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Comments on embryonic stem cell research and Alzheimer's disease

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    We should not be treating fear but treating people. There is no reason why fear of immunorejection [or anything else] should hold back clinical trials of heterografts. After all, all organ transplants today are heterografts.



      Posted on Mon, Jun. 14, 2004

      Bush pressed to expand stem-cell research


      By Kristin Reed and Kristen Hallam

      Bloomberg News

      ........The worldwide market for Alzheimer's drugs may grow to $2.5 billion this year, according to Lehman Brothers' estimates. Drugmakers including Pfizer and Wyeth are working on treatments or have developed drugs for Alzheimer's. But they've shown little interest so far in stem-cell research.

      Most Alzheimer's medicines ease only symptoms, and there's little to substantially slow the onslaught of the disease. Better treatments may lead to an annual Alzheimer's market of more than $6 billion, according to Mara Goldstein, an analyst at CIBC World Markets in New York.

      ``It is a market that could be potentially tremendous,'' Goldstein said.

      In the Aug. 9, 2001, speech announcing his funding policy, Bush acknowledged Nancy Reagan's letter and said he would limit federal research funding to existing lines of stem cells out of ``moral concerns.'' A line is a group of cells cultivated from a single human embryo, which is destroyed in the process.

      Bush isn't considering a change of policy, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Wednesday. ``There's a perception that if we go forward, there would be a cure tomorrow,'' Duffy said. ``That's not the case.''

      Research limited

      Under the Bush policy, research has been limited. Many of the approved stem-cell lines wound up being unusable, and scientists say the restrictions have delayed progress.

      Geron, which specializes in stem-cell science, had a loss of $29.9 million last year on revenue of $1.2 million. The lack of federal underwriting means Geron funds basic university research, said Chief Executive Thomas Okarma.

      ``It's a strain,'' Okarma said. ``We're not a company that makes a significant amount of revenue.''

      Geron may begin testing stem-cell treatments in patients with spinal-cord injuries in 2006, Okarma said. The company has tested the technology in animals.

      Advanced Cell cloned a human embryo in 2001. The company's efforts have been slowed by the difficulty in attracting funding, according to Robert Lanza, chief medical officer.

      ``We've already lost several years -- we should be in the clinic already,'' Lanza said. Companies are working ``with two hands tied behind our backs, because we're hampered by both policy and funding.''

      The National Institutes of Health awarded about $20 million for work on embryonic stem cells last year, compared with almost $300 million for work in adult stem cells -- which many scientists say hold less promise. Adult cells don't require federal approval for funding.

      Four-term Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, has said he will reverse Bush's ban on stem-cell research if he is elected.

      ``With Alzheimer's and diabetes on the rise, and with 40 percent of Americans likely to get cancer in our lifetimes, we need to be pushing the boundaries of research, not letting partisan politics hold us back,'' Kerry said in a speech in October in Lebanon, N.H.

      National sentiment may be changing in favor of more research. A survey


      "As our cause is new, so must we think anew and act anew" - Lincoln


        Maybe this has been discussed before, but what I don't understand is that there seems to be so little political risk for President Bush to rescind the ESC funding ban. He might slightly alienate his right-wing supporters, but they're not going to jump ship .. and he could actually gain among moderates. He's just such an inflexible, brittle man .. though he'd call it "being decisive" I suppose. What gives?

        - Bruce


          bruce, I was just thinking that it is a strategic decision that was made by Bush's advisors for the following reasons:
          1. He does not want to be seen as "flip-flopping" on this policy.
          2. His own Council of Bioethics has come out with a split opinion on the subject.
          3. The Pope probably implied to him that the Catholic Church will oppose him (as they do Kerry) if Bush allows embryonic stem cell research.
          4. The main reason that his "core" religious conservatives support him is because of his social views. Many probably are having questions about his policies regarding Iraq.