Late last week, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Rep. Charlie Dent, R.-Penn., introduced the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act, the latest congressional attempt to update federal policy governing human embryonic stem cell research. The bill would, according to a press release from Rep. DeGette, “codify the NIH’s guidelines for carrying out all human stem cell research, embryonic and adult,” a position repeatedly advocated for by ASBMB. A key stipulation in the current bill was that “research would have to use leftover embryos that would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded,” which Dent praised for “establish[ing] ethical criteria for stem cell research.”
DeGette, with former Representative Michael Castle, R-Del., had previously sponsored similar bills aimed at updating existing stem cell legislation that passed Congress, but were ultimately vetoed by President Bush. With Castle no longer in Congress, there is hope amongst members of the scientific community that Rep. Dent will now serve as a Republican champion for stem cell research.
The bill was introduced amongst the backdrop of the ever-continuing legal proceedings in the case of Sherley v. Sebelius. In April, the U.S Appeals court overturned a district court ruling that had halted the use of federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research. The same day that the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act was being introduced, both the plaintiffs and defendants in the court case filed briefs in the district court, responding to the appeals court ruling. Though essentially repeating the same arguments that have been made in previous filings, the new briefs at least push the process forward. Expectations are that the district court may make its decision within the next month.
Contact your members of Congress and urge them to support the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act!
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