Rep. Mike Castle said embryonic stem-cell research could lead to many cures. Supporters of legislation that would regulate government-funded research using embryonic stem cells said they plan to speak up for what they contend is the silent majority on the issue.
They represent the 70 percent of Delawareans who support this life-saving research,says Stephanie Hansen, the chairwoman of Stem Cell Go, set up last year after state lawmakers failed to pass a similar bill. They intend to counter “A Rose and a Prayer, ” a coalition of the Catholic Church, social conservatives and conservative Protestant churches.
At a news conference launching its bid to pass Senate Bill 5, Stem Cell Go backers started filling a jar with LifeSavers. They plan to give lawmakers the candy to counter the roses the opposition group sent last year.
“It would be great if you could retrain, recalibrate and reprogram adult stem cells to do the same things as embryonic stem cells,” said Bernice Schacter, a board member of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society who is living with MS. “We don’t have time to wait to see if that can happen. We need to do research and we need to be doing it now.”
Sen. Robert L. Venables, D-Laurel, has promised to bring his bill up quickly when lawmakers return to Dover next week.
Embryonic stem-cell research supporters, including Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., said that form of study holds great long-term potential to cure diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS, but adult stem-cell potential is more limited. Supporters say embryonic stem cells are essentially human blanks that have yet to specialize and can therefore be “coaxed” into becoming any type of cell.
Under the bill’s provisions, couples who choose to donate frozen embryos that are stored at in vitro fertilization clinics and slated for destruction as medical waste must do so voluntarily and only after their options, including giving up unused embryos for adoption as so-called “snowflake babies,” have been explained to them. They must sign consent forms to give up the embryos for research.
These are embryos that would otherwise be brought to room temperature, bleached and put out with the medical waste, but which could be used for researching cures, says, Schacter, who worked as a biomedical researcher before contracting MS.