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JDF Washington Report
Volume II, No. 18
July 29, 1999

JDF Leads Stem Cell Research Debate on Capitol Hill

JDF participated in a press conference today sponsored by the Patient's CURE coalition. The event was held in the U.S. Capitol and was called to support federal funding of stem cell research which researchers believe can help lead to new treatments or even a cure for Type 1 diabetes and other diseases.

Speaking at the press conference were the following: JDF Vice President for Research Robert Goldstein, MD, Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC), Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA), a patient with ALS, and an ethicist. A vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on whether the government will be able to use federal dollars to support stem cell research is likely to occur in September. We will keep you updated on the status of such a vote. Senator Thurmond, an eight-term senator who also serves as President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate called on Congress to ensure the public funding is available for stem cell research (see statement below). Senator Thurmond, whose daughter has juvenile diabetes, last testified with JDF at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in June on juvenile diabetes held in conjunction with the JDF Children's Congress.

News media who covered the press conference included CNN, Washington Post, Reuters news service, USA Today, and many scientific and Capitol Hill publications.

Following is the statement given by Senator Strom Thurmond:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased to be here today with representatives of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and with others concerned about medical issues and supportive of stem cell research.

Late last year, privately-funded scientists made major breakthroughs in stem-cell research. As you may know, stem-cells are the body’s basic cells from which all of a person's tissues and organs develop.

While a number of scientific challenges must be overcome before specific medical benefits might be realized, there is great potential in this research. Scientists believe that stem cells could be used to produce a supply of healthy cells and tissues that can be used for transplantation. By replacing existing damaged cells, new treatments and even cures for numerous diseases might be developed. There is great optimism that lifesaving therapies might be produced. Cells and tissue capable for transplantation could include insulin-producing cells to cure diabetes, heart cells to rebuild damaged hearts, or new brain cells for victims of Parkinson's disease or other neurological disorders.

As a father of a daughter with juvenile diabetes, I know first-hand the devastating nature of this disease. In addition, during my service in the Senate, I have heard the personal pleas of thousands of constituents who are affected by various diseases and disorders. Therefore, I have been a long-time supporter of medical research.

I recognize that many modern biotechnology developments are complex issues and are frequently controversial. A number of experts in medicine, religion, bioethics, and other disciplines have reviewed and continue to comment on these issues. I believe these discussions are beneficial as we seek to advance medical progress and the well-being of patients without demeaning the value of human life.

The National Institutes of Health have led the way in medical research, and must be actively involved in stem cell research. NIH support will ensure the basic research is accomplished to move us toward clinical applications.

We are on the verge of discovering a whole new way of treating and curing diseases which for too long have led to pain and suffering in the lives of too many Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure adequate funding and appropriate Government support is available to our national medical research community.

For further information about stem cell research, please see the following:

Juvenile Diabetes Foundation - Government Relations
1400 I Street, NW #500
Washington, DC 20005
1-800-JDF-1VOTE ex. 5 (800-533-1868)

Posted 30 July 1999

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