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'Cloning' bill is harmful to life-saving research

  • Blog Post by: Doug Stone
  • March 30, 2011 - 3:20 PM

Legislation winding its way through the state Capitol seeks to tie reproductive cloning (for example, Dolly the cloned sheep) with therapeutic cloning, which scientists believe might hold the key to finding cures for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s,  cancer and other afflictions.

The legislation is being pushed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the anti-abortion group, under the guise of making “human cloning” a criminal offense.

While most scientists and health organizations oppose human cloning, they fear that the bill will prohibit therapeutic cloning. This process, known as SCNT or somatic cell nuclear transplant, takes an unfertilized egg and adds DNA from a patient to create a stem cell line. These cells can then be used to replace damaged tissues or cells, including islet cells (which produce insulin and don’t function in a diabetic). The cell line is compatible with the patient, making it potentially more effective and free of rejection risks.

University of Minnesota scientists at the Stem Cell Institute, along with advocates from groups like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (for which I do volunteer work), as well as the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota, fear that the legislation will do great damage to stem cell research and will hamper the effort to find cures for dreaded diseases.

As a spouse of someone who has suffered from Type I (insulin dependent) diabetes for many years, this isn’t a close call. Thanks to great research and surgery at the university, my wife Ann was the recipient of a new kidney and pancreas a decade ago. The healthy organs didn’t undo the damage the diabetes had done, but they made her life livable again.

The promise stem cell research holds for others with diabetes and other debilitating diseases is immense. The university is at the forefront of that research. The bio-tech field has a home in Minnesota. Why would we hamper the efforts of our scientists and businesses to find cures for incurable diseases? Why would we say we won’t do everything we can to help the 243,000 people with diabetes in Minnesota and the thousands of others who have cancer or Parkinson’s?

I refuse to let one organization and its allies in the Legislature put a roadblock in the way of potential cures for human beings who are suffering. This is about saving lives and about improving the lives of our fellow citizens.

Organizations fighting the legislation are holding a news conference “Save Research, Save Lives,” at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 31, in room 181 of the State Office Building. I hope their fight against this legislation is successful.

 

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