People are suffering and dying every day that Republicans play political games with a complex issue I don't think they really understand.

    Legislation like Mr. Galizio's will support real research by scientists, rather than leaving stem cell "research" to shadowy companies in South Africa, Singapore, and South Korea.

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