Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

February 4, 2005

Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on stem cell research

The Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) Process:

Nuclear transplantation begins with an unfertilized egg. The nucleus of the egg is removed and replaced with another nucleus from a body cell (such as a skin cell). The cell is then stimulated to begin dividing, which creates the "blastocyst" from which embryonic stem cells can be removed.

Sen. Matt Bartle (R-Lee's Summit) presented bill SB 160 to the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, Jan. 31, followed by supporting presentations from Dr. David Prentice and Mr. Wesley Smith and opposing presentations from Dr. Steven Teitelbaum and Dr. Bill Neaves.

Prentice, a senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council (a DC-based conservative think tank), shared examples of successful research using adult stem cells. He also cast doubt on the possibilities that embryonic stem cells could have in treating or curing disease.

Teitelbaum, a researcher at Washington University, disagreed with Prentice and told the Committee that this should not be a contest between adult and embryonic stem cells. While Teitelbaum shared his own success as a researcher with adult stem cells, he also argued that both types of research should be pursued vigorously.

Smith, an attorney, author and consumer advocate, focused on the ethics and politics of the debate. Smith contended that it is wrong to create a life just to destroy it for research purposes and that the false hope some researchers are presenting to the public is unethical.

Neaves, president and CEO of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, disagreed with Smith’s claim that the somatic cell nuclear transfer process creates new life. Neaves told the Committee that the embryo, or "blastocyst" of about 150 cells, is not a new life but rather a cluster of cells that should be used for medical research.

On Wednesday, February 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee held another hearing that attracted so much interest some attendees had to watch from the hallway on a closed-circuit TV. The hearing began with testimony from Mr. Jim Cole and Dr. Bill Danforth, followed by public testimony from several Missourians -- both for and against SB 160 -- who are suffering from disease and injury.

Cole, general counsel for Missouri Right to Life, told the Committee that supporters of somatic cell nuclear transfer support creating new embryos, or new life, only for the purpose of destroying them for research.

Danforth, former chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, expressed his belief that medical science is a God-given intelligence and skill used to heal the sick. He also stated his belief that progress will be made and cures will be found by using somatic cell nuclear transfer.

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