During the course of the Presidential campaign, Obama signaled his intention to reverse Bush's controversial limit on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
While President Bush's August 2001 decision pleased many religious conservatives who have moral objections to the use of cells derived from human embryos, others in the medical community believed the decision restrained promising research into defeating a wide range of diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
"If President-elect Obama were to lift the ban on funding for embryonic stem cell research, it would be great boon to medical research, but the controversy surrounding their use would not disappear because of the many people who still oppose them on moral grounds," says Kenneth C. Aldrich, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of International Stem Cell Corporation, a California-based biotechnology company focused on developing therapeutic and research products. "Fortunately, stem cell lines can be generated without the use of fertilized embryos. Through a procedure known as parthenogenesis, an unfertilized human egg, or oocyte, can be chemically induced to form a tiny cluster of cells from which a stem cell line can be created, thereby solving the ethical problem surrounding the use of fertilized human embryos."
International Stem Cell Corporation is the only company to generate functional pluripotent stem cells-that is, stem cells that have the ability to turn into any type of cell or tissue-through parthenogensis.
Recently, the company reported that by using its proprietary technique, cells from a single donor could be matched to general genetic patterns, known as "human leukocyte antigens" (HLAs), of hundreds of millions of patients. Since a single line of these cells may eliminate immune rejection issues in large segments of the population, parthenogenetic stem cells could be enormously valuable as a treatment of choice for diseases including diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, and macular degeneration. Based on this technology, the company has initiated an ambitious program for developing the world's first human stem cell bank to serve the need for stem cell-based treatments in the general population.
"If the federal ban on embryonic stem cell research is lifted, it will free more researchers to obtain money from the National Institutes of Health and make it agreeable for them to use our cells under federally funded grants," says Mr. Aldrich. "Until now, even though our parthenogenetic cells did not involve fertilized embryos, there was fear that using them might still invoke federal sanctions. An executive order overturning the 2001 decision would remove any lingering doubts and should open new doors for this research throughout the U.S."
For those covering this news, International Stem Cell Corporation makes available company Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder Kenneth C. Aldrich to discuss a variety of topics including:
- Why is embryonic stem cell research such a controversial practice?
- What is parthenogenesis, and why might this process be preferred to embryonic stem cell research?
- How does parthenogenesis solve ethical and immune rejection issues surrounding stem cell research?
- What are "human leukocyte antigens" and how do they relate to immune rejection issues?
- What are potential scientific and medical applications for stem cell research?
Expert Biography - Kenneth C. Aldrich, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder, International Stem Cell Corporation
Kenneth C. Aldrich has been active in venture capital investing and private equity since 1975. He is Co-founder and Chairman of International Stem Cell Corporation (ISCO), and an active member of Tech Coast Angels. Throughout his career, he has provided early-stage funding and management for a variety of biomedical and technology start-ups, including WaveTec Vision Systems, an ophthalmic device company (as a Director and co-founder), Neurion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a drug discovery and evaluation company (as a Director and co-founder), and Orfid Corporation, a developer of organic transistors (as a founder and financial advisor). He is also a director of Green Dot Corporation, the world's largest issuer of prepaid debit cards. Mr. Aldrich holds degrees, with honors, from both Harvard University and Harvard Law School.