The American Diabetes Association has applauded the passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of legislation that would accelerate stem cell research by easing existing restrictions and supporting research that uses embryonic stem cells. The Association had urged Members of the House of Representatives to vote in favor of H.R. 810, the "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005," because it would advance the search for better treatment and a cure for diabetes. The House passed the legislation by a vote of 238-194. The Association will now focus on passing the bill in the U.S. Senate.
"As we continue to work to find a cure for diabetes and to find better treatment options, we are encouraged by today's vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to move forward with embryonic stem cell research," said Stewart Perry, who has type 2 diabetes and is Chairman of the American Diabetes Association's National Advocacy Committee. "By expanding the number of stem cell lines that are eligible for federally funded research while also implementing strong ethical guidelines to improve federal oversight, H.R. 810 provides hope to the more than 18 million Americans living with diabetes. We now urge the U.S. Senate to pass this bill and send it to the President."
Although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the country's leading research institution, the work it can carry out in the area of stem cell research has been severely limited due to current federal policy. Federal regulations that President Bush announced in 2001 have restricted the number of human embryonic stem cell lines available for federally-funded research, and attempted usage of those lines has demonstrated that the number of adequate lines is even smaller than expected. A significant expansion in the number of available lines is necessary in order to fully reap the medical rewards of stem cell research.
Stem cell research allows scientists to better explore how to control and direct stem cells so they can grow into other cells, such as insulin-producing beta cells found in the pancreas. Creating new beta cells could mean a cure for type 1 diabetes as they would serve as a replenishable source of cells for islet cell transplantation. They could also provide a powerful tool for controlling type 2 diabetes.
While embryonic stem cell research has only taken place in the last decade, researchers have made several advances to demonstrate its potential for scientific progress, and they now understand pieces of the framework for how this research could benefit diabetes. Already, many of the genes involved in pancreatic development have been identified, and recent discoveries have allowed scientists to overcome the difficult task of getting stem cells to produce the necessary proteins -- in the correct sequence -- that will allow them to become insulin-producing islet cells.
"Today's vote is an important step for Americans with diabetes. The current state of science around human embryonic stem cell research is at the very early stages in this country, in large part because of the current restrictions on federal funding," said Alan D. Cherrington, PhD, Chairman of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and President of the American Diabetes Association. "The American Diabetes Association believes that stem cell research should be allowed to accelerate and progress within the strict ethical guidelines put forward by H.R. 810, and we are pleased that a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives share that view."
Diabetes is one of this nation's most prevalent, debilitating, deadly and costly diseases. While 18.2 million Americans live with diabetes today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three Americans born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime. In 2002, one in 10 healthcare dollars went towards diabetes care. The cost of diabetes in America in 2002 was at least $132 billion.