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Monday, August 21, 2006

Jim Webb Stands For: Ethical Stem Cell Research

As I said this morning, I am tired of the M-word story. Hopefully, it opened a lot of people's eyes and will continue to open people's eyes. However, if Jim Webb wants to win this race he needs to get his ideas out to the public so that they can vote for him rather than just against Allen. So, today I will begin the first in a series of posts discussing what Jim Webb is for and how his positions differ with those of George Allen.

So, for the first entry in this series, I am going to cover an issue on which I have some expertise: stem cell research. [Brief background: I worked with mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells in graduate school. For previous posts on stem cells, see here.]

Jim Webb recognizes the incredible potential of ES cell research.
Diseases that could potentially be treated or cured using ES cell-derived treatments: diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, some forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, paralysis. Not to mention the possibility of regenerating entire organs from a patients own tissue, rendering transplant rejection a thing of the past.
Chances are most of us know someone who has been afflicted with at least one of these diseases.

Jim Webb supports the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act which was passed (finally) by Congress earlier this year. This act would allow federal funds to again be used on a broader array of stem cell lines (in other words, it would have helped move the science forward). George Allen voted against it and, after President Bush vetoed the bill, George Allen voted to uphold the veto.

What are the consequences of this policy? Well, for one thing, countries like Singapore and South Korea (where stem cell reseach is unencumbered) are moving ahead of the US in this field. As a friend of mine put it:
"[I]f a Korean group makes a breakthrough and figures out a way to cure Parkinson's or diabetes or cardiovascular disease using ES cells, flights to Korea would be sold out for years."
(For more on the business and political aspects of the US falling behind in this research, see here. ) To summarize: if we let other countries get out in front of us on this technology we lose control of it. We do so at our own peril.

Furthermore, on a point I have covered before, voting against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act means that the vast majority of the 400,000+ embryos in this country that are the excess by product of in vitro fertilization will be destroyed. That's right, destroyed. No snowflake babies, just embryos that were unwanted or unsuitable for implantation. As a direct result of the Bush Administration's stem cell policy (which is fully supported by George Allen), these embryos will be destroyed rather than used for potentially life-saving research (which means fully formed people will die).

Does that sound representative of the "culture of life" of which George Allen consideres himself an ardent defender?

This one is simple:

A vote for Jim Webb is a vote for ethical stem cell research, where the US remains a leader in Science & Technology and where people with horrible afflictions are given new hope.

A vote for George Allen is a vote for a world where the US falls behind in a frontier technology and our citizens suffer the consequences medically, and economically.

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