Pro-Lifers Eye Kansas for Top Study of Stem Cells; No Embryo Use at Proposed Center

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 11, 2013 | Go to article overview
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Pro-Lifers Eye Kansas for Top Study of Stem Cells; No Embryo Use at Proposed Center


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Long clouded by ethical concerns, medical treatments and research based on stem cells taken from adults or the umbilical cords of newborns - but not human embryos - are getting renewed support from lawmakers and religious leaders.

In the deep-red state of Kansas, lawmakers are waiting to see whether Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, will sign a bill making the University of Kansas Medical Center a hub for adult stem cell research and therapies in the region.

Mr. Brownback, a social conservative who promised to build a culture of life in the state, has signaled support for such a center. The bill passed the Legislature on Friday but has not reached his office, an aide said Wednesday.

If enacted, the new Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center would focus on research and therapies exclusively using stem cells from human adults and cord blood and tissue. Stem cells harvested from human embryos or tissues from aborted fetuses would be specifically prohibited.

Treatments exploiting the unique qualities of stem cells - biological cells with the ability to reproduce and develop into specialized cells used throughout the body - have been used for decades to cure some diseases, and researchers say the approach has exciting potential to treat or cure maladies such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and autoimmune diseases.

However, political, legal and cultural battles have abounded since scientists discovered in the 1990s that they could use human embryos as sources for harvesting stem cells. Pro-life and Catholic groups denounced the process because it destroys the embryos, but scientists said such research can be carried out ethically, especially when the benefits are so promising.

The center is being proposed after seven years of efforts to create partnerships around the adult stem cell approach, said Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director of Kansans for Life, sidestepping the moral minefield that has held back research in the United States.

The University of Kansas Medical Center is active in adult stem cell clinical trials and research, and this first-of-its-kind center would be an economic engine in this strategic field as well as a gold mine for treatments and cures, Ms. Ostrowski said.

The proposed Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center - which would partner with the Blood and Marrow Transplant Center of Kansas - would produce clinical-grade stem cells and conduct clinical trials with adult stem cell therapies, creating opportunities for people with diseases or injuries to participate in such trials.

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